This is such a time of optimism. We depend on each other’s loyalty, professionalism and utterly selfless commitment to each child and adult in our care.
No dream is too large. No aspiration too outrageous.
Nelson Mandela’s inspiration is; ‘Ubuntu’- that is: ‘A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him.’ That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: ‘Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?’ In my humble terms, this translates as: ‘How can I help?’
This ought to be a shared national system consensus. In particular, our emphasis on the teaching of exemplary core skills, literacy, numeracy and behaviour. This forms the backbone of what we are working towards.
However we are not satisfied with this. We want to make our professional lives rich with research, creativity, a rigorous focus on rapid progress of all, those for whom the gaps are the greatest and those who are eager for even more currently unimaginable horizons. Schools exist to bring into existence an ordinary future that seems presently impossible.
Hence my joy in trying to understand the learning required to show us Mount Sharp on a planet Mars, 23 million km from where we sit.
In such a context, forgetting your pencil, missing a deadline, giving up on a child or colleague is truly questionable.
What is beyond question is the fascinating devotion of our colleagues to the success of every member of our community. We see it in a wet Tuesday, period 5 lesson in November as much as in the heightened experience of, say, the most surprisingly successful lesson.
And what marks our schools as offering more potential for growth is the self-sacrificial capacity of our colleagues, teaching and non-teaching.
We must never forget that our will is greater than some students’ propensity to laziness or couldn’t-carelessness.
I know you are inspired, as I am, by those students who accept our offer to be more than they could possibly dream of. Those who reject this, we thoughtfully, rigorously convert.
There is a moral compass. To work is better than not to work. To try is better than to give up. And there are those who would convince us of the reverse. Nevertheless they are the ones who will have no part to play in the Olympics or the landing of a semi-human robot on another planet.
Don’t be put off by the reluctance or truculence of some of our students. They are the ones who secretly hope to be challenged, to have their laziness defied. And they will put up a show of opposition in their nail varnish, in brushing past us in the corridor, wearing a vest under their sweatshirt. But these are minuscule barriers compared with our oceanic allegiance to the spirit of ‘I am because you are.’
Enjoy your time in schooling. May it be the best professional experience of your life. We, as leaders, want to know how this can be made more possible: tell us what else we can do to open doors of possibility. Not trivia: the national context doesn’t allow petty discontent when children thirty years younger than us are facing the bullets of the Taliban.
We are all we hope to be. We can be more than we hope. Whoever we are: Assistant Headteacher or shy Year 7 student. There is no better place for ambition, stumbling forward to astonishing, flourishing, surprising success than our schools. Right here. Right now.
National Leading Edge School
Winner: TES Outstanding Literacy Initiative
Ofsted, 2012, National Case Study of Exemplary Literacy Practice