From the macro to the microLast week my mind was filled with more recruitment, more visits to local primary schools, a Governors meeting and deciding on room names for the building. It always amuses me how many times each day I have to switch my mind from thinking about ‘big’ (macro) ideas such as vision and values, to the small (micro) details such as room numbers. One of the really important functions of the Governing body of any school is to challenge the Principal on all aspects of the functioning of the school: I always look forward to my Governors meetings as I love a challenge! Last week we were thinking about how we will represent our vision and values in easy to remember and clear formats for all the different audiences who might be interested. This is a great opportunity for us to share our mission and I know from having worked with students at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple school that it is always the students who are the best ambassadors for any school. I think it is not only a case of students being able to articulate the vision and values, whilst this is vitally important, it is also crucial to consider how students live out these values. We want to inspire in our students to hold the very highest of personal standards and to flourish in their lives. The type of person who is successful in today’s world does not have to necessarily be the person who is the fastest, the cleverest or the most articulate – much more important is their persistence or resilience. I have been reading a very popular book recently titled “Grit” and this explains the concept very clearly: it is essentially a macro idea, a way of being, an attitude to life. But I actually think alongside this we have a real duty to teach students much more than just persistence – how to act when things do not go well, how to get on with other students after a disagreement, indeed, how to disagree with someone without it turning into an argument. These are micro skills – specific to certain situations, but already in the planning. Of all the things students learn at school, sometimes I think it is these skills and attitudes that are arguably more important than the knowledge, skills and content of subjects. Our world is a tough place to be growing up in: children have to hear terrible news from around the world, such as the terrorist atrocity in New Zealand, they have to listen to our politicians failing to agree on Brexit and nearer to home they have to hear tales of knife crime being on the rise in our towns and cities. We need to equip students with the capacity to understand these situations, know how to make careful judgements about how they feel about them and how to keep themselves and each other safe in the myriad of situations they may find themselves in. This is all going to be done through our Values in Practice (VIP) programme, which will teach them safe boundaries, strong relationships and empowered learning. And so to the room names: one of the names given to us by the architects was the name for our dining area, the agora. This is turning into one of my favourite places in the academy, not least because I love eating so much! The potential for this space is actually enormous, which is appropriate because the space is enormous as well! I am planning all sorts of exciting things for the agora, not least having live music playing on the ‘bridge’ (above the agora) while we eat together. I am really keen that this area is used by most, if not all, students at the academy and I also hope that as many students as possible will join us for hot food at lunchtime. It is so important that we sit together to eat, talk and get to know each other. I have named every single room in the academy now: offices, classrooms, meeting rooms and even the ‘staffroom’ (which is not actually a staffroom and is not actually called the staffroom!). The building is really starting to take shape and the furniture designers have been busy helping us choose the best furniture for all the classrooms as well. With only 169 days to go until we open for students, it is easy to see why we are so busy! I hope all those who have received confirmation of their places are as excited as I am, for the most amazing opportunity to be the pioneers in this incredible new secondary school. We will be contacting all those who have received a place before we break up for Easter and in the next 2 weeks our uniform supplier has promised that the weblink to our direct sales website will be made live.Read More
Strangers on a trainPosted on: 21/01/2019
Just before Christmas I had the privilege of accidentally sitting next to potentially one of the most interesting people I have met courtesy of the Paddington to Temple Meads line! Melanie was one of the people who conducted the archaeological survey on the Deanery site before building could commence. She provided me with some fascinating facts, some of which I will share below and also inspired me to make new links with other local schools (more about that later).
The Deanery is built on what used to be farmland, between the Old Canal to the east and a small tributary of the River Ray. The ‘soil’ is clay (very heavy clay as I found out when I walked the boundary of the field!) and a mixture of silt, sand and gravel (which is a good sign for our school allotments). There are lots of significant archaeological and historical sites surrounding the Deanery, including a bowl barrow near Rushy Platt Farm, the site of a watermill at West Leaze and the remains of a small deserted medieval settlement not far away. I cannot wait for our History teacher be appointed, they will be so excited! The Wiltshire and Berkshire canal lies just to the east of the school site and many local residents will have seen the extensive work done on the restoration of the part nearest the school – this is partly where we have taken the inspiration for the name of our adjoining primary school from (Kingfisher). Incidentally the canal was built in 1804 probably stopped being used commercially in 1906 before being infilled in 1962.
Previous investigations in Swindon have found evidence of Romano-British, medieval and post-medieval activity in this area, so we were delighted to discover that our school has been built in an area where people would have lived, worked and passed on knowledge since possibly as early as the Mesolithic Age (9600 – 4000 BC)! Discoveries on the actual site of our school lie mostly under the sports pitches and included a large pit containing the remains of animal bones and various other ditches, pits, postholes and tree-throw holes of significance. The datable pieces of pottery that were found include pieces from the Middle/Late Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age, Iron Age, Romano-British and medieval period. It is possible that there were roundhouses or other circular structures on the site and these have been identified following discoveries and mapping of lots of post holes. It has given me the idea that we might actually build a replica round house on our playing field in order to really bring history alive for our students and to honour those who inhabited our site before us. The pottery found in the excavations gave the archaeologists the best clues for dating the site and they found some pottery which could be 4000 years old: they found one piece which could be part of an Early Bronze Age Collared Um, a kind of pot you can see in one of our pictures.
In summary, it seems that the clearest phase of activity on the school site was in the Late Bronze Age when there appears to have been part of a settlement here with one, possibly two, roundhouses evident. There were also farming activities here, with definite field boundaries evident. One really interesting find that is being studied further is a ‘cushion’ stone, which is being sent for X-ray fluorescence analysis to determine if any metal is present in it and if so, it could have been used in primitive metal-working. It is likely in the future that some of the finds from the school site will be exhibited in the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, of course we will be visiting there to see that! It is so exciting to be part of this project and to have the opportunity to both honour our ancestors and to educate future scientists, archaeologists, vets, Doctors, nurses, teachers etc. in our wonderful state of the art modern building. And of course, it makes me pause and consider, what will the archaeologists of the future find when they dig up the Deanery in the year 6020 perhaps?!
Note: I am really grateful to Melanie for providing me with the report and to Wessex Archaeology for their detailed work on our school site, see more of them here: https://www.wessexarch.co.uk/about