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Gratitude is the memory of the heart

A Better Man

This is a memory that I will carry with me for ever. It was probably the first real moment when I realised that I could make a significant difference in a child's life. From this point, I could make decisions and support children is a way which is life-changing. This is an incredible position, particularly when you work in a community where this can be the bread and butter of the job.

I looked out of my office window and saw a boy being thrown up the path by his Mum. His afro hair had been pulled and he wore a heavy, tear-stained scowl of despair on his face. The street was silent, the sun was shining and the school day was quietly underway.

This was my first term of Headship, and it was a moment where I realised that such overwhelming empathy could be fired up inside me without any preparation or intent. This provoked a response where the only solution to the situation would be to do whatever it takes.

'This is a fight or flight moment. It's important to be measured whilst you may feel an overwhelming determination to help. You can collaborate and talk with your deputy to make your call but ultimately you know that you have to act regardless. You are also aware that this will not make everyone happy.'

This is now many years ago and the young man in question was 4 years old. His life at the time was in tatters and his future unsafe. This was a light touch indicator of a traumatic and troubled life, and yet he would only ever assume that this was always his fault.

I was to learn things about society and families over the next twelve years, that would drastically improve the person who I am and give more purpose to my being than any job description ever could.

'When we talk about growing in the workplace, we may not always know what this means. We could more than likely view this as professional development but it's not. For me, I became aware that I was growing emotionally and spiritually.'

In this instance, for this young man, we intervened successfully and got the right outcome for him and his Mum.

I think about his handsome smile today, which is my lasting memory as we worked collaboratively to offer him the opportunity to live a safe and successful life.


The only real win in this situation is the safety of the pupil. If we look at how a positive outcome can help us as school leaders, it gives direction and confidence, both of which are critical if you are going to succeed when safeguarding your children.

I know professionally that this was going to be a fundamental part of my role. I learned what to do when confronted with an upsetting situation. I also learned exactly what the term 'duty of care' meant and where that placed me in the relationship with so many of our families.

This was not a one man show. I learned how to work with outside agencies and with people in different roles that I had never met before. This conversation created a very supportive working partnership that had the child's safety at heart. When we got the right outcome, we went our separate ways. Until I need their help the following week with another similar situation.

About the Author

David Rushby

Former Teaching Assistant.

Observations, learning walks, book studies and parent and pupil surveys for your ipad or tablet

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