I feel that as I approach the end of twenty-nine years at “Lanfranc” I should set out some of my reflections on that time.
Firstly I must emphasise that during those twenty-nine years, more than twenty of which have been as Head, I have had the most fantastically enjoyable time. It is true, inevitably, that there have been highs and lows, successes and disappointments but there has never been a lack of optimism; there has never been a time when our children have failed to lift the spirits; there has never been a failure of commitment on the part of our staff; and there has never been a missed opportunity to see the humour in a situation.
I am very proud of our school and even more proud that my name will be associated with the values it represents and the principles it upholds. It saddens me that those who judge the worthiness of schools set so little store by what to us are such important strengths. While many “talk the talk” about the school in the community I believe we have “walked the walk”. We have embraced the whole of our community and by so doing created an atmosphere of tolerance and respect in the context not only of enormous ethnic, cultural and religious diversity but also significant levels of social and economic disadvantage.
We have been inclusive, supporting challenging pupils and those who face challenges through to the end of their five years with us. We have made excellent provision for pupils with EAL, providing opportunities for new arrivals in the community, including refugees, unaccompanied minors and others from overseas. We have accepted midyear admissions into all year groups on the basis of need and compassion. We have never excluded or “lost” pupils in the search for better league table results.
I have always believed that our pupils are the equal of anyone; they have therefore been offered the same opportunity as the “best” to study a broad, balanced and challenging curriculum leading to proper qualifications. I have always considered languages to be important and only regret that we never created the capacity to introduce Mandarin and Arabic. We have seen our EBacc measure consistently outstrip that of most other schools nationally because this picks up in a fairly crude way our insistence on quality rather than a desire to sacrifice individual pupils’ ambitions in the search for government satisfying whole school data.
The school is described as 11 to 16 and yet those who know us realise that we cater for all ages! The high quality nursery provision has been a real advantage for many staff as well as our community; adults, parents and others, have benefited from a service ranging from courses on parenting skills through supporting those with EAL needs to preparing people for employment. While unacknowledged in some quarters our work for the community has in fact received many plaudits and awards and contributed in some small way to our ambition to contribute to regeneration. It has been my belief that to create a virtuous circle of aspiration and achievement schools must engage and work with families, providing support where possible and signposting to other agencies where necessary.
We have acquired a deserved reputation for training and developing staff. We have had eleven cohorts of Teach First trainees since our participation in the scheme’s inaugural year; we have also taken responsibility for countless newly qualified and student teachers and incorporated support staff within our programmes. The quality of this provision has meant we have been able to recruit, retain and promote excellent staff as well as being a source of middle and senior leaders for other schools.
I am not altogether sure what people think Headteachers do; I can tell you some of the things that this one has enjoyed!
I have taken great pleasure in seeing brilliant lessons taught by some fantastic teachers; this has especially been the case when they are youngsters at the start of their careers. I have been moved by the compassion of our pupils, their willingness to embrace the needy and their generosity, not just materially but spiritually, in giving to others. I have been delighted by the sporting success of so many teams and individuals; this would be recognised in the independent sector but seems to be disregarded by those who judge state schools. I have admired the talents of pupils in a range of performing arts and will never forget our adopted school song, “Oye Como Va”, as performed at the most recent summer soiree.
I have undertaken break and lunch duties and “guarded” the Mitcham Road at the end of the day for as long as anyone can remember; this has brought its own rewards in providing the opportunity to engage with a whole range of pupils who I might otherwise have never met. These exchanges have given a real insight into pupils’ views and feelings as well as providing huge entertainment; the wit and wisdom of teenagers should not be underestimated!
I count myself as blessed in having come into contact with so many outstanding (I will use the word despite its awful Ofsted connotations) people; and it is important to me that they are seen as people not as pupils, teachers, support staff, governors, parents, etc. The best, too numerous to mention, have combined a strong set of moral values with great warmth and humanity alongside their professional and other talents. The fact that I still look forward to coming to “work” is testament to the qualities of all those in the community I have been fortunate enough to serve.
I am a music freak and have to finish with the words of Bob Dylan:
“The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start anew
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue”