I remember him well. Joe was a dwarf. For seven years his embarrassed parents had excluded him from the village. He had never played in the garden, been seen in the local general store; certainly never started school. When I began a teaching position there, and realised the situation, I made an early opportunity to call at his home. Eventually it was agreed that Joe could begin school. I prepared the other children. "Joe is coming to school," I said. "His outside is different, but inside he is just like you. And it is the inside which is important."
Joe settled in well. He was cheerful, cooperative, and in the 18 months I was there, he began to learn and catch up with his peers. Many years later, I revisited the village, and I met up with Joe. I could still pat him on the head, but Joe had done well. He had a job in the local water works, he drove his own small car, and he had been provided with a bungalow. He gave me the biggest compliment I have ever had. He said, "Miss, you encouraged me to have confidence in myself." That is the accolade every teacher works for, that each pupil feels self confident.
In 2018, school success is coded through 4 colour bandings from red, the worst, to green, the best. A report on local schools informs us that, 'The majority of Torfaen schools are achieving green ranking.' Great for the greens, --- what about the reds? We also read that 5 schools are in the red band, including two secondary schools. However, Councillor Yeowell, Torfaen's executive member for education and life long learning, assures us, 'We will give the right support to schools in the red band when and where they need it, in a timely and targeted way.'
We must encourage our local schools, teachers, governors, staff, pupils. Do not let our hopes be dwarfed by what was. Aim high for what might be achieved. Most of all, pray for our schools. God is even more concerned than we are, and He always hears and answers prayers! Consider these words from the Bible...
'The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love.'