The importance of support from your colleagues within the school environment, indeed in any work place, is something none of us would ever underestimate I am sure. Having positive working relationships, collaboration and support is of course important at all times, however, at a time of a school crisis or when facing a tragedy it magnifies the need for the support of others all the more.
Those of you who have read my blogs before or who read my tweets will know very well our school set of agreed professional behaviours of being Passionate, Respectful, Organised, Understanding and Dedicated, making Camberwell Park a school to be PROUD of. I have a fabulous team of nearly 80 staff who this week have shown these qualities in abundance.
On Tuesday 1st September, we returned to school for the start of the new school year and launched straight into our training day initial meeting at 8.30 a.m. We had been sharing school news , updates on our exciting new school building and the priorities in our School Improvement Plan. Staff were enthusiastic and were engaging in small group discussion about their hopes, for the year for the pupils and for themselves when just before 9 a.m. I was called out of the meeting to hear the news that one of our teaching assistant colleagues had died a 8 a.m. that morning. Whilst she had been ill, her loss was not expected. She is a long standing member of the school team who has many friends both inside and outside of the school and indeed many staff who are related to her.
As I walked back into the hall to stop the meeting and to tell the staff the news I was only too aware of the impact it would have and how as the headteacher I wanted to do everything could to support people. In schools we do have really difficult news and situations that occur of all different types and sadly in special schools including at my own school , death of pupils is something we do on occasions have to face. Death of a much loved colleague has got to be up there are one of the most difficult scenarios and as human beings first and members of staff second – people need understanding and support.
This blog is an accolade to my staff team who could not have supported each other more. In a sense, that the tragedy happened on a training day allowed us the flexibility to manage the day in a way that was helpful to us as a community. That we were able to have the time to come together as a team during the day to share some of our happy memories and funny stories for example was both positive and healing.
Whilst clearly the sadness has just not disappeared over night, in true P.R.O.U.D. form, the staff were all in ready for the 8.30 start the next morning and have given our pupils a fantastic first week of the new term. It has been a pleasure and privilege to walk round school and to see the work going on and to see the children engaging in some great learning. Also to see the team continuing to work collaboratively and supportively with each other and supporting me and the leadership team, for example on Friday evening, when one of the home-school transport vehicles was late, without hesitation huge numbers of staff offered to stay beyond their hours and support with the group of pupils who were left. As headteacher, I could not ask for any more.
Moral of my story? I guess just to reinforce how for me you cannot undermine all of the work we do as an Investor in People and about being a team. Staff are the most expensive and valued resource and we must invest in them. We must remember though our team are people and human beings first and we must respect each individual as such. Losing a colleague this week has reminded us all that despite our own individual grief and ways of dealing with it, there is definitely no ‘I’ in team.
I remember her with fondness and am sat here now thinking of some of those funny stories we shared together earlier on this week. May she rest in peace