Hope is not wishful thinking, but a way of expressing positively that secure, planned efforts, with positive expectations have been prepared, with confidence and great care.
Over the past 12 months, it has become obvious to us all that the old certainties can no longer be relied upon. Almost everything marked on the calendar as a ‘fixture’ isn’t any more; the physics, chemistry and biology of flying haven’t changed, but who knew that air travel could be forbidden for this long? Likewise, the grand tours of the rock stars, the festivals such as Glastonbury and the home and away matches of our favourite sports team have all ceased completely.
In the absence of certainty, I have had to become newly acquainted with the notion of hope, that being far from the fluffy ‘bon bouche’ of wishful thinking, but part of a much more powerful professional methodology that sets out to ‘win’. After all, we’ve been given some great examples by our virologists over the pandemic have we not, where following their noses and working with innovative and utterly new mechanisms, their hopes for the production of effective vaccines for us all have been fully justified. Following the science, the behaviourists have argued for #lockdown to break the irresistible rise of Covid-19 infections and the catastrophic outcomes to our NHS and CAre homes as a consequence. I have kept myself suitably socially distanced throughout, sung Happy Birthday or Popeye the Sailor Man whilst hand cleansing, worn me mask and coughed into my sleeve, poked my tonsils/nostrils for Lateral Flow testing and stayed resolutely not infectious as a consequence, as have millions of other Britons.
The meticulous plans crafted for ‘at home’ teaching and learning were laid with perhaps even greater care, requiring the willing cooperation and coordination of teachers and learners. Again, all of this work was not carried out in the knowledge that it would definitely succeed (would Sir’s wifi last the distance for example), but as a best laid plans of mice and men, these plans were prepared hopefully. Whilst I appreciate those plans could never replace ‘real school’, pupil and parental feedback was incredibly supportive, and rather like a vaccination grew in strength and robustness over time. Teachers and students worked out a new ‘patois’ for on-line learning, showing each both respect and deference. It was fascinating to see teachers learn how to manage their ‘faceless’ charges at secondary level, by asking when necessary for ‘cameras on’ as needs must.
And we have turned our development eyes towards making more of the River Thames above Boulters Lock here in Maidenhead; known as the Stretch of the Gods, the photo below showing off one of our quads in all their glory.
To that end, we chose to secure a building, the former Navigation office of Thames Conservancy, as well as land further onto the Island where our boats of various shapes and sizes could be stored. Both required the securing of leases and the gaining of planning and parks’ permission, not easily organised at the best of times, let alone when everything has been put into suspended animation. Well Hope might Spring Eternal as the saying goes, but it’s taking a huge amount of shoe leather, (almost) endless email to and fros between the Environment Agency and myself, but… “Tarantara” blows the trumpet, because we are now there! Thanks to the continuing support of the PTA foundation who assisted in funding the internal development of the building, we now have a working office, store and changing rooms, with toilets and emergency showering. We look to open up the venue in May, once we have our students looking more like successful ducks navigating their water safely at Taplow, before we set them loose amongst the Gods!
And as everyone knows, our plans for a new campus for the school were dealt a major setback when Planning Inspector Jo Gilbert dismissed our appeal in December. One could say “Our hopes were dashed”, but in like manner, in carefully reading through her report, it was clear that Mrs Gilbert found so much that was in favour of our application, central of course being her judgement that “Great weight is attached to the identified need for the proposal within Appeal A. Significant weight is attached to economic and employment opportunities
offered through Appeal A” these both being references to the school. Counter to that strong support was the need the school had to demonstrate that the development of the school (in application A) and the hockey pitches, pavilion and paraphernalia (in application B) outweighed the presence of both applications in the Green Belt, and in the end we seem to have fallen just short.
In the meantime, the designation of Education has been given further strength in planning law, and the need for grass playing fields within RBWM has gone from being important to being critical. Much of Braywick Park, one of the 2 Green lungs of Maidenhead has now disappeared under tarmac and steel, providing a new leisure centre and special needs school, with more to disappear as the plans for Maidenhead United Football club progress towards being provided a 21st Century home there as well. The other Green lung, the adjacent Maidenhead Golf Club looks set to return into development land from the Green Belt, to provide more than 2,000 homes, including 30% affordable, as well as a new primary and secondary school, public open space, community hub and supporting infrastructure. At the same time, North Maidenhead Cricket club with 2 cricket squares had been closed and returned into private ownership, along with the adjacent 3 major football surfaces used by over 400 Maidenhead boys and girls. Maidenhead is not now just full and built over, but the covenants on the lands that surround it, either owned by RBWM or the National Trust prevent its use for sport. As the owners of the only significant and accessible land left for sports fields, I have every hope that our plans for our playing fields will be successful in the future. Time and Need will tell of course.
I started with the Science and will end with the Scientist, Albert Einstein, who had this to say: