The value of education

Over the past few weeks we’ve had to face the significant challenges that exist, as a matter of course, in our schools and the college, which are just part of our duties. The Omicron wave has hit us hard with the absence of pupils, students and staff but we seem to have seen off those challenges and the immediate future looks brighter and calmer. Thank you for remaining supportive and allowing us to focus on what matters most in our institutions. It is absolutely clear to me that the overwhelming number of our staff body, whatever role they hold, want to ensure that the provision and support for our children and young people and for the adults who work with us, is as good as it possibly can be. We are nothing without our professionalism, integrity and commitment..

During the first wave of the COVID crisis there was a significant uplift in respect for (and even a love for) teachers and those of us who work with children and young people, day in and day out. There was even media chatter about the ‘fourth emergency service’. As parents and the wider public had to face managing the learning of their children and young people it became apparent that ‘it wasn’t as easy as it looks’; and that was with a couple of your own children sat at home, not 30+ of other people’s children, with Ofsted and other accountability bodies breathing down your neck. As the crisis developed I felt that there was a discernible shift in rhetoric about schools. Without being too conspiratorial about all of this, maybe someone, somewhere, in government or the media realised that it might not be too great to have schools, colleges, teachers and professionals lauded in such a manner. And so bit by bit the negative attritional narrative was revealed, re-launched and the educational narrative status quo was re-established: that is, schools are ‘war zones’, ‘children are lazy, good for nothings’, ‘it’s not like it was when I was at my (private) school’, ‘teachers are militant fighters who don’t care about their charges’ etc etc. I know that not everyone pushed that narrative but there seems to be a disconnect. You ask most parents about schooling in general and they are likely to say that schools and colleges are rubbish, it’s all gone to pot. Ask them about their child’s school or college and their personal experience, you are more likely to hear how great that institution is and how fantastic the staff are. I think the NHS suffers the same issue.

All that can be set against Monday’s global celebration of schools, college and education in general with the International Day of Education. The United Nations (UN) has proclaimed 24th January as the International Day of Education, which celebrates the importance of education. We don’t take for granted, in this community, the value of education, but I know that can seem the case in some communities. Almost daily there are stories from across the globe of children and young people being denied a positive educational experience and there are innumerable stories of children, young people and adults fighting for the right to be educated. It’s no accident that despots and authoritarian regimes look to remove the access to education or manage the education offered as a control mechanism.

This week we should just pause and consider the importance of education in affecting real change; with the individual, within communities, locally and globally. We should take time to reflect upon the impact we make, each and every day. We don’t always get to see the impact we make with the individual, but rest assured that our work is valued and impactful. In the hustle and bustle of our working lives we can miss what we do. We don’t see it, but others will – especially the vulnerable and needy.

‘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.

‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. Nelson Mandela

‘The foundation of every state is the education of its youth’. Diogenes

A message for schools and the college at this time of year, which just might help us understand how we work and gives us a sense of perspective … The nights are getting lighter, the days are a little warmer. It’s not springtime yet but it is on the horizon. We’ll have cold days, we’ll have snow, we’ll have fog but we know the spring sun will inevitably return.