Every so often, I am asked to try and summarise the impact of all we have done here at Christ the Sower. I had to do it today, for a relatively benign audience of school leaders in the diocese, and as I look to find whatever role God has for me in the future, doubtless I will have to do it again in the form of personal statements in applications. It is hard to do, because of the great divergence I am finding with my colleagues in community schools and with the Local Authority whose schools we all (nominally, in my case) are. With a clearer future in front of me, the past suddenly becomes clearer as well, and the necessary divergence between me and my political “masters” was ever more obvious, as I look back.

I was tempted to read them a story rather than tell them of all our achievements. That story might have been of Andy Catlett (in Wendell Berry’s Remembering) re-connecting with his early farm childhood, and abandoning the mores and careerism of the big city once he has seen the reality of an agriculturally diverse and beautiful shalom life in Isaac Troyer’s Amish farm. Or it might have been the wonderful story told by Neil Postman in The End of Education, that talks about what a true education might be for a generation of New Yorkers if they took education into their own hands.

Instead, I began with the premise that if you give yourself to the kind of school you believe in and fix your eye firmly on the prize of that, two things will happen, without doubt. The first is that you will see the fruit of your work springing up in all sorts of unexpected places, a glory of glories and a constant stream of joys that you can trace back to the original investment. The second of these is that you will, undoubtedly, be seen to fail in the eyes of those who had intended that you live by their lights rather than theirs. If you are in business, where making money seems to be the thing prized above all, you take the basic market laws into account and will know that if you deviate from them, financial disaster will follow, and often does. In schooling, where monetary outcomes are prized by only a few, but whose proxies – test results, OFSTED gradings, league tables – are eagerly sought after  by many, it is just as predictable that you will crash into something large and punitive if you take your eye off the “attainment and progress” idol. In fact, you can turn a school into a living hell and provided that your numbers are OK you can still be regarded as a good school, even if not in a moral sense of the word. I have seen this done, and have rescued teachers from it. This is another way of saying that you can be held to be a great success and a total failure at the same time. But, I said to the diocesan school leaders, that must not discourage you from walking in the path you feel is best for children. The government, diocesan advisers, inspectors and terrified local authorities do not have any kind of monopoly on what is good or best for children. Beyond a biblical teaching, that is the teachers’ and parents’ prerogative.

What surprised me today has been how this process of trying to explain my purpose in our school has turned into something of a key in interpreting what I have done in the past. Seeing Rosehip’s extraordinary Collective Worship on Friday was one such glory of glories, but because it summed up so much of what we are for, it provided another part of the key for me in seeing the relationship between what I have done hitherto and how I will focus my energies for the next two months. This clarity is really welcome, because in the words that have been spoken over us by those wedded to the punitive agenda there has been some grain of truth, and that makes it more confusing. My improvement partner likes to say “there’s no point playing hockey when the game is football” as though we have to abandon all we have held dear to play by different rules. This is a false analogy, and reveals, subtly, that he thinks that education is all about “winning” and “performance.” What we have been striving for as a leadership team, and found wanting in, is far more complex, richer and more beautiful than that.

More anon.

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About Huw Humphreys

I am a headteacher by profession, now working as an educational researcher, in the city of Milton Keynes, where I have been since April 2011. My work looks to make education effective for the whole child and keeps a distant relationship with the powers that be and their narrowing approach to education... but most of all I am looking to find out what it means to be both a follower of Jesus Christ and a passionate educator in the midst of an unsettled community. I am also a part time musician, amateur printmaker, part time linguist and lover of history and literature...committed both to freedom to learn and depth of learning for children. The views on this blog are all my own.

2 responses »

  1. Mandy Robertson says:

    I live in hope that one day common sense will prevail and the powers that be will realise the damage we are doing to our children by not putting their emotional wellbeing first….

  2. Caroline Jackson says:

    Mahatma Ghandi once said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

    As a “lowly headteacher,” sadly you didn’t have the power to create change in the “masters” and successes you achieved such as “praise from a former pupil” sent to you by Ofsted are nothing when compared to the essential “league tables.”

    As Head you have worked hard to produce and deliver an environment where the children have become “rounded and whole people” you don’t stress the children by making them do a month of “SATS preparation” after school every night, as some local schools do. Those children then suffer further stress as they are then unable to keep up with the “hothouses grades” they achieved at SATS and for the rest of their school lives are “under performing.”

    I am honoured that my children received their education under your leadership and that whilst I was a parent at the school you operated an open and positive communication where you took on board what parents were saying (via parent counsel) etc.
    Without your strong leadership my children wouldn’t have flourished to where they are today.

    Education is so much more than “one moment in time,” results and sadly the “masters” have become slaves to the voters who rely on spin doctors to tell them what is good to vote for.

    You only need to stand outside the school gates at 3:15 and watch the happy chatter of these engaged, lively, happy children as they tell their parents about their day to know that Christ the Sower is a truly OUTSTANDING school.

    Whatever your future holds let’s hope you will be in the position to influence the change which is so needed, once this change is created then and only then will any Government/ LA have something to be proud about. League tables were the worst thing for the children.

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