As the summer holiday looms ever near, the pace at St Mary’s barely seems to relent. Sports Day has been completed for another year, reward trips have come and gone and there have been a number of other extra-curricular outings and events. Now it is time for the annual Eisteddfod to start, the great performing arts tradition which has been a feature of end of year life at St Mary’s for so long.
On Friday we will finish with a school Mass and say goodbye to staff who are leaving us, including Dr Kelly from Science, Miss Charge from PE, Miss Roderick from Modern Languages, Miss Prior from Art and Mrs Caldwell, a cover supervisor. We also say goodbye to Mr Fancourt and Mr Dale from the facilities management team. I would like to thank all of those leaving for their service to the school and wish them well in the future.
I must say a particular word about Les Fancourt, who has been with us for nearly 10 years. In that time he has helped to build the school chapel, played a significant part in the planning and realising of the Caritas Centre, as well as ensuring that the Sports Hall was fit for purpose (after some false starts!). It would be true to say that the former two projects would not have happened without him: Les enabled us, with his skill as a builder and knowledge and vision as a project manager, to almost cut the projected costs in half. There are so many other achievements that I could also reference but the list is too long to mention here. Les is moving on to run his own business and I wish him every success and happiness in his new venture.
So much has happened since I last wrote to you at Easter: the general election, the awful terrorist incidents in Manchester and London and the tragic fire in Grenfell tower. The result of the election was such that it is now highly unlikely that the proposal to build a new wave of grammar schools will see the light of day in the near future. However, the problems of resourcing the public sector have been brought into sharper focus. This has been especially evident in the debates following the terrorist incidents and fire: the loss of significant numbers of police officers and fire officers, as well as physical resources have been lamented and challenged. The financial situation of schools was a theme of the election and we are certainly not immune from cutbacks: we will have to take care in the immediate future.
However, more than anything else I was struck by the humanity of ordinary people who, in the event of an emergency like the terrorist incidents or the Grenfell fire, put their own concerns and needs aside to assist others. We witnessed remarkable footage of people tending to the injured, comforting shocked victims and / or assisting with transport and housing. It was reassuring to see that response in a nation where social, religious and racial differences can be set aside for the greater good. It was also pleasing to note the part that churches of all persuasions played in the collective humanitarian effort.
We cannot even begin to comprehend what it must be like to lose your home or loved ones in the way that so many did at Grenfell. In some respects the television coverage of the fire was almost too graphic with close ups of the burning building where occupants could clearly be seen. To me it bordered on intrusion. When does news reporting stop and voyeurism begin? This is a difficult and emotive question to answer and one for greater minds than mine.
However, I would like to focus on the goodness of people and their willingness to be generous in times of need. It remains one of my proudest moments in 18 years at St Mary’s, when I saw seemingly endless food boxes emerge from Mr Matthews’s lab destined for the local food bank. It meant so much to me because it is indicative of the humanity and kindness that is at the heart of our school ethos. The recipients were overwhelmed by the generosity of the St Mary’s family.
In the excitement of the imminent holiday it is so easy to forget the awfulness we have observed in our living rooms via the 24 hour news channels. It all seems so rapid and relentless: no sooner has one story unfolded then another takes it place. Yet it is the virtue and goodness of people that enables us all to cope and continue.
I really hope that you all stay safe this holiday and have a rewarding and restful time with your family. Cherish them and nurture them because, as we have seen, it can so easily be taken away in a moment.