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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

A basket full of hope

Recently, I chaired the North West’s School Improvement Group and also led a series of local engagement events with social workers and managers. Throughout each one, whilst the sun was shining through my window, I could detect a growing sense of optimism in the virtual room as colleagues reflected on the past few months and thought about what lies ahead. It was no surprise to hear about the continuing fatigue and feelings of relentlessness, for them and the families they work with. However, what stood out was the natural shift to positive language, with teams feeling valued, a strong team spirit, with light at the end of tunnel, ready for a new chapter.

Later that evening, I found myself undertaking different extra-curricular activities as I helped my daughter with her schoolwork. Like many others, I’ve witnessed the impact of the pandemic and the uncertainty this has had on young people as they worry about their future. Immersed in the GCSE curriculum, we have covered causes of the Vietnam War, themes in Macbeth and the anthology of poems; alas, linear equations continue to get the better of me. That night, the poem was Living Space by Imtiaz Dharker, and it grabbed my attention. As my daughter talked me through it, I found myself making my own connections, linking it back to the workforce and the families we work with.

The poem describes a badly built building and, although dangerous, someone lives in it and has hung a basket of eggs outside. There is strong symbolism in the eggs - fragile yet full of potential, representing new life, referencing faith and hope for the future; and despite the structural challenges of the building, there is still the possibility of change and improvement. Hanging the eggs outside the building requires bravery and even a leap of faith, something we too require as we respond and re-set our priorities and ambition for all children. As the poet says, “…the whole structure leans dangerously towards the miraculous.”

Our workforce is fragile and so are our families. There is a lot of uncertainty ahead as we manage the impact of the pandemic and predict and plan what is likely to come. We know that every child has been affected; and for some what we don’t yet know is the severity of that harm as it remains hidden. There are concerns we all share about how much the system can absorb as we manage the increase in demand and complexity, care issues, and of course, the ongoing funding gap. It’s tested all of us, yet despite the difficult circumstances I was blown away this week by the courage of the workforce - its optimism and ability to look forward.

In the meantime, I will keep trying to understand linear equations….

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