This year, our Year 6 production is themed all around the World Cup. Why not? We’ve been reading ‘Kick’ by Mitch Johnson in class, we’ve designed kits and flags, children have all completed a 2 minute presentation on a given team and our school football team won the Kilpin Cup this year. (Herbert Kilpin founded AC Milan and grew up in Nottingham City just down the road from our school – see the new film The Lord of Milan.) Okay, I'll admit, it hasn't all been their choice, but it has been a brilliant ride!
It’s only fitting we end the year with pundits Gary Linker, Rio Ferdinand, Eniola Aluko and a passive aggressive Roy Keane introducing a variety of sport-based sketches in our production. However, the key to any successful Year 6 production goes beyond the funny scenes and the transformed speaking skills from unexpected students. The key is the ending and bridging a context like football to something meaningful about the future. A slightly out-of-tune ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ goes someway to do this but doesn’t quite end it satisfactorily.
Enter Gareth Southgate and the following end of year reading by one of the Year 6 children:
“In 1996, Gareth Southgate was the final member of the England team to step up and take a penalty against Germany. He missed. Not only was he heart-broken, so were an entire nation. The guilt and shame which engulfed him must have been unimaginable. It wasn’t long before he appeared in adverts as the butt of the joke, with England players mocking him and seemingly being bullied everywhere he went.
Fast forward 22 years and Southgate is the England manager and has a chance against Columbia to lead England through a World Cup penalty shoot-out for the first time in the nation’s history - a moment he’d worked hard all his life to try and correct.
“When something goes wrong in your life, it doesn’t finish you. You should become braver, knowing that you’ve got to go for things in life and not regret anything just because you didn’t try to be as good as you might be. Sometimes you have to go through difficult times as a team, and failures, to learn and to improve.” Southgate 2018
As Eric Dier stepped up to take the winning penalty, it was clear that the players and the manager had one thing that the previous England teams never had: belief. As he comforted the Columbian who missed his penalty, he knew exactly what it must have felt like and, as he consoled every single England player after their semi-final loss, it was obvious he had empathy and compassion too.
Year 6, you have come so far since starting school. Sometimes it has been tough but you have all worked so hard and grown-up so much since the days when you first arrived here. As you move on to secondary school, take with you your books, your signed t-shirts and your photos but please also take with you belief and a little compassion. We have all lost some battles, we might be currently losing one and we have all won others but we are all stood here today, side-by-side, as one giant team. A team which has bonded at Shining Cliff and Markeaton Park, a team that has supported each other through SATs, a team that will never forget the friends we have made and the adults who have supported us. Every single member of staff has believed in us from day one but what happens in our life is determined by the belief we have in ourselves: to get up if we are knocked down, to keep going when things are hard and to face the uncertainty of the future by putting the ball at our feet, taking control and shooting into the top corner.
Year 6 - be resilient, work hard and above all, know that with belief, you can do anything."
This year, we have decided to buy all of our Year 6 children a copy of 'You Are Awesome' by Matthew Syed as a leaving gift where staff will write personalised messages and memories of each child inside to help promote these kind of virtues.
Teachers, what can we learn? Schools can be as cut-throat as businesses these days. Do you believe in your staff? Could you be more compassionate? How is your resilience shaping up? Do you practice what you preach? Who knows, but I am pretty sure, as surprising as it sounds, Gareth Southgate has got us all thinking!
(Okay, now sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone!’)