This week, young people headed back to school for the start of a new term. I suspect that some did so reluctantly. School holidays can be the best of times: sleep-ins and sleepovers, trips away with the family, play-dates and Playstation, soccer camps, bike-riding safaris and just hanging out. ‘The hols’ is life without buses, bells and blazers.
Unfortunately, for some young people, school holidays are the worst of times. For them, not going to school means they are not where they have the most support and, in some cases, feel most safe. For some young people, school is a refuge, a safe harbour, a ‘sacred place’.
Don’t get me wrong: young people (and teachers!) need school holidays! Unstructured holiday time is as important for them as structured school time. They need time to re-energise, and recharge.
At the same time, school holidays can sometimes mean some children spend more time without the school-based supports (and supporters) who help them deal with complex situations.
More and more, I am reminded about how important the school is to the local community, and not just for the students. In a single school, thousands of people are connected by relationships, experiences and stories.
Schools join the dots, connecting many people who could otherwise be quite isolated. Our kids join clubs and sporting teams associated with the school. The parents of our children’s friends become our friends, often for life.
So as your child heads back to school this week, it’s worth remembering the important place that school plays in their lives, and maybe in yours. Schools won’t get it right all the time, and there will be difficult days, but at their best they build, protect, nurture and transform. They matter for everyone and, for some, in ways we may never fully realise.