It is a difficult piece to write this week as many staff at Oakwood have just come out of being part of John Wilks’ (the caretaker for 22 years) funeral service. Some of you will have known Mr Wilks very well. A gentle, kind and caring giant of a man; who died suddenly and unexpectedly just two weeks ago – three days before his sixty-ninth birthday. Although, due to the current crisis, we couldn’t be there in person we were able to relay the service to the staff body.
Mr Wilks’ service is a stark reminder of the business that we are in. We are, in simple terms and whatever our roles, in the people business. I hope that we all can continue to work with humanity and humility. We are only as strong as the people who we work with and any strength we have comes from how we work with each other. It’s not about us and them or about management and the rest it’s about us all being in this together, working for each other and for the benefit of the children and young people.
Last week I talked about the very strange situation that the American electorate had found themselves in. I’m now so pleased to be able to reflect on the fact that democracy seems to have won out and that Joe Biden, in his acceptance speech, used many of the words that we touched on last week. He seems to be a man of dignity and has an understanding of personal humility, compassion for others and he understands the importance of his role in the USA and for the rest of the world.
And I might add, how important the role of the Vice-President is in the American system. It is a particularly significant moment for the American democratic system that the Vice-President elect is Kamala Harris. Kamala Harris was born in Oakland, California, to two immigrant parents – an Indian-born mother and Jamaican-born father – her parents divorced when she was five and she was primarily raised by her Hindu single mother. Now that’s the epitome of the American dream; her very existence and success must drive the narrow-minded right wing of the American electorate into a frothing rage – brilliant! Vice-President elect Harris’ first words upon the confirmation of her role were centred on the importance of women taking on the most important roles in politics and beyond and she aspired to inspire girls to the highest positions in the states.
Biden and Harrison have discussed diversity throughout their campaign and are continuing to emphasise diversity as they build their teams. We might just see for the first time an American political elite which reflects the country which it serves, not just a narrow section of the privileged elite. We may see in significant proportions, women, black and minority ethnic leaders, leaders with differing religious perspectives, leaders of differing sexual orientations. If a political system is to survive and thrive it needs to truly reflect the country which it serves.
To close the circle in this piece, that’s got me reflecting on equality and diversity across the schools, the college and the trust. We truly aspire to be the very best we can be for our colleagues, for our children, for our young people and for our community. As we grow and develop we will continue to employ the very best and promote the very best; from within or from beyond. We are committed to ensuring that there are opportunities for those who are different, those who can be divergent thinkers and who might just have divergent experiences. We have to take care because appearances do not mean we are or aren’t the right person for a role; who knows what our personal experiences and back stories might be – which will shape our beliefs, our approach, our aspirations for ourselves and for others. I can commit to ensuring that our processes will give every opportunity to those who have something strong and positive to offer – whatever their background (including the often mis-used and misunderstood ‘class’), gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
The foundations we lay today will hold steady the successes of our future. We continue to lay those strong foundations. As we know: we are in the people business.
All the diversity, all the charm, and all the beauty of life are made up of light and shade. Leo Tolstoy
Have a weekend.