St David’s Day

Prynhawn Da. It’s St David’s Day (or was when this was written), and you might just be celebrating being Welsh or just celebrating all things Welsh. I’m not Welsh, have no family connections to Wales but I do get that sense of nationhood and history. I wish all of you, who do have some connections, a great day, weekend and year.

When I was younger, the family used to make a play that this was a day dedicated to me – I think this was just a cheap (in a financial sense) way of making me feel more important; it didn’t last that long!

And on David’s… When I was at primary school (probably in the equivalent of Year 4 – back in 1976/7 – yes, I am really that old!) there were 4 David’s in a class of 30 – with about half being boys that means ¼ of the class were called David. When I started as Headteacher at Oakwood High School, back in 2008, there were 5 David’s as headteachers of the 15 secondary schools (RMBC and your employees… they aren’t ‘comps’ – they ceased to be truly comprehensive schools years ago, they are the secondary phase i.e. coming after the primary phase!) and, if that wasn’t enough, the Director of Education of Rotherham was called David too. There were more Davids than female headteachers in the secondary phase. I’m pleased to report that there are very few Davids around today and the majority of headteachers in the secondary phase in Rotherham are now women. Progress in every respect.

Back to being Welsh and nationhood. It seems that one’s nationality and one’s racial heritage are being used, rather explicitly and sometimes dangerously, for political effect; the “are you one of us” argument and fear mongering. In our communities we see that our children and young people are comfortable holding a number of concepts together, at the same time. We all can manage this and we certainly can and should legitimately promote. I’m from Bedale (look it up) and am happy to be described as a Yorkshireman – that’s my family and personal history and background. I can hold this in equal importance with my citizenship; being British. And alongside my nationality; being English. How does that work? Well, I am proud of some of the things that we have achieved in Britain, across the UK. There’s nothing wrong with that. And when football or cricket is on then I will support England. I won’t hate the Scots, the Welsh or the Irish. In fact, as linked to my citizenship, I’m happy to broadly wish them well in whatever major tournament they get into. It’s just a simple matter of being able to hold differing concepts at the same time. We can all do it. Most of us do it. But there are some who would have us believe that it’s one or the other. It’s not. It’s more nuanced than that, and most of us know that, can see that and exhibit that.

Mark Steel (an English comedian) used to do a fantastic routine about wanting to fight with the kids in the next street, and then some kids from the other side of time would come along and the two streets would get together – cause they’re like us, then some kids from another town would come looking for the fight and the town would come together – cause they’re like us, then the county, then the country, then another planet, then the next galaxy… The point being we are all the same, we are all neighbours.

At this time, as we run up to the next election, with the geopolitical pressures, it is increasingly difficult for us in our schools and the college to maintain that sense of belonging, never mind self and independence. Our children and young people will define themselves as they choose to do, and that won’t be just about nationhood, citizenship, faith, it may be more, much more. And those differences we will celebrate, whilst finding every opportunity to identify and amplify that which binds. We are interdependent. We are better together. We are stronger together. We are patient. We are tolerant. We challenge.  And we support.

‘To be born in Wales, not with a silver spoon in your mouth, but, with music in your blood and with poetry in your soul, is a privilege indeed’. Brian Harris