Bring me sunshine... And happiness!

Ken Dodd

Ken Dodd. Really!? This will definitely go somewhere. Eventually. I promise!

I was a Headteacher before I was a parent.

The latter changes your perspective on school leadership. Forget policies. An unbridled drive for results. A position in league tables. You begin to really understand it's all about children's happiness. As one philosopher once put it, you can only be as happy as your unhappiest child.

You understand as a parent why the happiness of your child at school is more important than anything else. Anything.

Time for - a relevant - digression.

I feel privileged to have grown up in the 1970s. Honestly.

Starsky and Hutch

As a child, then a teenager, Saturday evenings were the source of amazing happiness. After an afternoon of running around muddy fields or cinder tracks, settling down with fish and chips for an evening in front of the telly was all you could ask for: The Generation Game; The Two Ronnies; Starsky and Hutch; Match of the Day. Brilliant. Well done, BBC. You provided a focal point for the family. Schools should - need to - do the same. I believe great ones do.

In the age of tablets, mobile devices and gamification I think that this is a real challenge. And potentially huge loss. People - families - communities - schools - surely benefit from focusing on something together. Sharing a collective, uncomplicated moment.

Modern Family

Maybe I'm a Luddite. More of that in a moment.

I think, when I first came into teaching in the mid-1980s after a brief, but unsatisfying career in business, I blinded people with science.

At a time when it appeared unheard of in education, I wrote development plans; had SMART targets; set KPIs.

Some thirty years or more later, I still acknowledge the significance of this. You clearly need to know where you - and your organisation - is going.

But I don't think that then I had any wisdom. I may not - almost certainly do not - still now. Perhaps it is simply about greater experience. The benefit of years of reflection on what works in school communities; and what doesn't.

Experience of what is really important and what really matters. Of what promotes young people's happiness.

It's certainly not a KPI! Although perhaps it should be.

When I first stated teaching, the Internet hadn't been invented. There certainly weren't online student 'tracking systems'. Computers, if you had them, were a source of almost apocalyptic trepidation and fear. What if that painstakingly crafted worksheet didn't save!?

So please do call me a Luddite...


Their activities were incidentally one of my specialist subjects at university, ironically alongside those of their equally atavistic rural counterparts - the Swing Rioters - one of whom is buried in unmarked grave in the church cemetery at the end of the road in the village where I now live...

Swing Rioter


I knew, from my professional judgement - and my intuition - whether the children in  my history classes were making progress or not - and what I needed to adjust in my teaching to make sure that they did. I didn't need RAGGED data know if they were secure in their learning. If they were enjoying it or not. If they were happy.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not looking to turn the clock back. I'm no educational Luddite.

To go back to my opening observation, I've learnt that a good school is like a great family. A source of stability, laughter and, above all, happiness.

We started with a great entertainer from my favourite decade. Let's finish with a thought from two others...

Morecambe and Wise