UK to Ukraine

Welcome back and I hope that you did get an opportunity to take some time out and away from work over the half term period.

It would be wrong of me in this week’s message to ignore, pass over, not reference, the terrible conflict in Ukraine. If we ever need to understand the fundamental point of education, the conflict in Eastern Europe is an example of why two things, which we talk about a lot, are desperately important at this time.

Firstly, we understand that we do not exist, operate, work or educate in a vacuum. Everything that we do is rooted in a reality and within a wider community. Sometimes that community extends simply to the end of our drive. Occasionally that community may be defined by the town boundaries, the county or the nation. Rarely, but increasingly often, something just so significant happens on a global scale that we cannot help but conclude that our community is drawn in that global context. I would imagine that everyone is deeply affected by the events in Ukraine and will have strong views about those events; it’s not my role here to pass comment in that respect. However, I am very comfortable in sharing with you my utter horror at the impact that conflict is having upon the lives of ordinary people. Some of you will have family and friends deeply affected or involved in the events. Some of you will be an observer, fortunately from a safe distance. Whatever your perspective or however you come at viewing these horrific events one cannot help but feel deeply sorry for those affected on the ground and the impact upon the lives of the ordinary Ukrainian people. Many of us will take some time, not only to think about those individuals but we may choose to support those affected through charitable donations. The Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) launched its appeal yesterday, many of you will have seen that and will be considering what contributions you can make.

Secondly, the importance of education. Education isn’t an either/or. We do want our children and young people to be as successful as possible, academically. That will mean having tough conversations with children and asking them to perform within the context of the academic. Unashamedly, we should be saying to them – you need qualifications, you need to evidence that you can work independently and diligently. That’s what schools and colleges are all about. We are about changing lives and giving children and young people the passports, which will allow them to move in the direction of their choice. Equally, and we talk about this regularly at a trust, school and college level, we understand the value of education for education’s sake. Our work is critical in ensuring that we have a nation of young people, young adults, out and about in the wider world, making sane, rational, fair and empathetic decisions. It is our responsibility, calling if you like, to ensure that all of our children are given the tools to think for themselves, challenge orthodoxy and demand something different for themselves and for others. Without that our work is valueless.

In these difficult, these turbulent times, I look at our children and young people, I consider the work that you undertake, whatever your role, whatever your position, and I know that we collectively see the value in ensuring that all of our work is connected and wired into a community (whatever definition one might choose to use) and that we are working purposefully and professionally with our charges to ensure that they are able to make a positive contribution in that community.

‘I am a citizen of the world, and also a citizen of Ukraine’. Victor Pinchuk

It is a sombre time, a sombre period in history, but yet again education can and should be seen as the key to changing the way in which people behave.