Our school is a traditional, leafy suburb school, with a supportive ethos (according to OFSTED) which aims to help children to develop a sense of responsibility for themselves and their environment.
We have set up a "buddy" system, where the older children each look after a new Year 2 child. These friendships begin early when they send them personally-crafted Christmas cards. They make books to read on Buddy Day in the summer term when children coming up from the infants are introduced to the "big school". Parents enthuse about the positive start this gives our new Year 2s, but it also has a marked effect on the self-esteem of our Year 6s.
Such seemingly lowly responsibilities as register monitor, lunch-time helper, and more exalted positions, such as member of the Green Team or Sports Captain, also promote a sense of pride and responsibility. When new children join the school mid-year, our pupils compete for the honour of taking them and their parents on a school tour to show them all the best bits. Our children are proud of their school.
We are a well ordered community; we look after each other well. So it was all the more disturbing when such smug complacency was rudely shattered by an outbreak of graffiti.
Just before the end of term, a series of names scoured into chairs and desks appeared, perhaps a vain attempt by some Year 6 children to leave their mark on the school. The culprits were easily identified since they had used their own names in large letters.
Those responsible claimed to have done it "for fun". Some of their parents agreed to make a donation and to deduct the amount from their children's pocket money. Others plainly considered this to be a move by a headteacher in need of a humour transplant, who had over-reacted to a bit of end-of-term high spirits.
As in many other cases, schools cannot please all of the parents all of the time.
Bob Aston is head of a juniorschool in Kent