The weather has felt decidedly autumnal over the last few days. But, as always, we have worked through that in support of our children and young people. I know that it is difficult, on occasions, when we have the blustery wind, which does affect the children’s and young people’s psyche somewhat. And then, some have arrived at school and college a little bedraggled due to a sudden downpour. All we can do is offer our charges warmth and good humour.
The dust has settled on the summer SATs and exam season. I know that there are one or two issues still outstanding and appeals yet to be returned, but we are pretty much clear as to how our children and young people have performed. We aren’t in the business, necessarily, of making direct comparisons with other institutions, but we do look to get a sense of perspective. And that perspective looks increasingly positive. Across our institutions it seems that, despite the challenges that many individuals and groups have faced over the past three or four years, our pupils and students have performed as they might have expected to have performed under the circumstances, and certainly their outcomes do look good in a local, regional and national context.
We have all, no doubt, read in the national press about the regional differentials. As a post-industrial northern town, we do really suffer as a community; economically and culturally; as much as any of those other more marginalised and vulnerable communities. We understand that and this gives us a context to our work. However, we would never use the challenges that are more broadly and widely faced as an excuse for not doing the right thing by our pupils and students. All we can do is give them the very best experience possible and understand, in our work, that we are about changing lives. There’s nothing else to it. We must work to believe that everyone can achieve and everyone has the right to the very best educational experience.
Home circumstances, where we are born or where we live, should not determine the opportunities we have. They may shape the experiences we have on our journey but won’t determine the destination.
Every year, a whole host of people from our communities go on to achieve remarkable things. You are working with the very next round of those remarkable people. People from Rotherham and the wider South Yorkshire region have shaped local, regional and national policy, and some have even had an international impact. Absolutely every single one of them will have built that impact on the firm foundations of the educational experience that they had, in whichever stage of their schooling.
So, as we move into the autumnal days we do so with a spring in our step. The sun shines on all that we do and all that we aspire to do. There are no bleak winter winds blowing through our institutions.
‘Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns’. George Eliot