Last year, I was entranced with the Olympic Games, from the opening ceremony to super Saturday, with the nation united in a positive “feel good”, healthy glow as we marvelled not only in the athletic prowess, but at the stories of the likes of Mo and Jessica.
A year on, despite their best efforts, I cannot help but feel cheated. The Olympic bid was based on the premise that this would ignite, enthuse, fund the next generation.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Boris’s and Lord Coe’s claims now appear fraudulent, with the ridiculous decision to cut secondary school sports co-ordinators’ funding meaning that many primary schools are reliant on enthusiastic coaches or predatory private coaching companies employing their own staff from the pool of redundant school sports co-ordinators.
Our first decision in September is whether to sell part of our sports field to pay for a music block – part of the knock-on effect of the cancelled Building Schools for the Future programme (oh, the irony of the name) or to make do with a third-generation leaking mobile cabin.
I therefore did not watch the excellent Mo the second time around. Instead, for the first time since the Stuart Hall revelations, I caught up with the Sports Report on Radio 5. This programme was synonymous with my childhood, the smooth tones of Hall’s football reports that were full of intelligent fun and Shakespearian passion.
Apart from the obvious indignation of Hall’s repugnant crimes over a decade and subsequent cowardly snivelling denial, I feel angry that my happy childhood memories are sullied.
Rugby or cricket journeys in the PE teacher’s car, fish and chips when we won. This was a time of intense school competition with my mining community secondary comprehensive school holding their own with the local grammar school and the envied Queen Elizabeth Grammar School. It was therefore with trepidation that I met up with my old PE teacher – would he have feet of clay and be another nail in my childhood memories?
Thankfully he was fabulous, full of Yorkshire common sense and generous delight at a variety of his pupils’ successes. And why wouldn’t he make us believe in our ability and that with hard work we could achieve anything!?
Indeed, my current school mantra “In pursuit of excellence” was taken from the school gym and was clearly a mantra Mr S adhered to.
As we welcomed back a number of our 20-something former students, five years after they left our school, I was reminded of Mr S.
They were proud to return to our school. As mentors for our year 11 students they were full of traditional, sensible advice: “work hard”, “it was worth it”, “no qualification is wasted” and my favourite from Kieron, a likeable rogue whose battle with early mornings was legendary, “make sure you attend, a day off is five hours wasted!”.
As university students, plumbers and nurses they were successful, sensible and willing to give something back. They were also delighted to once again have an assembly, school lunch, hear the school prayer and know they are fondly remembered.
To them, school had provided a chance to learn, grow and form their independence, crucial childhood memories, experiences that should not be tainted by evil such as Hall’s or false political promises that bear no hope.
A day spent with these 20-somethings convinced me that we are doing a good job and that the future, despite the media portrayal, is hopeful!
Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.