Headward Headington-Hail, the headmaster of Bash Street School, who loves his tea and biscuits.
It’s tweaking the community week at Tallis as we get ready for September’s reboot. We’ve gone pipless to see if removing squawking 10 times a day makes for calm, or just discombobulation and reduces the jamming of hordes in doorways. We quite like it so far, but it’s only day 4 and we’re spacious with 2 year groups down. As we might say about everything concerning adolescents – it’s too early to tell.
Fire drill has a new muster station on the basketball courts but retains the comedy implement useless megaphone. Quickest ever evacuation but a bit noisy in the early stages. What else is new? Picnic benches which we spread around experimentally. Enterprising young souls carried them to inconvenient parts of the landscape so we’ve removed them again and will accompany their reappearance with a short lecture on the uses of public furniture. And concrete them in.
An email arrives about a young chap who helped an elderly person who’d collapsed in the street. ‘He saved her life’. I look out of the window after a pipless changeover and spot a year 10 peacock practising a new strut. Above him, furtiveness defined, an art teacher rushes out of Science with a body. Admittedly it’s a skeleton, but it has a bag over its head to disguise it. The Festival (Summer Fair) of art, dance, music, face paints and assorted stalls ends with excitable free sausages. Time for a lie down before we start again, I remark to a seagull.
Speaking of which, earlier this year I conveyed a Personage along the byzantine route from the front door to my room. It was break and we chanced upon some small girls sitting on the floor in a corner of a wide stairwell. ‘Wouldn’t you be comfortable somewhere else?’ she inquired. ‘Not really, thank you’. They explained that they were ‘practising French before the lesson’. They’d chosen a spot where there was a bon chance of regarding a sixth former of the très jolie variety, but French is French and it needs practising, and it was cold outside.
I’m a bit of a behaviour nerd and I like things to be orderly and pleasant with only as many rules as are needed to discourage foolishness. Calm is generally good, but young people need memorable experiences so we sometimes generate a bit of noise and excitement. (Street dance flashmob last week, Tallis Festival today). Children should be polite and well-mannered and the crisps incident sounds pretty shabby. But this was all rolled up with children having to stand when teachers enter a room and a quarter of headteachers not knowing what day it was. I’ve been thinking about this on my bicycle and unpicking my disquiet. For what it’s worth, here’s where I am.
Schools are where society looks after its young. We educate them to understand the world and change it for the better, and develop the lifelong skills of inquisitiveness, collaboration, persistence, discipline and imagination. We enable them to make a relationship with the ideas that define and unite us. That’s brokered by strong relationships between teachers and students, the heart and root of education. It happens in school communities which are safe and happy and where progress is good.
Beyond that, what? If I go into a classroom I expect everyone to be engaged in learning. If I go into an assembly I expect silence. If I go into the yard I expect rushing about. If I go along a corridor I expect pointless chat. We don’t call students ‘mate’ but I call everyone ‘dear’. We also don’t have HMCI’s favourite standing-up rule, silent corridor rule, tie-up-to-the-neck rule (we don’t have ties). We do have stringent rules about oppressive language and violence, and we’ve decided, all 1800 of us, that we value honesty, respect, fairness, optimism and kindness. We work damn hard to create a place where young people learn to live well in community. We enjoy ourselves together.
Sir Michael, I think I saw you on London Bridge station a couple of weeks ago and you looked pretty tired. I’m pretty tired myself. If we make all the above work, will that do? Do we have to stand up as well?