How our pupils dig to create their own pathways and journeys

During the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and 19th centuries, Britain changed enormously and was said to have got smaller due to the way in which people became more connected. Long journeys could be done in a quarter of the time, newspapers could be sent more quickly so people were in touch with what was going on in other parts of the country, the Royal Mail developed with a 1st and 2nd class service and ordinary people began to take more interest in politics. Of course, the landscape changed too as the network of canals and railways grew rapidly. And all this was done by hand – hundreds of thousands of miles of earth shifted to create embankments and smoother pathways across the country for the economic and social benefit of everyone.

So who do we have to thank for this revolution? Apart from the great pioneering industrialists such as Brunel and Stephenson, the really hard work was done by the “navvies”, the tough men (rarely was it women) who carried their lives on their backs, roamed nomadically between shanty towns and dug ceaselessly until they were told to stop. It was a hard life and I am fascinated by how they did it. I mention it now because early on Monday morning I chuckled to myself as I looked up from my desk to see a boy trudging past the window with what seemed the entirety of his possessions on his back – cello, games kit, hockey stick, music bag, winter jacket and rucksack. In the morning gloom, his silhouette cut the figure of a navvy and it struck me that there are similarities: our pupils are guided with where they need to go at times, and they are given the opportunities and tools to get there, but they really do work their socks off when they need to and dig and dig to create their own pathways and journeys.

The world is now said to be into the fourth industrial revolution and is smaller than it ever has been. The rate of technological change and the speed of connectivity is simply incredible and there are huge benefits in the development of AI technologies. However, there are dangers too and we are very mindful that children are becoming less patient, less willing to reason ideas with deeper thought and more cocooned in a virtual, rather than a real, world. We have safer internet day next week and we will be focusing again on the importance of staying safe online. It is a constant message that as educators and parents we need to be transmitting.

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