A couple of years ago I was chatting to a veteran Headteacher, who told me the most challenging situation a headteacher can go through is having to announce the death of either a colleague or child to the school.
This is not something that you can prepare for in any way, and the mere thought of that experience is harrowing.
Last week, a colleague of mine arrived in my office to inform me that they had an awful night due to being woken by the carbon monoxide alarm in the house.
The family had to leave the house in the middle of the night, thick with the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The whole family was safe and they were able to stay elsewhere until the house had been carefully checked and the situation remedied.
An ordinary morning could have – in a single moment – gone from a recount of a close call to something which would have profoundly impacted the whole school community.
But it is important to remember that this is not a ‘lucky’ situation – the family are not ‘lucky’ that they had an alarm in the first place, and nor were they ‘lucky’ that it was in working order, with a working battery. They were safe due to planning and monitoring, being prepared for the worst, and taking small preventative measures rather than dealing with a situation as it arose.
As a headteacher, I am in a privileged position to be able to shape and influence what is important to the school and as I approach being headteacher for a year, I am proud of the fact that we look beyond the boundaries of the national curriculum to teach the children things which will make them functional, safe adults. Working in partnership with parents, we have made safety one of the core features of what we do as a school through weekly, school-wide homework focusing on personal safety. In school assemblies, we have been visited by the fire service, ambulance service and will soon be giving every child in school half a day of basic first aid. In the same way that our colleague was prepared and equipped, we want our pupils to have all the knowledge and skills to not only keep themselves safe, but those around them.
Our vision is to have confident, well-rounded pupils who are well equipped for the next stage of their lives when they leave us – and although being both literate and numerate are vital parts of this, it is the role of schools to ensure that children aren’t simply vessels which are being daily topped up with knowledge, but the future adults who will work in our town, lead change into the future and maybe one day be the person who saves your life.
And – as a final thought – please do check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms!