by Tim Middleton
In the 2009 animated film entitled Up, an elderly widower sets out to fulfil his life-long dream to see the wilds of South America and does so by attaching hundreds of helium balloons to his house — for him, it really was up, up and away! Perhaps he was literally following the familiar advice that motivational speakers tend to give to audiences seeking the secret of success, this being that we should dream big and aim high — “Aim for the stars and if you fail you will still land on the moon,” they claim. Look up, lift up!
As we begin to consider how strong parental support will enable a high-quality education to be achieved, the clue may well be found in the very word “support” — after all, the word “up” is in the middle of the word “s-up-port”. At the heart of strong parental support is the concept of UP; in many ways, the key is found in parents “upping” the school. Perhaps the best picture of this is seeing parents standing below the school and holding the school up above their shoulders. They need to help to hold the school up, build it up, lift it up, raise it up (higher and higher).
Mankind’s natural tendency and instinct is to pull things down, even those things that we love and value. Furthermore it is so much easier and quicker to do so — it can take a very short while to chop a tree down but it can take years to enable it to grow. In a similar way it can take years for a school to develop but it does not take long for people to pull it down. We pull things down by talking things down, by being negative, by criticising, complaining and arguing, often for petty, personal issues instead of seeing the bigger issue.
Parents need to raise the school up, to help to build up confidence, trust, hope, comfort in it. Parents need to be positive, not negative; they need to bear part of the weight and not leave it all to the professionals. The educationists obviously play a huge part in providing the high-quality education but it still requires strong parental support. This support needs to be strong in order for the school to withstand the expected (and often unexpected) pressure and weight that comes with such an important commodity as a child’s future (the weight of expectation as much as of the attendant stress).
So, just as parents want their child to go for a straight line of As, so parents also need to provide strong support by gaining a straight line of As. The first A they need to gain is Aid; they need to offer any aid that is required by the child or by the school. The second A is Assist; parents need to volunteer to assist in what areas they can or are qualified in, to allow the trained teachers and coaches to fulfil their own specialised responsibilities. So parents may assist by umpiring or refereeing (if trained), by operating the scoreboard, serving teas but not simply for their own child’s team but for any that might need assistance. The third A parents must have is Agreement; they need to agree with what the school is doing. Fourthly, they need to go further and Approve all that the school does and then, further still, Adhere to all that it is doing (standing strong through all hard times), and finally Advocating to their friends the benefits of the school (all that is good).
What it comes down to (or rather what it comes up to) is this: “If you are not for the school, then you are against” — if you are not pushing up you are in effect pulling down. Being neutral is actually being against; doing nothing is pulling the school down, not least as it leaves fewer people to do the task which is hard enough as it is. Everyone has to lend their weight to the case; every parent needs to offer strong support. Every parent must hold the school up.
Lifting the school up, from below will require humility and selflessness, effort and time, thought and love. But it will help the school (plus all its members) achieve its life-long dream, its lofty goals and high aims.
This is, after all, the only way up for a school. A box or package must be the right way up; so too must we set it up the right way for a high-quality education. Parents strongly offering their support, lifting up the school and shouldering the responsibilities with all others involved, not bringing it down with negativity, will help to bring the education desired. It must be this way up.
Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.