“The past is a foreign country…”

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” – The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley

During half term I had the chance to spend time in the city that I grew up in.  Unsurprisingly my thoughts turned to my own educational experiences there and how they differed from what we see in schools today.  I grew up attending a local comprehensive school, it was large by the standards of the day but would come nowhere close to the super-size schools found in British cities today.  It offered what seemed a broad enough curriculum at the time but it would now seem limited.  Lessons were similar between subjects with little opportunity for collaborative work and very limited computer use.  There was a computer in the school but I saw very little of it! Buildings were old and as I remember cold (and sometimes leaky), extra-curricular activities limited although there was the opportunity to play some sport and to act.  All in all I found it difficult to reflect on the experience with great positivity.  But such a jaundiced view is unfair, on deeper reflection it struck me that one thing above all else stood out and that was the dedication of the teachers who worked at the school.  They did lead trips; they did want to see us succeed; they made the very best of what was on offer.  I was fortunate, I found teachers who nurtured my love of their subject.  Some of my contemporaries did not and perhaps this is where there is a difference, modern schools are far less likely to miss those who are finding academic work difficult.  There is more support; schools are in this respect better places. 

During a school career there are many teachers.   Teachers have their own approaches and this I think leads to richer schools. A one method school is a tedious environment to study in. Such variety of approach means it won’t always be the smoothest of journeys but it is important that our students learn to work with different approaches and temperaments; after all this is what they will find to an even greater extent in the world outside the school gates.  As we contemplate the start of the second half of the academic year I hope that our students look to build on what has been achieved and will with the assistance of their teachers move on to still greater success in the months to come.  This drive to improve has to come from the students (at least to some extent) and if it does it will be supported by their teachers.  This has always been the case; to that extent not much has really changed.  Education is and always will be about the quality of the relationships that exist between the teacher and their pupils.  When a teacher senses or sees a spark of enthusiasm then they will do all they can to nurture this and see it develop, it is this that makes schools (both now and then) exciting places to be.

Nicholas Hammond


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