As we take a moment to “stop and breath” at the start of half term it strikes me that it is the small things that matter most in school life and leadership. What do we do when nobody else is looking? Do we have the commitment, energy and integrity to do all the small, often unglamorous, things that can make all the difference to the culture and success of our schools?
A key “marginal gain” is how we approach the start and end of each term or school break. In some schools there is gradual build up to top speed and a “winding down” as they approach any break – sometimes indicated by the pace, direction or purpose of learning that you may see going on. If you’re not sure what I’m on about have a wander around your school the week before the Christmas break and see if you can spot quizzes, videos, word searches and other such time-fillers. By definition if this is part of school life you are “winding down”.
One distinctive and important aspect of the culture we look to set is that every minute is precious, we start and finish strong. An example of this was the sixth form review we had last week that was graded as “outstanding”. It shows that even after the focus and exceptional efforts of the term people had the commitment to show what we are all about and I really respect and cherish this. It also means we get to the half term break ready to relax and recharge for the next stage. I hope everyone really does this too!
A simplistic analogy would be look at some of the most successful teams and individuals in sport. It’s not about the commitment at the start but really about the strength of the finish and consistency of performance. Football fans will be well versed in this thinking about how the best teams dig out a result deep into injury time – sometimes even winning the league in the last game of the season in this “twilight zone”. Man City winning the Premier League in 2012 ironically in “Fergie Time” having scored two goals in the 5 minutes of injury time – it would have seemed impossible but they had to believe it could be done.
In short I think this is what makes truly great schools… if you manage to make every moment count you will finish each day, term and year knowing that you have never missed an opportunity to do what’s best for the students in our care. If we can stop, breath and rest at this time we can truly know, in the words of Seb Coe at London 2012, that we “have done it right”.
Thanks to everyone at St. Paul’s for a great half-term. You made a real difference each and every moment deep into “injury time”! For this I salute and thank you.