I was due to write this week about our considered reaction as a school to the various terrorist atrocities over the last few weeks. It is certainly not our wish to cause our families to fret about choices we make. For example, this coming week’s trip to the Globe theatre on the South bank for our Year 6 girls has been cancelled; the excursion involved some bankside walking near Borough Market, traffic is not yet free flowing in the area, and it seemed more appropriate to swap this Macbeth day in London for a Macbeth day in Maidenhead instead. It is important of course that we still handle difficult conversations about terror and man’s inhumanity to man, and not duck such issues; sufficient to say that there is enough within the Bard’s own writing of murder, mayhem and sorcery to cause our pupils to reflect upon such barbarous matters. Each activity we undertake goes through our Health & Safety prism, and all additional activities, particularly those that involve different and unfamiliar situations, including residential components are given the most detailed scrutiny. Our work here is independently inspected at least 3 times a year by a Health & Safety specialist, he sits on our H&S committee meetings and engages closely with events throughout the year, including our PTA activities up to and including fireworks, and produces written reports for the attention of the Principals, to which we are required to take action and make response. If not, he will indeed ‘blow the whistle’ on us and report us to the appropriate authorities.
The appalling images from the Grenfell Tower inferno are still fresh in all of our minds, and we are learning more hour by hour of the extraordinary bravery of the emergency services during the conflagration. It’s one thing to be trained as a first responder, quite another to learn how to use police shields to keep fire and ambulance crews protected from the showering, flaming debris from the building. Speculation on fault and blame is rife; given the area has had been covered by such mixed political masters over the past 15 or so years, it’s unwise to point a finger. Suffice it to say, other public servants are going to be in the spotlight in months, perhaps years, for actions that are polar opposites to those decisive and life-saving behaviours we have seen this last week.
If I see a common theme between all these ghastly incidents, and my more normal daily correspondence with normal life here in Maidenhead, it is that we have, bit by bit, seen the winnowing away of specialist support services previously reliably provided by locally accountable public servants and their services. We welcomed PC Graham Slater
into the Senior Boys school earlier this week, for many years the specialist schools Liaison officer for RBWM, and a real expert in supporting more difficult matters cor which schools quite regularly need support. Whenever we have had any boy-on-boy physical violence in recent years, PC SLater has been informed, and as appropriate visited the school, met with those involved, including parents as appropriate. And it’s not just the boys, but girls and on occasion adults themselves needing some support and guidance across the Claires Court community, and PC Slater has been outstanding. Police Liaison services have been restructured, the body count too low now to justify dedicated support, and so the service now falls to the local beat officer where the schools are to be found. The picture shows headmaster John Rayer, and school Receptionist Sharon Adams (formerly a WPC herself) together presenting PC Slater with a token of our esteem. We will miss his wise words and counsel, and so will all of our many schools; is such continued replacement of specialists by generalists really the way forward in our normal walks of life?
Children’s services are no longer under the direct control of our borough; outsourced to a triumvirate including Kingston and Richmond. Adult services have already gone this way, as have legal services, to be found in Wokingham borough. The Town Hall’s extensive additional premises have slowly been emptied, all part of a carefully considered plan to keep costs low by reducing headcount and outsourcing where possible. I do wonder now when even our military forces are utterly reliant on part-time volunteers how this will all end? Will our 2 new aircraft carriers ever actually find the personnel to sail them when the time comes? In part this last election carried this dilemma to the public: if you want better public services, “in some way or other they’ll need to be paid for, whether that be by 1p a £1 on income tax, or a new ‘dementia’ tax to be applied to those with property services”.
In a lot of my writing in education, be that about teaching, learning, management or even parenting, I talk about ‘good noticing’. It’s really important now we go about our duties, not just as professionals in service but as citizens of our country with our ‘eyes wide open’ , and remembers whilst we do, to ask difficult questions. The best questions to ask are those that carry with them ‘No Blame’ , as shown in the picture here.
As a language, we are indebted to Rudyard Kipling for much good literature and poetry. Kipling’s Jungle book is perhaps the most influential piece of his work that all children know. I particularly like though his short stanza – 6 honest serving- men:
“I Keep six honest serving-men:
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Where and When
And How and Why and Who”
As we continue to ask questions and wonder ‘Why and How?’, let’s keep all those that serve us in focus, and keep good watch on what they say and do. We may not be in positions of elected responsibility, but those who are need to bear their responsibilities honestly and honourably. Oh, and on those matters of finding excuse, it was Kipling who also introduced us to a central message about taking responsibility
“We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse.”