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Time to ‘rethink how we run our schools’ after coronavirus, says Suffolk schools leader

PUBLISHED: 07:45 30 August 2020 | UPDATED: 07:45 30 August 2020

Clare Flintoff, chieff executive of ASSET Education - which runs a number of schools in Suffolk. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Clare Flintoff, chieff executive of ASSET Education - which runs a number of schools in Suffolk. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

One of the stories I remember hearing about my maternal grandparents is one that has stayed with me throughout my life.

Clare Flintoff, chief executive of ASSET Education, believes coronavirus has been a 'wake up call'. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimagesClare Flintoff, chief executive of ASSET Education, believes coronavirus has been a 'wake up call'. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages

If my grandmother was complaining that life was too hard, my grandfather would suggest a walk around the slums of downtown Portsmouth. Apparently it always worked - made her realise how lucky she was, that her hardships weren’t as bad as others.

There’s always someone worse off than you, but does that realisation make you happy or content?

It certainly forces you to value what you have probably taken for granted and there is merit in that. The feeling of gratitude is healing and restorative - if we can find a moment every day to feel grateful for the small things in life and to celebrate, we will feel better for it and I guess most of us have done that in the last few months.

But what do we do about the helplessness, the sorrow and despair that we feel when we observe the effects of poverty, the destruction of war, the injustice and inequality around us?

Clare Flintoff believes now is the time to reassess how schools teach pupils. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO/MONKEYBUSINESSIMAGESClare Flintoff believes now is the time to reassess how schools teach pupils. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO/MONKEYBUSINESSIMAGES

Many have looked away, counted their blessings and got on with their lives.

But now something has happened that might have changed that.

Coronavirus has affected every community, many families have lost loved ones, businesses and livelihoods have been destroyed and everything that we have always taken for granted has changed.

Has it been a wake up call? Has it changed the way that we think? I like to think it has.

There are some hopeful signs that recent global events might have forced human beings to wake up to the reality that we need to act if we want our world to be a more safe and compassionate place, if we want all human beings to be equal and if we want our planet to survive.

I like to think that we might be less inclined to look away, absolving ourselves of any responsibility by deciding it’s someone else’s lot.

I hope that we will be better at taking positive action and will be more inclined to do so for the common good.

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In our schools, it is our duty to empower the next generation. They need to have more knowledge about the issues that our world is facing and we need to make their learning relevant and up-to-date.

This is likely to mean radical changes to the curriculum. If they are going to make a difference, they will need to know what it feels like to take responsibility for changing something for the good - we need to give them direct experience of this.

Most of all, they need a sense of hope and belief that their actions count and that humanity can be a force for good.

In these difficult times, we all need to remind ourselves of the power of optimism.

I recommend two books - Human kind - A Hopeful History, by Rutger Bregman, and Who Cares Wins - Reasons for Optimism in Our Changing World, by Lily Cole.

Rutger Bregman makes a very powerful case that we have had a skewed, negative and often destructive view of humankind for years and that this has influenced our thinking and development.

“If we believe that most people are decent and kind, everything changes,” he says.

“We can completely rethink how we organise our schools and prisons, our businesses and democracies. And how we live our own lives.”

With numerous insightful and compelling examples, both books add to the evidence that is stacking up that we need to reset our view of humanity and we need to start with ourselves.

The story my grandparents told is about valuing the everyday, the things that we take for granted.

As children return to school this week, we will be celebrating getting back to doing things that we used to take for granted. I hope that we will value them more.

As educationalists, we also need to step out into the brave, take a long hard look at what we have always done, rethink how we run our schools, what we teach and how we test.

Change is essential if we are to be successful in empowering the next generation to create a more hopeful, compassionate and sustainable world.


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