Lesson 58. The Ties That Bind

Lesson 58 on Shared values and joys.

Before schools were told what community values they ought to promote, they had enthusiasms and interests of their own. For significant parts of my career I worked in areas where the chief community binding agent was football.

In my first school pupils were released early whenever there was an early evening match. The official reason given for this was that the additional traffic was a hazard, but in fact by the time you had got from your classroom to the staffroom at the end of the day, the pupils were already streaming down the road changed into their strips, on their way to the match.

In the local primary the PE kit was the town football strip. The head knew that money was tight for most families, but, as it was a matter of almost religious observance for pupils, boys and girls alike, to have the official strip, it made sense to avoid additional expenditure.

In assembly, a great favourite was “He’s got the whole world in his hands”, to which another verse had been added, “He’s got the whole team in his hands”. One memorable year, when the team’s season was crowned with success, every school in the town was offered a trip to the stadium to view the Cup. Even the Infants went.

It was all part of sharing a landmark joyful experience, arising from the history and traditions of the community itself. In the run-up to the Cup front windows were decorated like shrines. Art lessons were temporarily put on hold in the local primary, because these had become a production line for icons in the team colours for home display.

“Just like VE day!” said the chair of governors of the victory progress of the open topped bus through the town. It took hours, constantly stopped by the rejoicing crowds.

Community cohesion, you might say!