Safety and security are two things which have so much relevance and so many meanings in a school context. Teachers are constantly considering the physical and psychological safety of their students, usually subconsciously ; mainly because if a student is going to learn effectively, they have to feel safe. If they are to be prepared to take risks in class or ask questions to clarify their understanding, they have to feel safe to share their ideas and make mistakes without fear or anxiety. Students who feel safe in class are more likely to ask for help, commit to high standards and value feedback as constructive. They are also more likely to see mistakes as an opportunity to learn, rather than as a failure, which is an important characteristic of a successful learner.

We also work to ensure our students are protecting the safety and security of their belongings. Teenagers are notoriously bad at looking after their ‘stuff’ – probably because they haven’t personally paid for most of it!  All the strategies we recommend aim to ensure that belongings can be reunited with their proper owner; the simple act of labelling clothing and other possessions makes the process of dealing with lost property significantly easier. I have been reminding students about bike security, too, urging them to lock their bikes to the bike racks and think carefully about the importance of taking care of their possessions.  We regularly remind our High School students about keeping their phone in their locker and having a padlock on their locker, too - I hadn’t previously come across the idea of a locker without a lock!

I had a lengthy discussion with a student at their locker one afternoon, whilst I was farewelling those leaving via the High School gate. He had no padlock on his locker and was seemingly unworried about the fact that this left it open to all and sundry. His response to my question: “How would your mum and dad feel if your phone were taken from your locker and not returned?”, was to explain that he wouldn’t mind because he wanted a new one anyway. As we are so frequently trying to prepare our Carmel students for life in the big, wide world after school, it’s important that they start to take responsibility for their possessions as well as for their personal safety. Their parents will not always be there to find lost socks and pay for replacement mobile phones.

I’ve also learnt a lot about safety matters in terms of security since arriving at Carmel, as I’ve chatted to our CSG guards and asked about the work they do every day to keep our community safe. Even as I talk to them at the gate on our duty at the beginning or end of the school day, they are constantly watchful and making sure that we are in no danger. This is something I haven’t come across previously and is a service for which I am grateful on a daily basis.

Whilst on the topic of safety at drop off and pick up times, I must mention the great work of Sidney and Steve, our marvellous crosswalk attendants who not only seem to know every Carmel student by name, but also provide a safe crossing for them as they navigate the roads each day. We are lucky in the Primary School to have a ‘kiss and drop’ area off the main road, so that students can practise crossing in a relatively safe environment. But in the High School, I have drawn sharp intakes of breath on a number of occasions as we try to ensure that our students are safe from drivers carrying out 5 point turns in the middle of the road, or parking facing the wrong way.  This is a good opportunity for me to respectfully remind everybody using Cresswell Road as a pickup or drop off point to stick to the road rules, to keep our students safe.

There are various spaces around the School that particular children use as their safe space.  I see those who feel safest in the libraries and those who prefer to play in the nature areas; students who like to spend time with groups of others and those who choose to read alone. We are very lucky to have different areas for our students to congregate, rest, play and socialise.  For some children living in tricky circumstances, the School as a whole is their safe place and as educators, we understand the importance of this.

For me this week, feeling safe has meant wearing a mask. I have been lucky so far in terms of not catching COVID, but am acutely aware that it may well happen. Each week I look at my calendar and realise that it will not be a good week to get ill.  I also know myself well enough to realise that when I do eventually succumb, I will be irrationally cross with myself for not having tried harder.  I hope that whatever stage of the COVID journey you and your family are at, you are able to enjoy the weekend together.

Shabbat shalom – stay safe.