I have spent the most moving day today at St Mary’s CE Primary School in Shropshire, where for a long while I served as headteacher. Because of my own struggles with the depth of affection I still hold the school in, I have done my best to allow an appropriate interval to pass before I engaged again (it has been three and a half years since I left). I have thought about them virtually every day since I left and thank God in all sorts of ways for what they have contributed to me as both a leader and as a person.
In those three and a half years, the school has had a difficult time at the hands of OFSTED whilst being led by an acting head, seen desperate loss and serious illness, amalgamated with another school, abandoned the physical site of the school where we served together and inherited a new build under a new acting head who is doing a wonderful and much-delighted-in role to lead a staff that is now a lovely mix of experience and youth, on a site which is asking for beautiful things to happen on it! Children I left in Year 2 are now in Year 6, and of course many that I knew have moved on. Today I saw younger siblings who in my mind stood in for their older brothers and sisters no longer at St Mary’s.
The teaching staff who have survived the turbulence have walked the most difficult of paths of knowing that much of what has happened around them has not been what they wanted or intended, and that the inner conviction that they are good teachers longing for success for their children has not been enough to shine through during a time when too much was against them. This is hard to bear, even when you can agree with somebody else’s evaluation.
My experience today was one of acceptance and encouragement, of welcome and interest, and of joy and a huge sense of humour, but also there was the sense of an unshared experience, that created a small but totally appropriate barrier. I have not walked with this lovely school in what has been traumatic and bewildering for many of them, and so have to earn the right to be more than an observer and applauder. I was humbled by what I saw and what I perceived of the aching of good people to be recognised for the good work they are doing, and by their resilience to the task. Yes, I can still recognise the fruit of all we did together in love and hard work, and with all my heart I long for their success and flourishing. However, when that flourishing and fruitfulness comes, as it surely will (for their determination is fierce!), it will be entirely and completely to their honour and praise, and to nobody else’s.