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Hessle High School

WEEK 33 - Friday 7 June 2024

Nothing irks me more than to hear people who know nothing about education criticising schools and young people.  But it has been a fortnight in which, sadly, politicians have resorted to this regularly in search of cheap applause or, they hope, votes at the General Election. 

I am not surprised that Nigel Farage chose his first speech as a candidate in this election to blame schools for the moral decline of the country and the fact that one-third of under 35s aren't sure what happened on D-Day. How do you even begin to unpick that thought?   

But even I was surprised to hear about the ‘National Service’ policy announcement that landed during half term, along with a Tweet from a Cabinet Minister which said, ‘is it asking too much for young people to actually do something?’  How dare he. 

It might play to a narrow group of potential voters to characterise young people as feckless layabouts who need a bit of military discipline to show them how lucky they are; but isn’t only offensive, it is just plain wrong.  The young people that I know are overwhelmingly hard working. As soon as they are able, they take on part time jobs (essential to our service sector and economy); they care about their friends, their families and the world that they are growing up. Unlike some people in other generations, they are respectful and tolerant of others and many actively promote causes that they care about and that make life better for others. Lots are active in sport, the arts or volunteer; many are young carers.   Meanwhile, they worry about the world, the climate and their older family members who often cannot get the health and social care that they need; they are concerned about their own futures, the changing employment markets and their chances of ever owning their own home, or being able to enjoy a lifestyle at least as good as their parents.  And they have to contend with technological innovations that others have created and sold to them which make their lives much harder to navigate, and then they hear people in authority bemoaning them and saying that national service is what is required to knock them into shape.  Outrageous. 

Unfavourable comparisons have been drawn to the D-Day generation but you could just as easily argue that it is the boomer generation (which probably includes myself and coincidentally most of the current political elite!) that fare worse by these comparisons; many of us grew up during the longest period of peacetime, when higher education was free, when the NHS met everyone's needs, when you could buy a house and retire at 60 or 65, and without the eternal pressures of social media weighing down on them.  Our generation have had it the easiest and all we have done with that privilege is make the world harder for the next generations.  So, to blame young people is wholly unfair and has certainly raised my blood pressure over the past few weeks. 

And, on that note, I continue to be impressed by the way in which our young people conduct themselves in and around school.  Exams are progressing nicely, the students are taking them in their stride and the young people in other year groups are showing the respect you would hope to ensure that their older peers can focus on their studies, by observing quiet areas of the school whilst exams go on.  Next week, many of them are volunteering to support an Active Travel Campaign, aimed at encouraging more people to walk or cycle to school. Some of these students will be on Heads Lane in a morning handing out raffle tickets to ‘walkers and cyclists’ so that they can take part in a prize draw. Nobody has paid them to do this, or even had to persuade them. They want to do it because it is a worthy cause and ultimately makes the world a better, healthier place.  

*** 

Sadly, my short break to Prague during half term did not happen after Bruce Springsteen cancelled the concert having lost his voice.  Whilst this was a disappointment, I have been lucky to see him twice this year and indeed saw the concert in Sunderland where the damage to the vocal cords was done.  That show was epic; three hours in the driving rain by the end of which he was wearing just a t-shirt as he belted out the final numbers.  You can see it here.   

Seeing him on a wet Wednesday in Sunderland reminded me also of a damp Tuesday in Coventry when I saw him a decade or so ago.  Of all the exciting cities and venues that he plays, these are probably fairly low down on the list.  And yet, you would never know it.  Springsteen was once asked why he plays for so long, and so hard, at every single show he performs.  He replied that, “at each show, there are people who will be seeing me and the E Street Band for the only time in their lives. I owe it to them to give my best every single time I play.” 

That has always inspired me.  And it is a message I always try to convey to my staff.  The best thing about being a teacher, or school leader is that it matters.  But the hardest thing about it, is that it matters every single day.  There can be no let-up, no ‘taking it easy’ days.  Our work is too important for that. 

Next week, I will be able to share with you the final report from our most recent Ofsted inspection. I look forward to doing that and highlighting some of the tremendous things they said about ‘your’ school and ‘your’ staff and students. 

In the meantime, have a great weekend and thank you very much for your support throughout the year. 

Mr Groak

Headteacher