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Positive cultural radiators

18th October 2021

In the last few days an early morning gurgle, followed by a soft knocking has woken me from the deep slumber of the week before half term. The increasingly dark mornings and foggy drives to work have developed their own soundtrack. Radiators. In schools it is hard to find a caretaker across the country who fires up the boilers before half term – and rightly so. However, the battle of the thermostat in our homes is fought fiercely around these times – not least with price rise dramas playing out this winter.

What does this have to do with our schools and the trust I hear you ask? Radiators in a cultural sense are vital. Unlike our cast iron variety, we need them all year round, however they too come into their own in the darker months. Schools need cultural radiators and we need to encourage them. Who are the members of staff who radiate positivity, support and energy? Increasingly we are seeing the power of kindness radiators, those whose small acts of unprompted kindness turbo charge our colleagues when low. You know the characters, however often the photocopier jams, whenever the cover fairy comes to strike and whoever is having a tough day – they are always there. Always present. Always supportive. Either posing a solution and listening ear, a little note, a cuppa, sharing a snack or a warm smile. These colleagues and children are the life blood of our organisations. With multiple colleagues, large numbers of young people and rich curriculums we exist in complex organisations. We need our radiators to pick up our spirits, dispel negativity and keep us moving on the right track.

People gather around cultural radiators too. In much the same way as our physical radiators tend to draw people towards them on a cold morning, our cultural radiators welcome us; as we seek out warmth, reassurance and support. We see this in the playground, the corridors, the staff room and canteen. We congregate around such people – they are culturally vital to our development and progression as a trust.

Sometimes radiators make noise. When firing up they might bang or crash or gurgle. It is important to recognise the sounds of support and positive radiation, as opposed to just noise. That said, it is quick to tell the difference – it’s all about how you are left feeling. Positive cultural radiators leave you supported and better placed to face the challenges of what lies ahead.

We need to promote and recognise this vital work. Place them in prominent positions in our organisations – give them space to spread their heat far and wide. That way we all benefit.

Jack Mayhew, CEO, Athena-GEP

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