I’m always looking for books which might change me, by small degrees, into a slightly better version of myself. Last year I read  ‘Poverty Safari’ by Darren McGarvey which describes a life blighted by poverty, growing up on a Glasgow estate . When the complex causes of poverty have been considered; when everyone (including Tory politicians, Guardian readers and Darren himself) have been handed out their share of responsibility for its ongoing perpetuation; when all is said and done, he whittles his childhood dilemma back to its core, ‘Beneath everything, all I was looking for was connection; to feel understood, heard and supported; to feel respected, safe and loved.’ When I’m trying to decipher a child’s behaviour in school (or an adult’s or my own behaviour for that matter), I often find myself hacking back to a list of possibilities not dissimilar to this one. We’re people and very many of us need similar provisions in our emotional larders to get through the day. This is the human level, the basic ‘this is what I need’ level that I believe should always define our thinking and our choices in school. 

Last week I stumbled into a KS2 assembly wholly unprepared. I have a significant back catalogue of scintillating advice (pity the poor children) and story-telling that I can draw on after 18 years as a head teacher but on this occasion my mind went blank so I blathered out the question most on my mind, ‘What should a school be like?’ Second note here to peddlers of the ‘children are troublesome sub-strata’ narrative: give them half a chance and they have answers full of natural wisdom and without some of the fog of adult life impeding their view. The response ran something like this: ‘A school should be fun and full of play…a place to mix with other people…to learn from and with them… a place for friendship and from that the feeling of being connected and supported…a preparation for life beyond by being a positive place.’ Admittedly the word ‘connected’ sounds like one of mine but other than that, this is a fairly accurate precis of their response.