This week’s piece is in two parts. Part 1 is before our children come back to us, part 2 after. I’ll tell you how the day went!
September 6th 2017 part 1
We’ve talked and tidied and ourselves for two days since the holidays ended and now we’re ready to welcome our young people back. We think we’re ready now, so we’ll fling wide the gates and get the show on the road for another year. Term begins with welcomes to new starters – largely year 7 and year 12 – lots of assemblies, raucous and refined reunions, some tears (from anxious parents) and a lot of hugging. Day 1 is peak hug, which is saying something.
Saying goodbye in the summer term is a really strange experience. We have a lovely last morning, a bit of a celebration and then everyone walks away and disappears back into the undergrowth. People joke about schools being very peaceful without children but actually, they’re not schools at all without children, just big public buildings filled with emptiness and unanswered questions. Two odd ones today. What’s the difference between a noticeboard and a sound baffle? and Have we enough desks? I’ve never given the former a moment’s thought or thought to worry about the latter. I expect it’ll all be fine. What if I’m wrong? No-one’ll be able to hear anything and everyone’ll have to squash up for a day or so. Of all the things I lost sleep over in August, they didn’t remotely feature. Cripes.
September is simultaneously the best and worst time to do new things in school. It’s the obvious time because it’s good to make improvements with a fresh start, and the worst because the holidays wipe your memory and you can’t remember the motivation for arcane changes. How did we say we’d avoid that bottleneck? No, really? Cor blimey. A new rota, please, pronto.
I’m not so cavalier about the other questions we think about before the year begins. Why are we teachers? What are we doing it for? What do we really want for our nations’ young people? Do we have any way at all of measuring it? I’ve not written yet about this year’s exam results, apart from the information on the website here. In a nutshell? Sixth form results were jolly good again, with lots of young people getting a great boost into next thing. Year 11 results are a bit impenetrable this year, as Mr Tomlin’s Q and A document explains here: everything’s changed again and will change again again next year. In both sets of results some amazing achievements at all levels, some triumphs against adversity, some just deserts, some inexplicables, some wild inaccuracy, some re-marks. Is it too soon to hope for a new emphasis on our children as children, not examination yields?
If only other education stories in the news had been so equivocal. In what seemed like three ghastly days we had scandals about pay, exams and sixth form admissions. I expect that parents are at a loss as to what Heads think they’re doing? May I offer a thought? If, nationally, we can’t agree whether it’s important to hitch up our international PISA scores or worry about children’s mental health, in a system so deregulated that no one can speak for anyone else, we shouldn’t be surprised if people make odd decisions. Confused? Who isn’t? Let me get back to my sound baffles.
We’ve committed ourselves at Tallis this week to keeping our eyes firmly on our children as children, on what they need to fulfil themselves today and this year. We’re thinking about our broad curriculum, our commitment to inclusion and our diverse community. We’re thinking about persistence, discipline, imagination, collaboration and inquisitiveness. We’re concentrating on kindness, fairness, respect, honesty and cheerfulness. We’ll do that all year, every year, and we’ll teach our young people everything we know. At a time of nuclear threat and wickedness the world over, we’ll strengthen their hands through education so they understand the world and can change it for the better.