Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas time (phew a holiday) fast approaches and schools will have been preparing and celebrating from carol services and concerts through to nativity plays, disruption but nice disruption threaded amongst the usual routines of school life. It can feel like a big challenge towards the end of term especially trying hard to keep the children’s concentration and work rate up, squeezing as much learning as possible right to the end. For many teachers, and support staff but also pupils there is a sense of running on empty and the adults maybe wondering which of their many jobs should be done next. It is the season of hope and joy, giving and receiving and yet other emotions surround us all in the City knowing the many challenges within our communities.

It has been a delight for me to visit schools this term, to talk with staff and children as well as meet with governors, heads and senior leaders and glimpse just what is 'given and received' every day. I see so much hard work going on, much enthusiasm and endeavour, much concern about funding and changes (oh its Ofsted changing next!) much challenge and openness and ideas. However fundamentally I have seen teachers and support staff trying to create great opportunities for their children in school and these represent a great gift beyond traditional Christmas presents. From fostering a love of learning, or the delights in reading, maybe the nurturing of a newly found or developing skill to the encouragement for purposeful friendships. Certainly I’ve seen and heard widely from governors and school leaders of their concern for those who are struggling. All these are just some of the everyday markers which every single person involved in schools, can be very proud about in Nottingham as we serve our communities.

A lot is written (and tweeted, blogged and reported) about education probably a lot more than is actually read and acted upon, and much comes from those not at the sharp end of Nottingham City classrooms for me the key is to get the basics right. For teachers that is about knowing the children, planning great lessons, working together, teaching and engaging children in learning, and feedback. It’s about all staff looking out for the child who is struggling and supporting them or the child who needs challenging to aim higher, or work harder or behave better. For our children, it’s about the basics too: attending, being punctual listening, learning, trying hard , asking questions, behaving, being curious and taking opportunities and maybe a few risks. And yet amidst all of this schools still find time for celebrating Christmas, and thinking of others – ‘Children in need’ non-uniform days and other charitable works, generosity and outward concern for others whatever our own circumstances do bring us all a very real reminder of hope and joy.

So at the end of a long term and maybe a long 2018, when hope and joy might seem distant, be glad of the reminders within the Christmas story and just stick to the basics of the job, whether you are a teacher, support staff, volunteer or governor and carry on doing the basics well. Be proud of what you have done for children this term, and from everyone involved in the shared work with 41,000 local Nottingham children a big thank you and have a peaceful, hope filled Christmas however you celebrate. As for 2019, don't make grand strategies and schemes, just focus on those basics. 

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2019.