You know how you sometimes tend to look at long-past events through rose-tinted glasses, perhaps foolishly allowing yourself to think everything was somehow better 'back in the good old days'?
Well, the other day, while I was musing over our trust's "teaching organisation" status, my mind drifted back to my old headmaster at Haslingden grammar school in Lancashire.
Having taken off the aforementioned glasses, I swear to you that Richard Marshall genuinely managed to engage the young sprogs in his charge. I would add that in the case of David Peat, he gave that particular young lad a real sense of direction and purpose.
He played a key role in putting me on the "learning escalator" that ultimately gave me the chance to expand my mind and get some qualifications behind my name. So did my physics teacher, who advised: "Don't be a thinker, be a man of action." I suppose the trick is being both.
Our human resources director and our head of professional learning often use the term skills escalator and when I last heard it, I began to think about the role, responsibilities and achievements of a teaching organisation. I asked myself: "Have we managed to turn words into reality?"
There is never room for complacency in a genuinely dynamic organisation that aims to raise the bar constantly. But I can reflect happily on the fact that real progress has been made, thanks to the application and commitment of our team of directors, supported by the organisational development team. Too often, they are unsung heroes behind the scenes.
Some successes are self-evident: awards for excellence; people being empowered to gain degrees and extra qualifications; managers gaining leadership capabilities and expertise through our links with the universities in Manchester, Lancaster and Preston.
Then there are the educational opportunities created though teaching GP practices, now expanded from just one to 16 as of today. Another tangible learning escalator is East Lancashire's new dental education centre. It's part of the first dental school to be set up in more than 100 years and is unique in that it has been established on a "hub and spoke" principle alongside Liverpool dental school and Central Lancashire University.
Closing the gap
Less tangible but just as important is our wider duty and responsibility to help raise education standards and aspirations in the communities we serve as part of our campaign to lessen health inequalities. After all, higher education standards mean better health and we can be a major pump primer.
A lot has to come into play to enable latent talent to flourish: the right blend of help and encouragement, facilities, mentorship, inspiration and leadership. The pathways and resources have to be there as well as the support mechanisms.
With all this in mind, we are developing an academic hub to support innovation and research across all disciplines, aiming to demystify research and encourage staff - from top to bottom - to get stuck in. If the idea or proposition is worth pursuing, we want people to be liberated to get on with it.
That's why our organisational development people encourage staff to aspire, to aim high and to make their way to the learning escalator. As one of the biggest employers in the area, we owe it to them and the communities we live in.
Finally, we're conscious of the old adage: start 'em young. We are forging strong links with local schools, encouraging students to tap in to the array of opportunities in the world of health, whether they be clinical, financial or business opportunities. I think my old headmaster would approve.