The perspective in January is often one of nostalgia and remembrance. A yearning for the beloved past, lost loved ones and the vitality and optimism of younger days when your knees did not betray your hopefulness. You only have to listen to radio talk shows that yearn for football from a bygone era or the so called panacea that was national service or the education system where teachers were respected and old fashioned discipline was to the fore.
There is a Brexit like love of the past when Britain apparently was Great and the world was simpler, kinder place. At times, it is too easy to ‘moan’ and fall back on the easy cliché that societal standards are slipping. Football in the 1980s was played on atrocious pitches, the clawing mud of Derby’s Baseball ground with British players whose only knowledge of dietary requirements was to have a pre-match ‘half’ rather than a pint. Each team had an ‘enforcer’ like Alan Little, my moustachioed, long haired, potbellied Doncaster Rovers hero, or Gary Megson whose despairing manager Brian Clough stated ‘he couldn’t trap a bag of cement’. Football was a tribal, attritional, horrid, male only experience that has improved dramatically with the introduction of innovative educative coaching that has taken it into the twenty first century, with space age stadiums to match.
Similarly, education and our schools continue to improve at an astronomic rate. The schools of the late 70s were horrific, barbaric places ruled by violence and fear. My secondary experience at Adwick School in Doncaster, now a housing estate, was a brutal place where daily caning left irrevocable scars. Before the soothsayers produce the usual cliché of it appearing to not have done me any harm, I would argue that all I learnt at school was to fight, to survive and loathe many of my male teachers. I survived but many talented students did not, and this for them and for society was a lost opportunity. My fabulous Worcester school is better than it was five years ago. We exclude less, attendance has increased, which is a significant statistic to indicate students are happy and value school. Teachers and all staff are working so much harder than in previous eras, determined to make a difference for those in their care, determined to ensure the plethora of new courses and new initiatives work. Our curriculum offer is broad and balanced and results and progress are excellent. The positive growth mind set of our industry needs to be lauded, not provocatively challenged by politicians looking to deflect from inept national educational policy. Schools and teachers are working collaboratively, determined to ensure every child matters and we need to not be distracted by Daily Mail type hysteria regarding school and society challenges that have always existed, always will exist. So, entering 2019, I would expect that we do it all again with relish. Our crucial challenge being to always remain eternally optimistic. This is a ‘good’ job, a good place to work. We need to consider:
- How to ensure passive, arrogant boys are challenged and not allowed to dominate! What are the courses that ‘switch’ them on? Where are the practical courses that produce our engineers, our craftsmen of tomorrow? Mapping the curriculum skills is essential to know where next.
- How do we ensure that our unique student processes cope with the demands of parental popularity? We have increased in size dramatically and will be the target 11-18 school in Worcestershire? How do we ensure that our pastoral house system remains central to this with all involved in the many experiences offered? How do we productively manage students’ free time? Ensuring the data comes alive and is used in directing their studies, not simply managing their behaviour is a challenge for all but in particular for those who run our pastoral system.
- How do we productively manage our system of staff meetings to ensure they are a professional developmental guide that allow all a voice?
- How do we embrace causes that make a difference and matter? Worcester Food Bank, Worcester homeless and becoming plastic aware/efficient are three causes for the school. As a teacher, what are your house/personal causes? Do we know about them? Do you passionately believe in them?
I am sure there is much more. We will do this with relentless optimism and will ensure that the school students and crucially staff are in better place in 2020 than before. As headteachers are apt to say, this is an exciting journey, a privilege that cannot be rushed, especially with this inept funding system.
As the Liverpool fans know, ‘walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart’. After all, in teaching you can only walk not sprint and this is a marathon that you need to embrace with intelligent, professional passion. See, we can all do football like clichés. Good luck – enjoy the journey.