Primum non nocere

The first assembly I attended as a teacher was for the new intake of Year 9’s (lower/middle/upper system) given by our Deputy Head Richard Morris. Now I’m not that brilliant at remembering things from that long ago but many of his words that day stayed with me and informed not just my teaching but how I like to think I am as a person.

He said (and these are the words I remember, I’ve not got them written down anywhere), “For some of you, this building is an oasis. It’s the place you come to escape the outside world. It’s the place where you know everyone will look after you and care for you. Where you feel safe.”

To be honest, I’m welling up a little just writing this because those words carry such meaning for me. It was an average school, average-ish intake, average-ish outputs. Average. In a town recently devastated by large vehicle plant closures and all the social grief and misery that went with that. There are no stories I can tell that you can’t out-tell, because every school has these stories. Every school is some child’s oasis.

So this morning I am sad to see that 94 children have lost their oasis. And a number of teachers have lost their jobs, which they learnt, apparently, through the media. In time I will probably write about how this came to pass and how it might have been avoided and what lessons we learn from it.

But now, right now, I just feel a little perturbed at the use that the loss these children have suffered is being put to. I entirely understand the passions this issues raises, I really do. There are people who will need to be held properly to account. However, for me, right now, anyone using this as a stick to beat people (and believe me, I know just how much some of them need beating) is as bad as the people they are beating. That time will come. But it is not now.

So, a plea.

Please be respectful of the feelings of these children and teachers when you comment on this story. Lets get them into their new schools and settled. Lets get them safe.

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2 thoughts on “Primum non nocere

  1. Thank you. My first ever teaching interview, my first ever teaching job, my first real tears on the way home, my first welcome to the profession happened in those buildings. As an LA school it was forced to close due to falling roll and opened as a free school a few weeks later to suit a political whim. The children who have lost their school may be the children of my first ever pupils. The community it serves shocked me when I arrived. I could not fathom the accents. I could not comprehend the relative poverty. The mortarboards and gowns of Durham meant nothing to many families whose livelihoods has been dismantled as mines and industries closed. All children deserve only the best education. And they deserve to be offered that in a place of safety. And they need support to build that community for themselves because they know they are valued. These children have been let down by policy makers and kingdom builders who thought a new structure could make up for all the things that had been lost. They were wrong. These chidren and many of their teachers deserve consideration and a truly fair future. I challenge the DfE to apologise for it’s central role in this tragedy.

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