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Uniform Fireworks lack splendour

9th November 2020

In the November darkness the sight of fireworks can be uplifting, inspiring and transformational. The mass gatherings of yesteryear might not be with us this particular Autumn, but hopefully whether with cold face and soggy feet in your garden, or through your windows, patio doors and even skylights the spectacle of fireworks has illuminated your evening over the last week.

We may be reflecting more on celebration, presidential success, or religious festival more than giving a ‘penny for the guy’ these days, but it is in the variety that fireworks become majestic. I have yet to witness a firework display of uniformity. A firework celebration that only has ‘purple rockets’ is great… but after the fourth rocket we tend to lose interest. This is why from the bangers to the sparklers, from the Catherine wheels to the fountains, from the rockets to the roman candles, it is the variety which delights. White lights mix with reds, greens, crackles, sparkles, bangs and pops… often all at once. Firework displays are now choreographed with music, water and dance… what does this tell us about our educational world?

Our schools, indeed lessons and children all benefit from variety. We are not a trust which prescribes and celebrates only one type of rocket (however lovely that rocket may be). It is our variety and celebration of all that provides us with strength. The educational debate is sometimes polarised between ‘progressive’ and ‘traditionalist’ approaches to learning – this polarisation causes damage in my view. The wonderful challenge of teaching is that your class changes. It changes in what it needs from year to year, lesson to lesson, subject to subject, within class and out of class – this is why our preparation is so tiring! It is not simply the case of doing the same things again… sending up the same white rocket because it worked last week, yesterday or last term. A uniform approach or one single silver bullet towards success does not exist. It is in our variety and ability to adapt to our children’s needs that allows us to be successful.

Education is about preparing minds for reflection, adaption, consideration and adjustment. Encouraging individual thought, opinion and learning. Yes, of course we identify universal truths, theorems and knowledge and will continue to do so, but the historical view of learning is one that changes. Yesterday’s certainty becomes today's doubts and tomorrow's misinterpretations. This is knowledge and learning. This is the scientific method. A range of voices, a range of teachers, styles, schools and children make up the majesty of our profession.

Like a great firework display, it is in the variety that we see splendour.

Jack Mayhew, Executive Headteacher  Athena Schools Trust

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