Lockdown: Week 5

We now have returned from our Easter break and have completed week 5 of lockdown. How long this will continue I cannot say. What I do know is that we have all been doing your bit again this week to support our children in their work and beyond. I know many of you are very appreciative of our work and there may be some young people who are missing the school and the staff.

In doing all that we are collectively doing can I ask that we are all realistic as to what we will be able to achieve with some of our children? They just won’t be working as they would if they were in school (under the normal circumstances) and you may become frustrated but please try to be realistic as to what you can do and what they might present. We are all doing our bit and we can have a clear conscience.

This period has reinforced something about who we are as teachers and as adults who work in schools. It’s a tough job. And it’s a job that now great swathes of the population may now appreciate; having children at home and having to manage and engage them in home learning. I suspect there are a quite number of parents across this country who now have a new found respect and admiration for all of us who work in schools.

And, back to the who we are… We at Oakwood always set immensely high expectations of our children, of ourselves and of each other. We set our own benchmarks. We don’t look to others and their metrics. We set our own standards.

Thank you all for supporting that. I thank you all for supporting us as we endeavour to give our children the educational experience, the care, the empathy and the compassion that we would want all children to display. We know and regularly discuss that we do need our children to make significant academic progress and be able to demonstrate that progress; achieving the best academic results they can (that is an enormous part of what they’ll need out in the adult world). Equally we know that attributes such as leadership, entrepreneurship, flexibility, empathy etc will be needed and are valued by employers and society. I wonder if that, out of the back of this crisis, education might be reset, re-focused, re-imagined in this country. Maybe, just maybe, we will be allowed to fulfil a national desire to encourage and educate our children to be caring, thoughtful, free-thinking individuals who can  make a positive contribution to the economy and wider society. Maybe we’ll find a way of judging schools by their contributions to communities and to the young people they serve. Maybe… I think it’s just lockdown that’s getting to my brain. I won’t hold out hope.

Yet again in the words of Jesse: This week I have been mostly…

Running and running. 18 days running every day, only 2 rest days since lockdown, getting on for 150 miles covered since we finished.

I moved on to baking a Chocolate Cake. I had to improvise as my son nabbed some of the cooking chocolate for his attempt at brownies. To be honest his brownies were better than my cake.

I’ve been light on the Spanish – just too busy.

Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy, stay connected and stay sane. And remember that this will pass.

‘The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.’ Martin Luther King Jr


Don’t feel the need to read on but if you want to …

Ongoing Comedy Connections. I went over the top last week; too effusive. This week the connection is through the writers and this is a much forgotten sitcom that is generally delightful, says a lot about the relationships men have (good and bad) with each other and the changing world around them.

Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads was a return by the writers, Ian Le Frenais and Dick Clement, to their characters Bob and Terry, some seven years after their first sitcom – The Likely Lads. The Likely Lads was almost a kitchen sink drama. Limited sets, two ‘lads’ talking and mulling over their lives and the futures they might experience. It was very much of its time and, as with all great sitcoms, was driven by a script which spoke about the time and its people. It was importantly set in Newcastle. A sitcom beyond London, the south east or suburbia. It was properly honest, urban and very true of its time. The characters are different to each other but are still very much the same. Terry: limited in outlook, simple in taste, narrow in view. Bob: more aspirational, a dreamer, wanting more.

The return of the ‘lads’ came in 1973. The sixties were dark, black and white – the north in particular still suffering deprivation and poverty; very post-war Britain. In 1973 the series blasts back in a sea of colour – quite literally. Everything has changed. The episode chosen, although driven by a particular theme, does bring the new Newcastle in the seventies into sharp focus. The ‘lads’ are back together. It was Terry who left, not Bob. Terry ended up in the army, by default and to protect Bob. Bob dreamed of escape but Terry got to escape. Terry is bewildered by the Newcastle he has returned to. Bob delights in bringing Terry into his shiny, new world. They ‘lads’ are different, their worlds are different, Newcastle is different but, then again it is all as it was, and maybe as will always be?

The two incarnations do have pathos at their heart. The longing for the past, the longing for things to remains the same and yet the longing for things to move on, for people to move on. There is obvious conflict between and within the characters. On one level the characters are simply drawn. The relationship between the two main protagonists is simple. On another level the characters are terribly conflicted and unclear about who they are, what they want and how they interact with the world around them. And equally, at another level their relationship is immensely complicated – they are friends (almost brothers) yet they despise something about what the other one aspires to (or not) whilst wanting the other’s life and loves.

In this episode the ‘lads’ are consumed by avoiding something and are pursued by one of South Yorkshire’s finest sons. Brian Glover plays Flint (who was also in Porridge – so another connection). This classic generally stands the test of time. Some of the references are clumsy but, to a degree like Porridge, it pricks, exposes and ridicules the narrow minded lazy prejudice of seventies men. This series, like Porridge is still regularly shown on mainstream TV, which suggests it is acceptable to the (correctly) more refined 21st century palates.

This episode is so revered in some circles that the second best comedy pair to come out of Newcastle (Ant and Dec) remade this episode, in 2011, as a homage to the original.

There is one bit in the hairdressers when Terry goes to have his hair washed and how he approaches the sink which still makes me laugh out loud, and reminds me (and I hope other normal northerners) of the process of the children having their hair washed – pre everyone having a shower in their homes and with a weekly bath the order of the day. It won’t mean much to the younger generation. It might not mean much to those brought up in more ‘middle class’ households but there will be a few of you who understand.

Enjoy: No hiding place