15. Roll of Honour
Updated: Apr 1
The crucial issue was how to create herd immunity from the viruses that affected Eydon Vale: endemic bullying, violence and underachievement. The silent majority of pupils were starting to appreciate the new rules and rewards. Yet there was still a high level of distrust. Rhiannon and I could tell them that behaviour was improving. But the pupils had heard so much good news from the previous Head that had come to nothing. They still had to decide whose side they were on: ours or the troublemakers'. The Roll of Honour was our way of winning over that majority. So, we fixed the first award ceremony for just after half term.
The five Heads of Year were asked to nominate 20 children from their groups. These were generally the pupils with the most commendations. We also invited the Year 7 Boys’ and Girls’ Football Teams, as they had come top of their Leagues. There were another dozen “Fast Track” Year 11 pupils who had passed French and Drama GCSEs a year early. No pupil was allowed to come to the evening without a parent.
In our assemblies, Rhiannon and I told the pupils about the certificates and the display of Honour Roll photos in the foyer. What really stirred their interest was the promise of a pass to the new Tuck Shop. Virtually every system within Eydon Vale had been broken when the school went into special measures. The only exception was the school meals service. By chance, we had a first-rate chef and pastry cook.
The evening was meant to announce a new vision: that Eydon Vale would rise from the ashes again. For this, we would need the active support of more pupils and parents. The caretakers laid out the hall chairs in a double ellipse. The pupils were to sit in the inner ring with their parent behind them, so parents could take photos as they returned to their seats. The school’s Outreach Worker designed the certificates, invited a local X Factor singer and contacted the town’s MP. He often appeared on TV as a champion of social mobility and was happy to speak at short notice.
Parents and pupils began to arrive at about 5.40 and were seated by their Heads of Year in alphabetical order. We feared that less than 40 of the 125 pupils invited would come, but in the event 120 arrived with a parent. At 6.10, the pupils and their parents were asked to stand for the entry of the speakers. The evening opened with a brief welcome from Rhiannon. The MP then gave a powerful oration, balancing the threats to the school's continued existence with the progress made so far.
I gave an outline of Guided Discipline and compared what was happening at Eydon Vale to a vital episode in the history of science. In the first public demonstration of electromagnetism at the Royal Institution, Michael Faraday had placed compasses underneath a copper wire, thrown a switch and made all the needles swing into a mysterious new pattern. To secure the new pattern of positive behaviour, the current would need to keep flowing between the teachers, pupils and parents.
There was a feeling of joy in the Hall and several parents wept. It felt as if everyone present was willing us to succeed. The Chair of Governors presented the Roll of Honour Certificates. In his speech of congratulations, he said this simple ceremony was the best awards evening he had ever attended because it meant so much to the participants. He encouraged the children to be proud of their achievements. No one must ever feel ashamed of doing well at school. In his view, Eydon Vale had just turned a corner and the children and parents in front of him had had a vital part to play in that process.
At the end, the local celebrity sang. There would be a second equally successful ceremony at the end of term.