Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

 

An excerpt of a poem called kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

(See the full poem at the bottom of the page)

 

Welcome to Parkfield School.

As I write, the dust of this year’s GCSE outcomes is just beginning to settle. The young people have collected their grades, most were delighted but no doubt one or two will feel that they deserved better. There is a harsh reality in the world of national accountability measures (KS2 SATs & GCSEs) that our young people need to cope with. At GCSE all the national media focusses on students attaining the grades 4 – 9, these are considered to be a ‘pass’, with grades 1 – 3 not considered to be a pass. It is as if we don’t want to acknowledge students with these grades, this is perhaps the ‘desolate landscape’ that lies between the regions of kindness that Naomi Shihab Nye alludes to.

Some of our students did get 1 – 3 grades, but for very different reasons. Some get these grades because they don’t put in enough work, to my mind this is incredibly disappointing. They had the ability and could have done much better, but they chose not to put in the effort required to make progress. One student in our care achieved grade 3s across the board and I couldn’t be more proud of the way he approached school life. He is not wired to sit academic examinations but he is kind, generous, funny and incredibly loyal – we have just loved having him around and we will miss him terribly now that he is moving on. Finally, my mind is drawn to one young lady who did well in some subjects but also secured a number of grade 3s. This young lady has had a traumatic journey through much of her teenage life and this has undoubtedly affected her outcomes – no-one marking her exam papers knew that for years she cared for her sick mother or that she missed much of her schooling. She is a star, not always easy, but we are so pleased to have been part of her journey.

It’s not that we don’t believe in academic success, many of our students have done incredibly well and as a school we have some impressive data to show. But is that who we are? Can a school be summarised by its data? I guess the answer is yes and no. Academic progress is clearly important and data measures this, but school life is so much more. I think it is important to point out that we are not perfect. We are on a rapid improvement journey, but we are a young school, and we are still learning. However, I am convinced that we have got some things absolutely right.  I believe that we are a school with ‘heart’, a place where we know the children well, a place that looks to develop the whole and not just the academic, a place that is mature enough to say that we don’t know it all.                   

I have been at Parkfield for just over a year, and I love it. It is quirky – yes, it has its faults – absolutely. But it is warm, full of kindness, able to laugh at itself, full of brilliant people and supported ably by a great parent body. Parkfield has this year made a big step forward. For the first time in our short history we have good outcomes across all phases of the school: Early Years, KS1 SATs and phonics, KS2 SATs and KS4 GCSE examinations. This hasn’t happened by magic, it has taken the concerted effort of a great staff team, brilliant governors, supportive parents and many more in the wider education community. Of course, we are nothing without our children, they are the reason we exist and the reason that we keep going when times are tough. They bring joy to our hearts (most of the time) and we love them. If we are known for anything, if our children remember just one thing about us, I hope it would be that they have found kindness with us that has followed them around as a shadow or a friend.

 

Ian Golding

Principal

 

Kindness (in full)

by Naomi Shihab Nye

 

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

 

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

 

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

It is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

 

 Presentation from our October Open Evening 2018