Monday, 25 February 2008

Family First

It’s been one of those typical Edinburgh February days. A howling gale, pouring rain and a dark foreboding sky. The Castle seemed to hunch over Princes Street and the black, shining, empty streets snaked out in every direction.

On our way to school the weather seemed to set the sombre tone for the rest of the day where everyone focused on our problems. I’ve started to meet first thing with our partners in community support, the police, and health every morning to receive an update of any issues. It appears that the food crisis is starting to extend beyond the bread shortage and there are worries about how long the kitchen can be supplied. The home meals service, which we deliver to our neighbours, has been identified as the priority followed by the school meals. Only if there is a surplus thereafter will the community kitchen be opened to those who need feeding. Meals will also be rationed to once a day for every person. There is hope that the government is ready to implement a national distribution system but it’s been so debilitated by the high absence rate that getting it off the ground has been delayed. What has been a surprise is that the supermarket companies have actually proved to be the most prepared for the pandemic. Their emergency plans have ensured that supplies have kept coming through from their main distribution centres – even if not in the previous scale. The problem has been the step before that with the amount of food getting to these centres – it’s this area that the government are trying to resolve.

One factor, which has not been anticipated – I can’t work out why as it seems so obvious – is that the demand for food is less than what had been expected. The reason being the exceptionally high death rate – there are simply a lot less people to feed.

I find myself torn in two directions when I hear information like this – the needs of my family and the needs of the school. I’ve always prided myself on my sense of empathy and that I can always see the other side of any argument. One of the changes, however, which I’ve undergone in the last few weeks, is that I now look out to my family’s needs first. I’ve been able to rationalise this by persuading myself that my capacity to lead the school will be compromised if I don’t ensure my family’s welfare. I’m sure countless leaders have worked things out in a similar way over the years but given some of my recent negative experiences when I’ve placed the need of the school – or myself first – I can justify my behaviour.

The whole school met at circle time and I shared the information about the rationing system of one meal a day. There was some unrest but I think people knew it was probably coming. I’ve made it clear that we need to ensure that we all eat – “don’t give your food to others” – which inevitably some of them will do. The other compounding problem is how families at home get enough food. However, we now have nearly 50% of the kids being accompanied by an adult/parent from their own family. They are regarded as part of our school and will also be fed. We are using these adults to support children other than their own and this seems to be working quite well. The adults are also starting to engage in the learning process themselves and the example they set for the kids is very useful. The learning atmosphere in the school is almost palpable with a grim determination that learning will be the way out of many of our problems. I sometimes wonder if that will actually be the case but at the very least this gives our community some hope at a time when hope is in short supply

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