The “knight’s move”

As you will appreciate, my time available to read for pleasure is a scarce luxury – but one which I look forward to when a half term break or longer holiday is approaching. This half term, I’ve been reading “Hitch 22: The Memoirs of Christopher Hitchens”.

I was first introduced to the ideas and works of Hitchens via his debates at the Oxford Union and Smithsonian Institute, readily accessible via YouTube, and marvelled at his power as an orator both in terms of his ability to convey an intellectual or philosophical position with conviction, passion, persuasion and a savage wit, but also his command of the English language.

Describing a particular debate he was engaged in, Hitchens described a twist and turn taken by the argument as the playing of a “knight’s move”. This reminded me of a session I attended at the WomenEd event last month, hosted at John Taylor Free School, in which all attendees had to select an object from a diverse, and seemingly random, set of items – and describe why we have picked the item we have as being of significance to us. The various artefacts included a light bulb, a deck of playing cards, and a model of a dog to name a few – and a knight from a chess set.

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Feeding back to the group as to why I had selected that object, I began with references to strategy: that in my capacity as CEO, an important aspect of my role is to scan the horizon for forthcoming opportunities and challenges to ensure that the Trust is well-positioned to move forward positively. In turbulent times, this is much more problematic, but also much more important. Having a network of colleagues to whom I can turn for advice and candid opinion is invaluable and, like sentries on watch in outlying areas, they can see and report forthcoming change that gives us time to consider our options and subsequently prepare.

Beyond the strategy, there is another significance to the knight as a chess piece, and this is where I was prompted by my reading of Hitchens this half term to write this blog. The knight isn’t the most important piece on the board. Players don’t win the game through its capture, and it has a “value” in points that is only above that of the pawn. But the knight can make a move that no other piece can make. It can ‘jump’ other pieces in play to obtain a new position and can change direction easily. So, when Hitchens referred to a “knight’s move” in the aforementioned debate, it was an oratorial device that transformed the direction of travel the debate was heading in.

As CEO, I have the positional role in the Trust that means that occasionally I can achieve something that others cannot – access to key decision-makers, representing the Trust in a range of forums, seeing common themes and threads across all our schools. If our children, their teaching and support staff, and school leaders are the “kings and queens” on our metaphorical chess board, I’m perfectly comfortable not to try and emulate their role and their position, but to add something different – and to play a part that they cannot. For me, this is what the knight embodies.

Thanks for reading.

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Mike