‘Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful’* As public scrutiny of the phone hacking scandal increases the cynic would say, “what did you expect? People behave badly all the time. ” Politicians lie, police are corrupt, business is grasping, life is brutal; ‘get over it’. This is the same person who would say young people are idle, parents feckless and schools are sinking in the face of bad behavior and poor results.
The cynic is wrong. The current press frenzy over phone hacking has revealed that individuals, however esteemed they may be in public life, are occasionally weak and succumb to flaws of character and nature. The foundations of democracy are not at risk; politicians will still seek to be noble, police will Endeavour to protect us, business transactions will make the world go round, as, for most, our quality of life improves. It is the same with schools.
Despite what you might sometimes hear, educational standards are on the up and the overwhelming majority of schools are improving. Schools are emphatically better places than they were thirty, twenty or even ten years ago. Schools are increasingly places where heads, staff, pupils, parents and governors seek to establish a particular culture and ethos. A culture that is strong and sustainable transcending the passing of each new year, new governments and the latest agendas (or bandwagons as we call them! ).
This is certainly the case with West Park. A school whose principals are openly defended and debated involves everyone in understanding their place in the scheme of things. This school has at its core, very simple, consistent ethics: the way we go about our day to day business, the way things are done around here. There are clear moral values: you take responsibility for your actions. There are clear expectations: you strive to do your best in everything you do. There are obligations as well as entitlements, duties as well as rights.
There is a widely held realisation that there is no immediate reward for good behavior other than teacher and peer approval and self-awareness; there is an understanding that behavior is good for many reasons, because that is what decent people do. In the Training Centre, seen only by a very few of our pupils, we have writ large on one wall ‘I cannot become what I need to be by remaining as I am’. One thousand three hundred of our one thousand three hundred and twenty pupils understand this. They know that the last thing they want to be is a bully, liar, cheat or disrupter of learning.
People like this are unpleasant; who would want to be one of them. This school is successful because it has a culture shaped and moulded by the hundreds of decent, aspirational, motivated people who work here, learn here and send their children here. A school that achieves the highest standards of work and conduct; a happy school full of variety with a courteous and welcoming atmosphere. We have had a very good year and I am very much looking forward to next academic year. Thank you for your continuing support. Have a good summer break! Brian Walker