Category Archives: Jobs

School based cadet units: What’s the best approach?

The MOD and Department for Education have announced that they are to put £10.85 million towards opening 100 new cadet units across state-funded schools in England by 2015. As many of you know, I am the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) Administrator at a school in Manchester and have been an Officer in the CCF for the last 6 years.

I’m well aware that during my career as a CCF Officer I have flown up the ranks and achieved things that I just couldn’t have done had I stayed in the Army Cadet Force (ACF) way back in 2006. I started my cadetting career with Lancashire ACF but moved to the CCF when I got a teaching post in a school that had a CCF. I thought that combining my job with my hobby would be a good move. I was wrong. In many ways I wish that I had remained with the ACF from the start.

I don’t like to regret anything, for without the actions we do we would not be the people we are. You will never hear me saying that I regret jumping ship to the CCF, for had it not been for that move I would not have achieved half of what I have. There are some outstanding CCF units and they are to be applauded but in my experience, many of them are badly run and are potentially a liability. Understaffed and far too autonomous, they often struggle to meet the demands of Army Policy. In my opinion this could be improved by following a model broadly based on the ACF in that several CCF contingents are grouped together under the central command of a HQ. This would enable pooling of resources, both of manpower and equipment. No man is an island, yet CCFs operate in isolation struggling with too few qualified staff to enable training. It often seems that one Officer will hold all of the toys (qualifications) and obviously one person cannot be everywhere at once. A more collaborative approach to training can only be a good thing and one that is long overdue.

Greater Manchester ACF rolled out some school based detachments back in 2009 and they appear to have been a great success. This is another way of offering cadets within a school environment – CCFs are not the only way to bring cadets inside the school yard. My concern is that this latest initiative from the MOD and DfE will see them desperate to open new CCFs when actually the ACF may be a better organisation to sponsor these new units. Fingers crossed they get it right.

Experiences of working in a supermarket

A year ago my PhD funded ended and I found myself thrust into the employment market at a very difficult time to be looking for work. Going back to teaching didn’t work – with over 100 applicants for each post and the fact that I’d last taught over three years ago meant I was struggling to get interviews yet alone a position. I’d almost exhausted my savings and was desperate for a job when I found myself on the recruitment website for a well known supermarket applying for every job within a 20 mile radius of my house. After an extremely in-depth on-line assessment, group interview and individual interview, I got a job.


Over the 8 months that I worked for the company, I can safely say that they are the worst company I’ve ever worked for. Looking back at the first time I felt mis-treated, I really should have walked out but like so many people, I was desperate for a job.  In no particular order, here are some of the issues/moments that stick in my mind.

1. I applied to be a Home Delivery driver, this seemed nice to me- zooming around in my wagon listening to the radio. In my individual interview the manager said he would give me one shift a week doing another job in the Home Shopping department to mix things up. Sounded fine to me. The manager said he would phone me to let me know if I’d been successful or not and what hours I’d be offered. I received no such call. The next thing I heard was from the HR lady inviting me in for an induction. At the induction I quickly located the contract that was waiting for me to sign – it was for a different job and hours. I had no driving and 8 more hours than I’d applied for. I’m one of those that won’t sign anything without reading it so I kept the induction up whilst I asked to speak to the manager. His response to my query was ‘Do you want a job or not?’. Lovely.

2. As a new member of staff you have a three month probationary period in which they monitor sickness, lateness etc. One night I was home alone and my dog, who has canine epilepsy, had a few fits and I was awake for a while in the small hours, looking after him. I can’t leave him alone when he’s ill so I called the only number I had been given for the supermarket to try and tell them that I wouldn’t be in. My hours of work were 0600 – 1300: I called at 0200, 0400 and 0500 before finally getting through to someone. Turns out I needed to have called the night manager, number unknown to me at this time. I should have lied and said I was ill – they extended my probation by another two months.

3. The supermarket has a ’20 minute rule’ – no food is out of the chiller or freezer for more than 20 minutes. This rule is regularly flouted and only strictly applied when a visit from area managers is expected. One one occasion when I was working on a Sunday evening (the store was closed), the power to the store went down including the chillers and freezers. The staff were all confused, trying to work in the dark isn’t easy and I’m sure breaks employment law, but it turned out this was a planned power outage while something was being worked on. Clearly no-one thought to tell the staff who would be working at the time! The chillers and freezers were off for an hour and three quarters and no one batted an eyelid. Now it may well be that the freezers in particular did not warm up to a critical level due to how cold they were to start with but it was still a total joke.

4. I was rear-ended by a young man in a Audi on the work to my other job one morning, the car was a write-off and I suffered slight whip-lash injuries. They have quite a tough approach on sickness (three periods in 6 months = BAD)  and I was in the position that to have another period of sickness would have resulted in a formal disciplinary, so I couldn’t call in sick for my shift the following day. I hadn’t gone to A&E after the bump as I felt okay but whilst driving to work at 0530 in the morning the day after the accident, my neck was sore when I was checking my blind spots and my back was stiff. This worried me but I carried on to work and told my supervisor what had happened and how I now felt. He told me to go to A&E, I specifically asked him if this would count as a period of sick and he said  it wouldn’t because I’d come in to to work. Off I went after being there for 30 minutes and 2 hours later I had been diagnosed with whiplash injuries and dosed up with pain killers.

I went in for my next shift three days later to be faced with a BAD return to work form and the threat of a disciplinary and investigation  because of this third period of sick. I told him that I thought this unfair, as I had acted on the advice given. Turns out the correct thing to do was to wait for a manager to come in and ask them. I accepted that I had not followed the correct procedure but that it was not my fault as I acted on the advice given to me by my supervisor. Incidentally, the form was incorrectly filled out and my manager decided to delay the interview until he could get this corrected. I handed my notice in at the end of that shift. It wasn’t a surprise to him. I had a chat with him after that interview about leaving as I was spending 7 weeks in Canada and had no intention of continuing to work in there on my return.

These are just some of my experiences whilst working for this well known supermarket, there are more but these four things all fitted roughly into how they treat its staff – they are a big company and know there are thousands of people who need jobs. From my experiences and from talking to colleagues, the company does not treat their staff very well at all. Don’t even get me started on their money saving claims because that is a con….