I feel strongly that I want to share something, so here it is.
When I walked round the building on Thursday with the SIP, I think I went into each and every room. It was a normal Thursday morning and, though you were expecting visitors, it felt normal.
Having reflected further, I want to share that it is, in fact, not normal at all. It is remarkable.
I might be wrong about this, and there is no way of proving it, but I think we are living through the middle of one of the greatest changes in society that history has ever witnessed. Over these last few years, the change has been bewildering. I think technology – post smartphone – is the biggest reason for that change, and it seems to have triggered so much more, particularly in our relationships with each other. The pandemic appears to have accelerated the speed of change even more. For me, it feels like a society packed into the back of a bus which is out of control. With everyone looking down at their phones.
When you are living through such a paradigm shift in history, of course you don’t notice the change as much. We’re in the middle of it, unable to see the big picture. And yet we’re tasked with leading a school community through it. Tough gig.
Which brings us to our school. Because on Thursday, it really felt like a beautiful community, calm and content. A community with heart and soul – you cannot fake that. Children know it, and they take their cue. The way they spoke, behaved, presented was so impressive. Even when we had a pupil in meltdown, in one of those rooms we visited, it was calm and controlled.
You cannot put a price on this, and it’s something that you are all contributing to. Your work may just assist our pupils and families to navigate this crazy world, set them up spiritually and emotionally to be able to make the most of the changes, because some of those changes are positive and exciting.
It’s positive and exciting for our school development too. We have older pupils buddying up with those pupils in our enhanced provision. Watching this ‘reverse inclusion’ in action is inspirational. We were doing it off-site too at St Vincent’s. Seeing the Y3 orchestra through someone else’s eyes was a significant moment for me – he was amazed. That phrase ‘In Harmony’ really matches our school, or at least I think it does. We’ve lots to look forward to; I spent some of the weekend planning for Y6 to go to Seville, maybe in 2013 or 2014. Always exciting.
Over these next few months, there will be challenges regarding teaching and learning, the balancing of priorities, workload, challenges related to the business development of the school. These are professional challenges, ones we can’t ignore, and ones we will do our best to meet. But it’s important to mark moments like these. I am risking hubris by saying that you have contributed to a really remarkable achievement, but I’ve always been a headteacher who is prepared to take risks if it’s going to benefit our pupils, staff and wider community. During a time of crisis (which sadly will only continue, and perhaps intensify) we have all helped to create a warm, wonderful place for 600 people to co-exist.
As headteacher, I have the worries and anxieties of being able to see everything, warts and all. I feel that weighty responsibility of seeing things when they don’t go well. But I also have the privilege of seeing things when they do go well. I think what you have done over these past few months is amazing, it really is.
In our scientific and technological age, where everything is based on evidence and research, evaluations these days are dull and boring and technocratic. The SIP’s report will be, and that’s not his fault. But I just thought I wanted to share something a little more personal and instinctive,
Well done, and let’s keep it warm