Out on a school night? U2 teach me a thing or two!!

On Thursday night, I went out on a school night to listen to a band I’d last seen in concert in 1997. U2 were in Belfast and I was out with hubby kiddie free. 


Sitting due to my age and addiction to heels, I immersed myself in the music and forgot about the stresses of leadership. 

I spotted numerous colleagues and friends all reliving a bygone youth.

It was an amazing concert which has left me reflecting on a whole range of issues. Some lyrics were resonating with me so I thought I’d share my thoughts. 

Educational underachievement is a hot topic of the moment and something I am constantly trying to tackle. As I sat and listened to the poetic lyrics on Thursday night, I concluded that U2 themselves have much to teach educators and politicians – so using the Every School a Good School indicators here is my self evaluation of were education stands. 

Child centred provision

Bono, the lead singer sang a song  called Iris, in tribute to his mum who died when he was a teenager. Music was his saviour as he dealt with his emotions of grief and longing. Many of the children and young people we engage with on a daily basis deal with many emotional energies that make learning an immensely high barrier to climb over. As educators we need to ensure these pupils find a voice or a creative outlay to tell their stories. Developing the whole child or young person to truly make them a contributor to society is what we should be measured on. 

Our young people need to know their voice is important. Somebody heard the voice and the soulful stories of U2 and recognised that they had talent that wasn’t tied to a stat. 

Music has the power to address many behaviour and emotional issues in schools but it probably the most avoided lesson by non specialists due to fear we have of looking stupid in front of a class. 

Children love singing, banging drums and generally making a racket. It can release stress and tension of the classroom. Telling a child that they can do something well like singing or drumming can give children confidence beyond measure. 

At times those above, forget that for many the children a school is a difficult place to be. Their behaviours or home situation don’t allow them to reach the success that they desire

The lyrics You can reach, but you can’t grab it. You can’t hold it, control it…  reminded me that some children struggle to reach their potential through late diagnosis of deep rooted problems. They can’t control it and they can’t manage our educated expections.  

High quality teaching and learning 

Teachers have targets that they are expected to meet and they are under pressure to ensure their pupils reach expected levels of attainment. Why are children with SEN issues in our mainstream schools included in the DE request for end of Key Stage data? It’s like asking a small toddler to reach the light switch knowing they can’t reach it day after day. DE need to accept that sometimes we can’t stretch children that far, cognitive tests should have value in our system as benchmarks for each individual child. If young people are working at their ability which may be below an expected end of key stage level… Should that not be celebrated as success rather than seen as underachievement? 

Early intervention is key to tackling educational underachievement. We need to ensure both education and health are working collaboratively to ensure children are reaching milestones. Funded intervention programmes for parents and children should run hand in hand.

Transitions are a big thing and U2 made them seamless at their concert. 

A key transition between nursery school and primary is often overlooked. I really feel that further collaboration in this area would ensure that no child gets left behind. If DE could invest in sub cover for Year 1 teachers to observe nursery practice for a few days per year, they would have the upper hand in their knowledge of children moving into Primary School. Giving all pupils a head start. A similar programme is now in place for KS2/3 transitions but I think our foundation teachers and pupils would reap rewards if this was rolled out.

A school connected to it’s community

Bono spoke of North Dublin and Ballymunn as his community last night and sung with conviction about Cedarwood Road. 

Our schools need community engagement on a whole new level. Community has to have schools at the centre. Family Support Hubs are starting to sign post school to local agencies but further work with youth clubs and community workers need to be taken further. Could roles be developed and cover given for community engagement officers? Parenting courses cost a fortune to schools, can we collaborate with other departments to address the need and access trained specialists in their field? 

Effective leadership and management 

This maybe my leadership desire but maybe the powers that be should focus on the real issues. Instead of letting teachers dread Sunday, bloody Sunday … Or should I say Monday bloody Monday. 

“to dream is to be disappointed.” 

Bono has claimed that his relationship with his father and his attitude to dreams as a key reason for his forming such big ambitions and becoming even more determined to follow his dreams.

I want the children in my school to dream big dreams and believe in themselves, but the system needs a new dashboard of measures. The same old yardstick is helping no one. 

Data doesn’t always give the answers but does make you ask questions. Bono and his band mates made me think. 

Working together and collaborating will perhaps make us all saviour of the (educational) blues.

This post may be updated…