No matter how many times governments change the governance of schools and the rules around the exam system, good education is really only achieved in schools that provide great teaching and that understand how students learn. A really good school fosters an appetite for learning and provides an environment in which it is supported and encouraged.
To achieve this, schools require excellent leadership. That is what Saffron Walden County high School has had under head teacher John Hartley for the last twelve years. He will be retiring at the end of 2015, having made a huge impact on the lives of many young people and leaving North West Essex with one of the very best state schools and sixth forms in the country.
Shed a small tear for the last episode of Foyle’s War, having watched the final episode last night. Always good for a thoughtful Sunday evening in front of the fire with a glass of wine.
The storyline (suitably explosive) left me reflecting sadly on the subject of what our nation was left with at the end of the Second World War. In Foyle’s world we found ourselves contemplating a Special Operations Executive that deliberately sent agents to their death rather than admit their networks had been compromised, and an austerity gripped nation that was in the hands of violent spivs on the make working hand in hand with corrupt police officers.
Fast forward to today and Oxfam have published a report saying half of global wealth will be held by 1% of the population as soon as next year. As wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few our world becomes increasingly dangerous, leaving ordinary people powerless, voiceless and unable to secure a fair reward for their labour. This is hardly the vision that we had for a fairer society after the war. It’s time we listened to Oxfam and all the other organisations arguing for change and a fairer sharing of the world’s resources.
The dreadful events in Paris were supposedly perpetrated in the name of religion. Believers in the world’s major faiths cover a wide spectrum. Sadly when people of any faith adopt fundamentalist positions these can easily result in a lack of tolerance or understanding of those with views different from their own.
Tolerance and understanding are foundations for a civilised society and we lose them at our peril.
Today a milestone was achieved: my first novel ‘The Purging’ achieved its 50th sale on Amazon. Having spent over a year writing it, grabbing spare moments in a very busy life, and despairing at the non probability of a publisher being interested, I was delighted to find I could self publish both as a paperback and for kindle.
Of course, being rather naïve at all of this I hadn’t really thought through the publicity side of things. Great excitement when I went on line and discovered my first sale had been made. Moments later my eldest son announced that he’d purchased my book the previous evening – really great of him and typical of the support he always gives (thanks also to the other members of my family who helped proof-read and who also bought copies), but as a budding novelist you long for the frisson of knowing that people you don’t know are reading your work. So, how long before a 100 sales? Who knows, but it’s fun and advertising in the Saffron Screen programme certainly seems to have produced a steady increase in sales.
A post Christmas family treat is our annual trip to the always excellent National Theatre. This year we saw David Hare’s new play based on Katherine Boo’s book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.” Set in Annawadi, a squatter settlement on the outskirts of Mumbai airport, the play is a tour de force communicating a world in which life is cheap and the ever optimistic plans of the population are often thwarted by the sad realities of what it is really like to be powerless and poor.
The staging and cast are outstanding, and it’s the first time I’ve ducked in my seat at a theatre in reaction to a jumbo jet flying over my head. I cannot recommend it too highly: it puts life into perspective.
Taking some photos today to load onto the Chipping Bonhunt website (www.chippingbonhunt.co.uk) I was reminded how fortunate we are to live in this beautiful area. Shame the District Council can’t get its act together to put together a decent local plan.
It’s been a lively 2014, having finally published my first novel. Thank you to everybody for your comments and feedback (mostly positive!).
Best wishes to everyone for 2015