And so we reach the end of another school year and like everyone who works in a school I am very much looking forward to the forthcoming holiday. I hope to use the holiday to rest, to reflect, to read and to spend some important family time. Let me take each of these things in turn.
To rest… I know that those who do not work in schools feel that teachers have incredibly long holidays and find it hard to believe that teachers can be tired at the end of a term. I would agree that the luxury of a long summer holiday is in many ways a real privilege. However, I do also feel that both staff and pupils do get very tired by the end of a term. Thus, for example, in the last seven school days I had a function to attend each evening and thus got home around 10 o’clock most days. Again people will say that they have to do long hours in their own place of work. I guess that the difference for teachers is that it is impossible to do any sort of flexi-time, we can only take days off, even occasional ones, in school holidays. Many teachers in my school routinely give up their weekends to either run activities or sports’ teams and this too has a cumulative effect over the year. I think that for those in management positions in schools it is only when you stop to rest a little that you realise just how much of your days and evenings are spent thinking about school issues of one sort or another and you need to rest in order to give things a sense of perspective and to allow your mind to recharge.
To reflect…This is so important for all senior leaders in schools. It is inevitable that the day-to-day demands during term time take up so much of your time that the chance to plan ahead, to reflect on what has gone well and what needs to improve has to take place out of hours. Again a sense of perspective is given by having time to reflect and to look forward. During the course of this summer I will be looking back over the past year in order to prepare my speech for Speech Day in September. I will also be looking forward when I write the next version of the School’s Development Plan. The work for this started some time ago but a summer holiday gives me a chance to reflect on the proposals, to think about how any changes can be brought about and also to reflect on the parental surveys which we are in the process of carrying out as these are always a very useful source of ideas. It is also important to reflect on one’s own personal values, on the School’s values and also on the way that various situations have been handled. I believe firmly that it is important that I am always learning, always prepared to see things through other people’s eyes. It is also the case though that the emails still keep coming throughout the summer and so the day to day material continues although rather more slowly than usual.
To read…Sadly time does not allow for as much reading during term-time so the summer is a great opportunity to read much more. Some of this is pure escapism, a chance to read the latest best sellers. Other reading though is of interesting books and articles which I have made a note of during the year for one reason or another. The first in the pile this year is Luck by Ed Smith, exploring the role that luck plays in our lives. I hope that this might lead on to an interesting assembly but it is also fascinating in its own right, it explores the question to what extent do successful people owe their success to hard work and ability and to what extent do they owe their success to straight forward good luck. I particularly enjoy my reading over the summer as this really does give me the opportunity to forget all about the here and now and allows me to escape into different worlds and thoughts. I hope that the boys in the School similarly use this opportunity to read, it is one of the great tragedies of our times that pupils in all schools, and perhaps especially boys, do not read more for pleasure.
To spend time with family…I mentioned in my end of term newsletter that the families of the staff of the School are the unsung heroes of schools. They are the ones who have to cope with the long hours, the constant emails and phone calls, the intrusions into the evenings and weekends on a weekly basis. They also provide the emotional support which is so important in ensuring that staff retain a sense of balance and they often have to listen to the woes or joys of any particular day as part of the unwinding process each evening. It is fantastic to be able to have some time over the summer to give entirely to them, only a small payback if I am being honest but days spent in their company mean so much to me both at the time and also through memories of them when I am really busy at other times.
Thus, in the period running up to the A Level results, I very much look forward to doing all of the things I have outlined here. I hope that everyone who works in or who attends a school also gets the chance to rest, reflect, read and spend some family time. Have a great summer.