Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Hidden Heroes Who Keep It All Going

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Hidden Heroes Who Keep It All Going

Article excerpt

I used to help run a Duke of Edinburgh's Award programme, and one of my greatest joys was taking the urban youth out into the big soggy green thing we call the country. I used to describe it as like "a big park" so they wouldn't freak out.

I was struck by how disconnected many of the kids were from nature, and even from their own biology. Raised in a culture where genuine want was rare, they had to be trained to understand the relationship between sensible eating and the energy they would need to hike and camp. I asked them to pack light food for two days; they turned up with two-litre bottles of pop. I directed them to bring breathable fabrics and a change of clothes for emergencies; they rocked up with a single pair of skinny jeans. I suggested walking shoes; they brought Peppa Pig wellies.

A weekend of watching sodden, shivering kids with blistered feet, tripping and crashing every two hours when the Skittles rush kicked in and wore off, was enough to convince me that you ignore the basics of body management at your peril.

The same thing applies to the school body. It feeds, excretes and breathes a little. It needs maintenance and direction. We talk a lot about classrooms and we talk a lot about leadership; I wonder if we don't talk enough about our support teams.

We should talk. They're the parasympathetic nerves of the school. They are the circulatory, lymphatic and respiratory systems. Knock out any one of them and you can forget attending that violin recital. In fact, often the only time we notice how important people are is when things go wrong - when an invisible lynchpin calls in sick, or one too many people leave the catering team. …

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