Thank a Teacher Day 2024: A Chance to Reflect on Those Who Have Made a Difference 13 Jun 2024

Written by Steve Rollett, Deputy Chief Executive of the Confederation of School Trusts

Is there another profession that connects people in such profound and long-lasting ways as teaching? Other professions may stake a claim, but teaching surely stands among the great weavers of the social fabric upon which our lives play out.

This unique connectivity is perhaps one reason why the teaching profession in particular has been acutely aware of the shifts in the social contract following the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools have been described by some as the ‘fourth emergency service’, providing much-needed support to communities, while simultaneously trying to drive up faltering attendance rates. Our schools and trusts, and therefore our teachers and support staff, are interwoven in our social fabric.

There is a sense too that the act of teaching itself is a key part of society. It shapes us both individually and collectively, and this is as important now as it has ever been.

The skilful work of teachers connects us across time and space. In a world that can too easily feel fragmented or isolating, this adhesive work is crucial.

Sometimes this is the sensitive pastoral stuff teachers do to help children build relationships with their contemporaries – their classmates – resolving problems and finding friendships, many of which will flow like tributaries through our communities now and into the future.

It’s also the role teachers play in connecting children to those who have come before, sharing with them knowledge and experiences passed down from our predecessors; gifting the building blocks with which they can make meaning and new knowledge in the world they inherit.

This is why some of the most important work happening in subjects and schools is concerned with questions about ‘whose knowledge’ we teach. Sensitive work done by teachers to think about which knowledge we connect children to, and why, speaks to a profession that recognises the reflexivity required to connect children to a rich curriculum in which they can see themselves.

The connections forged by our teachers matter because they endure. So too do our connections with them.

I was saddened recently to hear of the passing of Alan Herridge, a headteacher who was pivotal in my early schooling. In our small rural village school, he lit a fire in many of us, showing us a world beyond what we knew. For me, his influence not only connected me to subjects and teachers but also to the village itself, intertwining his memory with my childhood.

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way about a teacher. On Thank A Teacher Day, I enjoy seeing the flood of messages from those in the profession paying homage to their own teachers.

I’ve been fortunate to reconnect with some of my former teachers in my professional life. Meeting Geraint Hughes, my PE teacher and rugby coach, after more than 20 years was an emotional moment, especially because he remembered me too (in a good way I think!).

Reconnecting with Alistair Anderson and Paul Reddick, who inspired me to become a history teacher, was also meaningful. Discovering these dedicated and inspirational teachers had both gone on to succeed as headteachers was no surprise.

If the usual advice is to not meet your heroes, perhaps reconnecting with our teacher heroes is the exception to the rule.

I suspect much of this is because of the connections we make with our teachers. The job is more than transactional; it’s deeply relational.

Some of this is about the relationships we make with that particular person. Some of it is because of how they influence our lives, within and beyond the classroom, helping us to connect to peers, a place or an experience.

I’m not suggesting that every child connects with or through every teacher in this way. And, sadly, I’m sure there will be children for who struggle to recall a teacher who had such an impact. But perhaps this underscores the importance of us working to ensure every child has the opportunity and environment to build meaningful and positive associations.

At the Confederation of School Trusts (CST), we are acutely aware of the profound power of connection. Our mission is to build an excellent education system where every school is part of a strong and sustainable group, ensuring every child is a powerful learner and adults learn and develop together as teachers and leaders. Our vision emphasizes trust—as a relational principle, a core value, and a promise of trust held on behalf of children.

A school landscape that is deeply connected, where schools and trusts are centres of human flourishing and a valued part of civic life, is a foundation upon which we can work to ensure every child builds the relationships with each other, their communities, and with their own education that will last into their future.

This is why my support of the trust sector has never been about systems and structures for the sake of it – it’s not an end in itself. It’s about building the conditions in which all children can flourish. There is nothing more important in delivering that vision than the work of teachers and support staff.

So, this Thank A Teacher Day let us do two things. Let’s do the backwards facing bit of remembering those teachers who made a difference to us, and let’s pay thanks to them.

And let us do the future-facing bit too. Let’s reflect on how we will build schools and trusts that will enable as many children as possible to feel similarly about their own education, their communities, and the people they’re with.

Thank you to all the educators and school staff who make a difference every day. Your work is seen, valued, and deeply appreciated.

Alan Herridge, this one’s for you.

 

Written by Steve Rollett, Deputy Chief Executive of the Confederation of School Trusts (CST), the national organisation and sector body for school trusts in England. Before joining CST, he was Curriculum and Inspection Specialist for the Association of School and College Leaders. Steve has sat on a range of advisory bodies, including Ofsted’s curriculum advisory group. Most recently he has supported Oak National Academy and the Department for Education’s remote learning advisory group. Originally trained as a history teacher, Steve was a Vice Principal of one of England’s most improved secondary schools before moving into a career in education policy.

 

National Thank Teacher Day is taking place on Wednesday 19th June 2024. It’s the perfect opportunity to express your gratitude for the incredible teachers and support staff who make a difference every day in schools across the country. Join us in celebrating their dedication by sharing our assets to spread the word and sending a free, limited edition personalised e-card to that special educator or support staff member. It’s a simple yet meaningful way to say “thank you” for all they do.