Delighted that Father Justin in last month’s Rector’s Ruminations declared that he has a lack of will power and self discipline in that he has an aversion to puritanism, described if I understand correctly, especially form filling and ticking boxes. I have the same failing! And the same feeling of despair. How is it that our nation has become so fearful of making mistakes and acknowledging them? And woe betide anyone who has if they haven’t completed a risk assessment, signed that they have read and understood a policy, or actually done something out of the ordinary which has changed something or someone’s life? Have these puritans not heard of common sense?
But then I read of a teacher who decided to take a group of inner city students from a failing school in West London, which receives many of it’s students from a community riddled with drug gangs, up Ben Nevis this winter. The area around the school is one of the top ten most deprived in the country and receives pupil premium for 65% of it’s pupils which is well above the national average. Three years ago the school was placed in special measures, and one of the key strategies to improve it was to get as many children as possible out of London and into the wild. There were eleven students and eight teachers on this expedition and most had never set foot on a mountain. The head who is an avid rock climber was not going to go to the summit as he felt it would blur responsibility and decision making.
Eventually three students and the leader made it to the top but the others had got half way, had climbed in a snow storm and although some were disappointed they realised their limitations and accepted them.
Many would be surprised and even shocked that this teacher had decided to mount and lead this expedition, and he himself admitted he had had a sleepless night asking himself, ‘what are we doing, it’s too much’. Surely we should applaud those who are prepared to put themselves on the line, to decide that to take these kids on what is a demanding trek in the summer let alone mid winter; he had done his preparation for weeks with them beforehand though I am sure there were many who looked askance, or even horrified, at the perceived risk; too easy to sit in a warm room and talk about risk taking and policies. As Fr Justin says – we must not allow ourselves to become a nation of form fillers!