As we move toward the end of the term, and the end of the calendar year, we will all be taking some time to reflect on what 2020 has meant to us. Writing in a personal capacity, as I do for these blogs, there have certainly been many lows as well as highs as I am sure you, my reader, will have experienced also.
One of the most positive aspects of 2020 has been the near-exponential growth of independence and resilience of learning among children across our schools. They are upskilled technologically, engaged intellectually and challenged academically in ways that are profound – by staff who know that all of this is only really effective when children and young people can connect emotionally, feeling safe and valued. Through their professional expertise and their personal kindness, they have helped and supported our children and young people through what has been a school year like no other, and they continue to do so.
E.M .Forster once wrote that “Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.” He was right. Eventually, if we believe that the purpose of education is to help our individuals and societies be resilient, innovative, sustainable and adaptable, we need to recognise that none of these attributes are supported by provision that is more directive and structured than the absolute bare minimum requires.
A much-respected and experienced Deputy Headteacher with whom I served used to present the parents of a new intake with a slide at the Year 7 Induction Evening. It read simply: “Do not do for your child anything that they can do themselves.” She elaborated that, once shown how to pack their schoolbag, sort out their equipment for the day, lay out their uniform, check their stationery etc., it should become their responsibility. As a parent, I must confess that I haven’t always followed this advice to the letter myself, despite nodding approvingly in the school hall when she delivered it. Sometimes we cannot help ourselves and become involved, not least when there would be a negative consequence to any mistake or omission on our child’s part, but I do try to allow my children that space to grow and learn. I know many parents feel the same. Striking the balance between support and independence is something that schools and parents must continually try to get right – and it is far from an exact science!
As we move towards the end of the year, I want to thank all those associated with the John Taylor MAT community for their support, kindness and generosity to me and to each other, and to those beyond our family of schools. It is a privilege to be alongside so many amazing people who give so much. The famed basketball coach John Wooden wrote that “things turn out best for people who make the best of how things turn out”, and during these times I’ve seen that sentiment played out hundreds of times across our fourteen schools and beyond.
So to close, I will return to E.M. Forster, whose work I wish I had discovered a long time before I actually did. In ‘A Room with a View’, he wrote “Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.” As only an occasional blogger it would be more than a little inflated to describe this as a ‘chronicle’, but I can concur with the latter part of his sentiment! 2020 has, at least at times, been somewhat bewildering. I’m sure you will join me in wishing for greater clarity, and happier times, from 2021.
As always, thanks for reading. Wishing you a restful and safe festive period, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.