Probably not the most cheery blog post title to end the academic year on but it’s getting increasingly galling being told to talk the profession up. The profession should talk for itself; not individual people but rather the shared, lived experiences.
Spin can be useful but also counterproductive; if something is going badly you can spin the message or address the issue. There can be short term benefits of spin but the long term damage, diminished integrity and consequential lack of trust is too great a risk. We gain more by being honest; not a harsh or condemning honesty but one that wants the best for our pupils, teachers and leaders. Talking things up risks masking flawed thinking, behaviour or actions; we’d be better addressing them.
Things are a bit mixed for teachers and school leaders at the moment; schools vary as places to work and the need for humane, wise leadership has never been greater. Some schools are unbelievably busy, workload heavy but going nowhere places; others have toxic cultures based on fear and oppression. Others are places of rich support, collaborative practice; places where you can grow, thrive and be. Schools don’t exist in a vacuum but are part of a wider cultural context; increasingly I believe addressing the issue of accountability is key. Getting accountability right is the biggest lever we can pull in terms of addressing workload, improving retention and will provide a recruitment boost just at the time we need it most. It will then talk of a profession that is trusted, respected that will cherish you and your skills; we’ve some way to go.
There has never been political upheaval quite like the past three weeks; certainly not in my life time. There is almost a sense of a sweeping away of a certain type of politics and the ushering in of a different one. Let’s hope there are changes in the way politicians interact with schools. This will be required if our shared, lived experiences as a profession are going to change; then they can then talk for themselves, the message will be loud and clear.
Our shared, lived experiences will talk of the greatest job you can have; the job that touches children’s lives and changes children’s lives in ways, at the time, we can only imagine. The work teachers and support staff do in schools day in and day out is like yeast; its impact can be exponential, far beyond anything we can imagine. We literally build society one person at a time.
As schools across England start to break up for the summer holidays I’ll be taking some time out to chill and relax, get to grips with changes we want to make in our new house and writing. Working with colleagues, who form the core group of the Headteachers’ Roundtable, I’ll be helping pull together the Alternative White Paper. Unbelievably at the end of a manic term, ends of term are always doubly manic, drafts for all three strands are completed and will be pulled together for comments before people head off on their holidays. Expect to see something by mid-September which if it actually happens will be nothing short of a miracle. I’ll continue trying to write a book; my mum and dad will read it with a glow of pride and I’ll have taken my professional life’s laundry, polished it up for public exhibition, and recorded it for posterity.
Thank you for everything you have done this year to help the children and young people in our schools thrive and flourish, enjoy the break and no doubt catch up in September. Here’s to next year and the hope that our shared, lived experiences will talk for themselves.