A reminder of what is important

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The serious illness and death of a student and the subsequent impact on the school community brings homes to our headteacher diarist what is really important

I opened a recent edition of SecEd and turned to Diary of a Headteacher column, as I usually do in order to read the views of my fellow heads.

I was impressed with the clarity of the message in the column (Did you make the right decision?, SecEd 373, February 27, 2014) and the obvious passion behind the words and felt a real sense of agreement with the views expressed about the early entry GCSE debacle.

I couldn’t agree more with the analysis of the current situation, particularly as it pertains to all involved in any way in the teaching of English. I am very fortunate in having a skilled, highly committed and hard-working team of specialists who work incredibly hard for all students, trying to juggle the pressures of being a “core subject”, and hence of enormous “Ofsted value” to our school, along with the desire to share their love of the language and its literature.

They dress as characters for World Book Day, hold “readathons”, host “Inside a Dog”, send articles of the week which develop students’ global awareness, and – most importantly – keep smiling through the rigours of the daily churn which they feel pressures them into becoming strategists in how to answer test question 4.

How did it come to this? I find myself asking this question more and more in recent weeks with Twitter almost bursting into flames due to the heat of so many posts being added to this educational debate. 

In fact, I find social media to be quite a useful vehicle to follow the latest information from the Department for Education and other official bodies as well as the views of colleagues I respect for the common sense and practical approaches they take to the situation we are in. It is, however, becoming ever more difficult for a novice such as me to keep up! A single hour can be a long time in Twitter land. 

On top of all the change, it is a tough time of year anyway as we come out of winter and worries about weather and into final preparations for examinations, budgets and staffing.

However, as a school community, we have had an even tougher time recently with the serious illness and then death of one of our students.

We work with young people as a result of our vocation. We see them grow and take familial pride in their achievements and this means that when we lose someone we hurt. 

But as always at times like these, something happens to bring light to the darkness. It would take more than my column inches here to explain how incredibly proud and humble I felt to lead a community which responded with such empathy and strength, supporting the family, our students and each other. 

The small gestures and the kindness shown by all brought a reality check to what really matters. School carried on, lessons continued even as the candles were lit, the prayers said and the Book of Condolence opened. We arranged support for students and staff, kept the community informed and attended the funeral and for a time the world stopped. 

We are still grieving; staff thinking about what to do with work collected over the years, registers that are one short and games of football taking place without a key player. It will take time but we are stronger because of our response. 

Outside the world carries on as we move into spring and bulbs grow. The flowers are starting to come again and “as it was ever thus so it shall be”. 

Somehow, all of the stuff that seemed to matter doesn’t hold as much sway any more and we can stand back and see what is really important and try not to be sucked in to the rest.

  • Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.


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