I will try to tie together these two seemingly disconnected sub-stories, with one common theme.
Last night, as I waited in my local supermarket to be directed to a till, I noticed a shelf-stacker’s trolley on my right hand side. On it were brown paper bags, and on each was a handwritten price. Reading the sign on the trolley, I discovered that this was a simple way of collecting, paying for, and depositing contributions for one of the city’s Food Banks. You picked a bag, it was scanned at the till, and after paying you just walked a cross to a collection point beyond the tills and left the bag.
Sheffield Food Banks has become one of my charities of choice in the last few weeks; I cannot live comfortably when I know that (last week) one household in every one hundred in Sheffield relied on a Food Bank to feed themselves, not when I could afford fennel, basil, plums, strawberries, ‘selected nuts’ and the rest of my shopping with such financial ease.
I was tired, hot and hungry as I shopped, nearing the end of another difficult day, but here I was - able to easily help. I scooped into my trolley as many of those brown paper bags as I could lift as I reminded myself of that truth that we are well off, and probably better off than we think.
I got to spend twenty minutes or so with one of our new ‘bubbles’ this morning as they had been talking about their experience so far, had an idea and had written to me. I wanted to go and chat with them about their complaint and ideas.
What they were saying was that they felt rushed by us when eating their lunch and weren’t getting enough time to play out afterwards. Lunchtime, they said, was not long enough and as Year 6 got longer it wasn’t fair.
I told them how it is at two neighbouring schools where the children in ‘bubbles’ are eating in their classrooms and staying there all lunchtime every day (and we use the dining room in very small numbers then play out for 35 minutes, on one or other playground, or out on the field). I told them how, at one of those schools, the children are getting one 10 minute outdoor playtime each day (and we still, by stagger, get two f 15 minutes each). I asked them to think about how things are when we have 480 pupils in school – the hall is packed, and loud and pressured. I got them to think about how rushed they are then, and how relaxed they are this week. I told them about the typical Y5 boy with a packed lunch who wolfs it in 4 minutes to get out to play football - and the 13 minutes they take now being luxury. We talked about eating the fridge and how much bigger their lunches are now than they used to be before spending twelve weeks at home.
They agreed, after we’d laughed about cakes and biscuits and snacking, that maybe we had it really good already.
We can, in wanting better or bigger or newer or more, forget that what we have is a good deal, and that what we have is oftentimes a much better thing than others may be enjoying.
We are operating in school in ways that protect pupils, families, staff and the wider community, but we are not forgetting to make the experience of being in school a really good quality, and we are not forgetting those who are not getting this experience at all. Yes, we’d like this to be better – but we want that to be much better, too.
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