I don’t often write really serious stuff on here, so no pictures in this post, but after listening to the news this morning and reading the papers, something struck me… whatever happened to personal responsibility? For those who don’t know I have been a school governor for over 20 years for inner City schools in London and I am currently working for the NHS, having started my working life there, over 35 years ago so whenever something about them comes up I read it thoroughly but I have to admit doing so with an increasingly heavy heart and then it struck me, nearly every public service is getting it in the neck.
In the last few weeks, I have read how more and more primary school children are being expelled… well, let’s take that one apart. Firstly, we don’t expel any more, we exclude; now that can be for a few hours internally sitting in another room, to a day or more off-site but to permanently exclude a child is a long slog. Actually thinking about it, the internal exclusions are akin to the afternoon or morning stood facing the wall outside the Head’s study, in fact I can still name the boys who were regulars outside Mr Webster’s room… that would be you: Nicholas, Graham, Kevin, Peter, Mark, Michael and John. And thinking about it, I reckon that more than one of them would be stood there every week - so times really don’t change - we just gather information in a different and more formal way. Then I hear how standards of literacy are plummeting, well not at my school; children come in so far below the national average and with English as an Additional Language that they have to start in Nursery and Reception with bi-lingual tutors but by the time they leave, they are above not only the Local Authority average but the National average… not a mean feat for an East End primary.
And do you know what makes the difference, parents taking responsibility to work in partnership with the school, these results do not happen in isolation, they happen because we work together. They happen due to good will from the staff at the school going that extra mile, they happen because both groups respect and listen to each other because they know that.
All over the papers at the moment is the Mid-Staffs Francis Report, a damning indictment of a culture of neglect and fear in a general hospital. Each of us will have a horror story that we know of, or that might have happened to friends and family but equally there will also be tales of carers who do go the extra mile, doctors who take the time to listen and nurses who still hold your hand when you are frightened. In every organisation you will find shining examples of good practice, a department that will always do the work to the highest standard and hospitals are no different as they too are staffed by human beings and we are all by nature a mixed bunch.
However, I think that what makes the difference is taking personal responsibility, ensuring that when you do a job, you do it to the best of your ability, if others are falling below standard then you call it, you help them to improve; if the facilities are not there to allow you to do the job then you tell management and keep telling them until it changes. This is your duty to not only yourself but to others… we all deserve the best but we will only get this if we give of our best.
Be prepared to fall on your sword if your ignorance of a situation or inability to listen to what is happening allows it to continue… to me the best politicians are those who have admitted their failure, Lord Carrington over the Falklands War and Estelle Morris when she realised that she did not have wherewithal to continue as Secretary of State for Education… those are the people I admire for recognising their own shortcomings.
In the words, so often attributed to Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
So on a morning that is filled for many with self-reflection, I raise my coffee cup and, heartfelt thanks and admiration to the whistle blowers whose moral compass means that the world will be a better place, if we but listen and act, and take just a little self-responsibility.