Tony on floor 5 smells of sardinesI think looking after the details are important. “Tuck your shirt in”, “do your top button up”, “put your jacket on” are all familiar phrases for any member of staff on duty at the end of the school day: we want students to leave school looking as smart as they did when they first arrived. Tomorrow I will be spending the day looking after the details of some of the very important parts of the building. I have my penultimate monthly update meeting with the construction company. Some of you may remember the original estimated completion date for the building was 1st April 2019, a date I was never that comfortable with! For reasons completely out of the control of BAM construction, there have been some minor delays: this is to be expected on an 18-month project and is no cause for concern. During the build we have suffered some extremes of weather: last summer was very hot (not good for concrete pouring, rendering or plastering) and we have had 2 significant snowfalls (great for sledging and snowballing, not great for concrete shipping and Health and Safety on construction sites!). One of the other challenges has been to ensure that we have telephone lines (essential for the safe operation of the lifts) and broadband service to the building. I really did not comprehend quite how tricky this would be! However, with patience and some really determined chasing, the building’s telecoms are now live. The delay to the project completion has had no impact whatsoever on the development of the Deanery, instead of the building standing empty for 3 months, only being used by our furniture suppliers to make deliveries, there will now be a full occupation of the building by the construction company right up to building handover. We will work alongside BAM to put all our furniture and fittings in while they are ‘finishing off’. Tomorrow I will get my first glimpse of the reception desk that has been custom made (apparently it looks amazing) and I will be able to use the feature revolving door to enter the school for the very first time. Many classrooms now are ‘finished’, with only the ICT equipment (state of the art flat panel interactive screens) left to go in; the projector, screen and speakers have been installed in the Egg; the theatre is looking fantastic and the Sportshall even has nets up (2 cricket nets and the half way dividing curtain). Either side of my meeting with BAM tomorrow, I am working with our furniture suppliers to make all my final choices. Desks, chairs, cupboards, storage units: they are the easy bits. It is all the other things that we need to buy, the tiny things that sometimes get forgotten. I have spoken before about how I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time on toilet choices, well here we go again. I spent 2 hours last Friday discussing signage and fittings, you would not believe quite how many different toilet roll holders there are! I am really aware that I have tried throughout this project not to be too bogged down (could not resist that pun!) with the building and equipment, as I really do believe that schools are outstanding as a result of the people in them, not just the buildings and facilities. So, alongside making sure I spend more time out and about meeting people and building relationships than sat at my computer answering emails (apologies if my replies are sometimes a little slow) I have also been spending a lot of time lately thinking about other small but very important details. There are three priorities in everything we will do at the Deanery: strong relationships, empowered learning and safe boundaries. These exist not only for the students but also the staff. Our priorities are founded on a culture of hope. This is what makes us distinctive as a school. To put these priorities in place from the outset, I have been working on two really important things. I have been developing materials for our Attachment Aware status and commitment. This will help all our community understand from the very start how important strong relationships and safe boundaries are, modelling firm but fair and consistent practice and providing students with a safe and calm learning environment. There are a few weblinks at the bottom of this blog for you to find out more about Attachment if you are interested. In order for teachers to be at their very best in the classroom, I have made a commitment to protect staff wellbeing from the outset. This is in line with the Department for Education new recruitment and retention strategy launched in January 2019 (you can read that in the weblink at the bottom of this blog as well). With the Deanery local Governing body, I have created a Staff Charter, which sets out ways we can reduce teacher workload and start with the most supportive culture for us all. We will give outstanding support to our least experienced teachers: those of you who have heard me speak will know that I thoroughly enjoy teaching and there have been moments when I truly believe it is the best job in the world. I want to encourage and support those who are drawn to teaching as a vocation and help them develop and be the very best teachers and leaders they can be. As a multi-academy trust we believe in transforming communities by improving educational outcomes for everyone: to do this we want the very best change-makers to work in our academies. As I have said, we have already recruited some exceptional teachers and are now looking to appoint equally outstanding support staff. We have committed to making sure working at the Deanery is a very attractive proposition, placing a real emphasis on Continual Professional Development. And finally, we are going to encourage young people to aspire to become teachers and leaders: I am reminded of the quote “be the change you want to see in the world”, we will equip and teach our students to be leaders in their own right. And so what about poor Tony in the title of this week’s blog? Well actually it was a hoax. The Huffington Post published an article claiming that the phrase “Tony on floor 5 smells of sardines” was embedded on page 46 of the Apple Terms and Conditions for the release of its new operating system iOS 7 back in 2013. It was done to make a point. The article claimed that thousands if not millions of people would have clicked ‘Agree’ to those terms and conditions without even reading 6 pages, let alone 46 pages of dull and boring detailed terms and conditions. The point was, no one was checking the details of what they were agreeing to. I admit to being a bit of an Apple fan myself and I can safely say I have NEVER read the terms and conditions but I have faithfully ticked the box ‘Agree’ each time I have upgraded my operating system. My point is this. There is SO MUCH to do on the Deanery