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
Exciting times aheadPosted on: 25/02/2019
I hope you had a fantastic half term holiday, enjoying relaxation, family time and refreshment. I travelled to Finland to celebrate my 50th birthday and admit it was one of the most memorable times I have had abroad. I was so excited to be able to fulfil a lifetime ambition of mine, to drive a dog sled of huskies and to see the Aurora Borealis. I must admit it was a bit of a shock to the system to come back to Gatwick and find the temperature was a sunny 18 degrees centigrade, having left the Arctic Circle in minus 29 degrees of cold! Whilst I really enjoy and treasure my holidays and time away with my family, I must admit I am very excited to be back and get on with some of the most crucial parts of opening the Deanery.
We are entering one of the most exciting phases of the development of the school. In less than a week’s time, the first students to sign up to the Deanery will be notified of their place. This is a hugely significant time for the young people and their families, and I hope that in seven year’s time they will look back on their secondary education with fondness, exhilaration and pride. I am also entering the next phase of recruitment, beginning at the end of this week. It is really important for me to recruit staff who share our vision of an exceptional values-based education with the core values of hope, family and excellence at the centre. We will soon choose our catering company and I have also made quite a bit of progress choosing furniture.
Just before half-term we were able to welcome lots of visitors to the site to look round at the facilities we will have on offer once we open. I was so pleased that we had a really wide range of activities represented, from martial arts to dance, team games to individual sports; singing groups, drama groups, theatre groups and even interest from a chess club. The building boasts some of the best facilities in the region – I am still shocked every time I walk into the theatre at its sheer enormity and the astro-turf just looks even more stunning every time I see it! But of course, fantastic facilities are all well and good, what will really make this school exceptional and distinctive is the people who use it and how they are changed by it. I showed some of the construction company round with the people looking at the facilities and afterwards one of the team said to me, “what you said today really made me feel humble. We are building a fantastic building which will really contribute to and affect people’s lives for a long time, won’t it?” She said that it is very easy for them to become wrapped up in their jobs, making sure the project is delivered on time with the best building materials, ensuring the health and safety on site is adhered to, the drains are in the right place etc. but sometimes they forget how important that facility is they are actually providing. This building will set young people and their families up for life, giving them skills and competencies for jobs that may not even exist yet; building relationships and friendships that will last a lifetime; helping to secure firm foundations of knowledge, wisdom, hope, dignity and respect as well as equipping people to live well together and enjoy life in all its fullness.
I really hope you are as excited as I am about the prospect of making a real change in people’s lives, and amidst all the sad news in our country and local community recently, I hope that you, like me, can see the hope shining out of Wichlestowe as we build a better future for us all.
And finally, a word to the students who will be joining me in September - let me know your thoughts on gaining a place at the Deanery via Twitter – I’ll be praying for you and your families this week and cannot wait to welcome you into your new school in September 2019. Keep an eye on the website for details of our open-door events from July onwards and also our transition days.