Thus as schools are people-centred, and the ultimate success of a school is based on the quality of the relationships nurtured between the people the school serves and those who are serving them, then the messiness of the human existence and the rawness of human vulnerability is at the core of education.
As school leaders we work with increasingly vulnerable communities. We are under daily pressure to meet the needs of the children in our care, their families and the wider community. As a headteacher I was acutely aware of the emotional labour my team were weighed down with as we safeguarded our school community. As a school we decided to put mental health and wellbeing at the centre of our curriculum and our decision making as a school, which elevated the initiatives we committed to such as our art therapy, thrive and nurture programmes.
Alongside, the needs of our students, we also needed to meet the needs of our vulnerable staff. As a school who was prepared to do things differently to strive for a different outcome, our hope and optimism attracted staff who were looking for solutions, staff who wanted to stay in the system but who were feeling forced out. A school is often a safe haven, a place of security and stability, a place of belonging and visibility, a place of diversity and inclusion. In her work on silence and speaking out, Audrey Lourde suggests “that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength”. (Lourde, 2017)