Building Back Better

I spent some time with other heads at our annual conference earlier this week, and it was refreshing to listen to inspiring speakers, to exchange good ideas and practice and to consider how we can positively influence the national educational agenda, working with our maintained school colleagues and thus benefiting all children in the UK.

I know that many of you occupy leadership or management roles, and there is an imperative now for us to ‘build back better’ after the challenges of the last eighteen months. In the words of Apple’s Chief Executive, Tim Cook:

“The side-lines are not where you want to live your life. The world needs you in the arena.”

One of our sessions included educationalists from the USA and Australia (beamed in remotely, of course!). The same themes are the stuff of their preoccupations too: a desire and a need to focus more on social and emotional skills, on values and on character development; a more flexible and less examination-driven curriculum; the positive use and the regulation of technology; cross-sector collaboration and partnership; equity, inclusion and mutual respect; student and staff well-being; the encouragement of student voice, creativity and responsibility.

We followed the compelling account of Pip Hare as she vividly described her participation in the non-stop round-the-world solo yacht race, the Vendée Globe. Earlier this year, she became the eighth woman ever to finish the race, which lasts about ninety days over a distance in excess of 24,000 miles. She spoke of how she overcame her anxieties through self-talk, beginning every day (after snatched bouts of sleep, rarely lasting more than 40 minutes) with three questions: Am I safe? Am I heading in the right direction? Am I going as fast as I can?

Pip is already preparing for the next Vendée Globe in four years’ time, determined to do even better. We could apply her three questions to our own and our children’s lives as we emerge from the pandemic. It is, however, not just speed that will get us over the finish line, and, after the rigours of the last eighteen months, we might want to rephrase the final question: Am I pacing myself? Another difference, of course, is that we don’t sail alone.

Best wishes,

John Watson