We must learn to appreciate the less gifted

Headteacher Dawn Forshaw is concerned that young people’s adulation of celebrities might diminish the perceived value to society of those who are less gifted


I am heartened by the news that schoolchildren regard Dr Who as their ideal headteacher.

I fully endorse the choice, but I’m not sure I would give the same reasons as children in the recent poll commissioned by The National College for the Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services.

Dr Who was one of a host of famous people and celebrities mentioned by children in the survey but, although the names make good headlines, the reasons behind the choices are more interesting to me.

Excitement features high on the list of desirable attributes, along with intelligence and someone whom children can look up to.

However, for me one of Doctor Who’s key characteristics is his ability to focus on the big picture and ask challenging questions when things are clearly not right with the universe; worthy attributes for any headteacher.

Impact on pupils

The survey also looked at the impact headteachers have on pupils. Here, children spoke about heads making them feel happy, wanting the best for their school, knowing what was fair and understanding right from wrong.

I do hope Ed Balls reads the report, for he appears to view headteachers and their deputies as an expensive luxury in the education system.

In a recent Sunday Times article he revealed £2bn worth of cuts in education spending but explained that this would not affect “teachers and teaching assistants on the frontline”.

I am sorry to burst the schools secretary’s bubble but most headteachers, especially in the primary sector, not only lead from the frontline but are also vital in the continuing training of their teachers and the sharing of good practice.

This is essential if all schools are to continue to improve, and, coincidently, drive up standards for all children.

In a society obsessed with fame and celebrity-for-the-sake-of-it, I grow increasingly worried for the children of the future. Some parents believe that people like pop star Cheryl Cole and football superstar David Beckham are perfect role models.

I have nothing against these people as individuals; what concerns me is the message that children pick up from this idol worship. As a society we appear to value those who are pretty, do outrageous things, or who have been given a special talent.

Unfortunately for many people life is not so kind and there are some mixed messages here. Centres for young offenders are full of people who thought doing outrageous things was a good way to get noticed.

What if you are not pretty and don’t appear to have any talents? Does that mean that you have no value in society? I fear that many young people pick up that impression from the messages we unwittingly send.

For vulnerable children I feel it is more valuable if they have positive role models in their life who teach them that it matters how you treat people, the joy of giving rather than receiving, the value of a kind word or deed and the value of real friendship.

We must encourage children to discover their particular strengths and face up to their weaknesses, aware that knowing how to pick yourself up after one of life’s knocks is as valuable as travelling in time or placing a perfect free kick.

There is nothing wrong with exceptional talents, but there is equally nothing wrong with unexceptional talents.

Dawn Forshaw is the headteacher at Wellfield Church Primary School, Burnley, Lancashire

This article is published in the 15 October issue of Community Care magazine under the heading Unexceptional talent must have a place alongside Doctor Who

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