Every school I visit has a set of values. They are often clearly displayed, posted on noticeboards or painted on walls. They sometimes pop up on sweatshirts.
They vary hugely, though there are some commonalities. All primary schools seem to have some version of ‘kindness’ or ‘friendliness’. Secondary schools generally have something along the lines of ‘ambition’ or ‘excellence’. Both primary and secondary will have ‘tolerance’ or ‘respect’, or something that means the same thing. But there are many other values: ‘empathy’, ‘happiness’, ‘resilience’, ‘compassion’, ‘confidence’, ‘fairness’ … the lists go on. (Whether they are always mutually reinforcing or compatible is not something I stop to think about.)
I wondered when this need to set out the school’s values so explicitly started. I don’t remember anything like this when I was at school.
At least that was what I at first thought. But on reflection I realise that my school, and others at that time, did have values. I went to a boys’ grammar school and the grammar schools often captured them in succinct Latin mottos. Mine was ‘Labore et Honore’ – by work and honour. And we sang them in songs that were frequently repeated in morning assemblies. One of my favourites, which I still remember, was called Treasure and the first verse went like this:
Daises are our silver,
Buttercups our gold.
These are all the treasures
We can have or hold.
I don’t think that was very aspirational. I can see why no headteacher would want it sung now. Though it does commend an appreciation of the natural world – which is very relevant today – even if it also suggested turning away from material things. (Despite singing that our gold was the buttercup we still managed to produce a good quota of bank managers – the present governor of the Bank of England being one.)
In those first decades after World War 2 many values were overtly Christian and, again, sung in Christian hymns every single school day. These hymns were often about putting others before oneself, self-sacrifice, and so on. It was thought that these were the values that got us through the war and were needed to bring post-war renewal – unselfishness, sacrifice, hard work, not clock-watching, putting others first. We sang:
Not for ever in green pastures
do we ask our way to be;
but the steep and rugged pathway
may we tread rejoicingly.
These were the default values.
Fast forward to the present period and we find that the values that people want to speak about now are not these older values of hard work and sacrifice but almost the opposite – and they are not confined to schools. All organisations have them, including the police. They are about personal well-being, life work balance, and so on. A ‘well-being’ champion in my office summed them up in a wonderful post last week: ‘When you’re saying yes to others, make sure you’re not saying no to yourself.’ That captures the essence of so many of the modern values very well. The new default position.
And this made me wonder whether the police service is not trying to hold together two sets of different values which will sometimes be in considerable tension – I put it no higher. On the one hand, there is an appeal to those older values of public service: putting the interest of others before one’s own, self-sacrifice. This was a theme – perhaps the theme – running through the police memorial service in the cathedral on Saturday. But it is not easy to square that with the values of contemporary society as illustrated in the post above or those of work life balance or even well-being.
For policing, if not for society more generally, something has to give.
A Long Service Awards ceremony is always a pleasant occasion.
Last week just over 30 police officers and staff, together with family and friends, gathered at South Yorkshire Police’s (SYP) Niagara conference centre for the presentation of medals and awards. Those receiving the awards had all contributed 22 years or more service to policing.
The medals were presented to officers by the Lord Lieutenant, Professor Dame Hilary Chapman, and I presented to police staff. The High Sheriff of South Yorkshire, Professor Jaydip Ray, gave a Royal Humane Society award for bravery to Daniel Capes.
In her introduction, the Chief Constable noted that the Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff were also people who had given their working lives to public service. Dame Hilary is a former Chief Nurse with the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust and Professor Ray is a consultant ENT surgeon at the same trust and a professor of Otology.
We each made a little speech. I addressed my few remarks to the police staff. I said that when I was first the Police and Crime Commissioner in 2014, I knew no more than the average member of the public about all the activities undertaken by police staff as distinct from warranted officers – which is to say I knew little or nothing. But in the nine years that I have been commissioner I have become aware of all that the staff do – those in finance, in HR, in facilities management, in IT, in legal services – the list goes on. Without them, the front-line police could not function. I said that finding out what staff did was like opening the bonnet of a vehicle and discovering the engine. The staff were the engine and without that engine the vehicle that is SYP could go nowhere. But to the public they are viewless.
So although we were pleased to have the government fund an increase in police officer numbers – the 20,000 Uplift across the country – we were somewhat dismayed that there was no Uplift of police staff to service them. That would have to come from existing resources. Ministers don’t always think through the consequences of their actions, especially when carried away with an announcement of good news like more police.
I have just been reading a newly published report by the Crimestoppers organisation (Impact Report 2022/23). They are an independent charity dedicated to giving ordinary people ways of being able to speak out to stop crime. They are perhaps best known for their telephone service which enables crime to be reported anonymously. (They also, incidentally, have a set of organisational values – caring, inclusive, trustworthy and determined.)
One paragraph in the report made me sit up. It was about ‘football violence’. But this was not football violence on the pitch or in the ground or even outside the ground. It was ‘football violence in the home’.
It seems that for anyone who lives in an abusive relationship, a big tournament or a crucial game is something to look forward to not with pleasurable anticipation but with real fear. The FIFA World Cup from Qatar in the autumn of 2022 was, for many women, a nightmare as their abusive partners were fuelled with heightened emotions and a great deal of alcohol. At such times, Crimestoppers have found, domestic abuse typically increases by about 38%.
Domestic abuse goes on behind closed doors. Yet often people do know something – relatives, neighbours, friends, colleagues at the school gate or at work,
As a society we need to encourage all of the above to be more prepared to take the first steps to report our suspicions and help those who are too frightened to speak for themselves.
Crimestoppers is one way of doing that if we in turn are anxious about the repercussions of any reporting, for it allows us to do it anonymously but in the knowledge that action will follow: 0800555111.
I have just read an announcement by the government that £20m of extra funding over ten years is to be given to a number of towns across the country to help them with further regeneration. In South Yorkshire they are named as Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.
But wait a moment. Didn’t I witness Doncaster being made a city by the King in November last year? Has the Department for Levelling Up forgotten already? Or do they also have honorary town status?