project at the moment as I have tried to begin to tell you in these blog posts. I can only begin to give you a flavour of all the work that is going on behind the scenes to get the school ready for September 4th. From the many hours spent by our volunteer Governors preparing for opening by reading through pages and pages of policies, to the planning meetings being done by our consultants with our community groups, lesson plans being written, schemes of work being developed, light bulbs fitted, computers bought online, catering contracts being sought, community groups being contacted – I can only begin to imagine the people hours being put in to make sure we are ready to open. I believe it is the details that are the important things in schools: how people treat each other, how we work together when things are going less well than we would have hoped, how we help children find a way back when they have made a mistake, how we encourage young people to be the best they can be, how we embed hope in the hearts and minds of our next generations. This is what makes the Deanery distinctive – I hope that I have made the detail of the Deanery very clear. We believe in the infinite potential of each and every one of our students who will join us. We will: Help students explore, develop and deepen their understanding of their personal faith in order that they may have life in all its fullness; we will inspire a life-long love of learning, independent thought and the courage to think and act differently; Enable each student to receive a truly personalised learning experience, encouraging them to achieve their highest academic potential, and to have the confidence to follow their aspirations; Encourage students to develop a strong sense of responsibility to the community and to improve the quality of the local environment for its residents; Provide excellent pastoral care, by supporting every student in their learning with skilled mentoring to develop the best understanding of students’ strengths passions and purpose. We will be members of the Attachment Research Community when we are open – read all about this here: https://the-arc.org.uk/ A blog post written by our current Chair of Governors: https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/student-behaviour-motivation-and-the-potential-of-attachment-aware-schools-to-redefine-the-landscape And the Government recruitment and retention strategy is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-recruitment-and-retention-strategyRead More
ChoicesPosted on: 11/02/2019
I don’t want to spoil one of my favourite assemblies, but I do want to explain a little about what is happening with the Deanery at the moment, and therefore I have to talk about choices. I am being asked to choose so many things. The first thing I was asked to do as Principal was to help the Governors choose our school logo. We went for the logo that represents the story of our school – growing out of the ground, new life bursting forth. It contains the colours purple, silver and grey: purple is a royal colour and is worn by Bishops and will form the main theme of our school uniform and school colours. It was actually by pure chance that our building was purple for such a long time, that colour was the ‘weather board’ that goes into the walls to help protect us inside from wind and rain. I did ask BAM construction if they could use purple bricks as the colour had become so popular, but sadly they were unable to help with this request, seems like that is only an estate agent (others are available as well)! You will know that I have already chosen our school uniform and I am delighted that so many students, parents and colleagues have said how much they like it. We chose the uniform so it looks really smart, is distinctive and reflects our aspirations. The company who produces the uniform has values that are in line with ours, not least in terms of their efforts to protect the environment. You have perhaps already heard that each jacket in our uniform is made of 31 recycled plastic bottles, and do not worry, they don’t ‘crinkle’ as one parent asked me recently!
I have also chosen carpet colours, paint, lockers, door types, locks and keys, electric sockets, where the signs will go to show people round and even what type of font we want to use on all our signs and letterheads! These are just a few of the choices I am having the make and that is before I even begin to tell you about the furniture catalogues I have sitting on my desk....
All these exciting and interesting bits are actually only a tiny bit of my job at the moment. Far more important choices are being made about staffing, which subjects to teach, methods of teaching and policies and procedures for the school. I am enjoying the building choices, but I am finding that I am taking so much more time and care over the other educational choices, as I know they will affect the futures of our students, families, staff and their families for years to come. I am trying my best, working with as many people as I can who have experience in lots of different areas, in order to try and get things right from the start. However, I do know that some things, no matter how well thought through, will need changing pretty much as soon as we open! Thomas Hoerr (2005) said, “strong leaders are artists because they recognize there is no one formula, no particular policy, no set of procedures, that will always work with everyone or, even, with any one person all the time.” We will need to work together to make the Deanery a fantastic place, full of vibrancy, learning, laughter and love. We will make mistakes and we will never be afraid to make mistakes, because we know that mistakes make your brain grow. We will be open, listen to each other and learn together from any mistakes we make.
To finish I will tell you a little bit about my assembly on choices. Sometimes what appears to be the best choice is actually the least good. I often wonder where the student is now from my days at John Cabot Academy who participated in my choices assembly there and ended up covered in flour (he made the less good choice!). A simple illustration using a very famous brand of chocolate helped the students at East Wichel Primary school recently understand what I was talking about. Everyday we face choices about how we act and how we react. Something as simple as choosing to smile instead of choosing to frown can make a big difference to the outcome of a situation. I’m about to choose our catering company this week, so wish me well, because this partner is going to be really important to us. One thing is already clear to me – we will choose to sit together, to eat together and to talk to each other over lunch, as this is one of the places where we will build our Deanery family.