1st August 2022

Here is a story about someone I have not quite met.

It starts about eight years ago when he became a governor of the school I taught at. He had lots of bright ideas for the school. I know this because he wrote them in a manifesto circulated before he was elected. It said that the school should be run more efficiently without any waste of resources; that exam results were very important; that teachers should be set targets and held to account; that discipline in the school should be firm and clear.

I secretly felt rather glad that I would soon be retiring.

We now go forward to just a few weeks ago. I had been invited to a celebration at the school; it was a big birthday and they also had a building to name. I didn’t give the ambitious governor any thought but spent a happy day meeting old friends. Those who still taught at the school spoke of it going from strength to strength despite the recent challenges brought by covid. By some measures it is the highest performing school in the county, the students are generally happy and it is heavily over-subscribed.

The day ended with some speeches and included one by the retiring now chair of the governors who was stepping down after eight years’ service. I braced myself for what I anticipated he would say.

I was surprised. He told us that he began his term with strong ideas about how things should be done but had come to see that he may have been mistaken. He spoke about the value of co-operative working, of professional trust and of the things in and outside the classroom that cannot easily be measured. It was really quite moving.

Such changes of heart are often denigrated in public life with phrases like “going native” or “doing a U-turn”. But in schools we call it learning. And in church we often call it hearing the voice of God.

May we all live our lives ready to listen and to be prepared to change our minds.

Nick Parsons