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
Finding calm in the busy-nessPosted on: 11/03/2019
It has been an amazingly busy two weeks at the Deanery. The most important and exciting activity has been the next round of teacher recruitment. I am delighted to say that some of our new Year 7 students may actually have been involved in interviewing and recruiting their first teachers! Our teaching staff interviews have been taking place in local primary schools, and I am so grateful to the Headteachers, teachers and students of those schools for hosting us. First, we were at Tadpole Farm CE primary academy, one of our DBAT primary schools, where we interviewed teachers of RE. Then we interviewed teachers of Modern Foreign Languages at Oliver Tomkins CE primary school and finally last Friday we interviewed for a mathematics teacher at Shaw Ridge primary school. One of the really nice aspects of the last two days of interviews was the opportunity to use some space at Great Western Academy for our afternoon activities with the candidates – this gave us a wonderful opportunity to see a brand new school that is actually open, built by the same construction company, and get some idea of what it will be like to work at the Deanery in the first few years. Suffice to say we had 4 classrooms to ourselves, in a corridor that is not used at all yet, and on the first day of interviewing there, we did not actually see anyone else in the building, apart from the wonderful welcome we received at reception! We have been so impressed with all the staff that we have interviewed, and of course it goes without saying that the choices we have made have been really tough. I am really confident that those who have been selected will complement each other very well and will form a fantastic team. I am passionate about recruiting teaching staff who are outstanding teachers with deep, expert subject knowledge and as soon as we are able, we will let you know a bit more about those who we have appointed.
The Deanery building is moving on fast and this week I am getting on with the important task of choosing furniture and perhaps more importantly making sure all the signs in the building point the right way. We have designed smart ‘way-finding’ signs to point out where each department in the school is, which way the toilets are, where the lecture theatre is and so on. It is a pretty complicated task, as most of the design has to be done from the architects’ drawings, so tomorrow I am going to walk round the building again, just so I can be sure that we get things in the right place. I already know that I am going to have to choose my footwear carefully when the school is open. I must admit, I do not think I will be wearing my lovely heels at work quite so often. I know it has become fashionably acceptable on the London Underground to slip a pair of trainers on with your smart business suit, I may have to resort to the same when walking round the school! Some of the corridors are VERY long and it is a VERY big school. Just to reassure Year 6 who are coming up in September though, do not worry, we will make sure no-one gets lost in those first few weeks and we will help everybody find their way round.
You will perhaps have seen the tweets this weekend about the fantastic new footbridge being delivered yesterday. It is really great to see how the community is starting to take shape now, with the new gastro-pub being so popular it is really hard to book a table there! The houses will soon start to go up and I am sure before we know it Wichelstowe will be one of the most popular places to live in Swindon.
And finally, a word about how important it is to find moments of calm in all this busy-ness. I hope you enjoyed some pancakes last Tuesday and last Wednesday we marked the start of Lent, a period of refection and preparation for Easter. As Christians we often get asked about giving something up for Lent, indeed some people like to do this, and I have been known in the past to give up crisps for Lent (which incidentally for me is really challenging). But this year I have decided to be more ‘strategic’ with my Lenten promises. I am trying out a new method of working which I hope will enable teachers at the Deanery to keep a better work-life balance. And I am making sure that I spend less time on my phone and more time reading my book (I have actually deleted all my games from my phone and have made sure I always have my book with me in my handbag so in those spare 10 minutes I often have before a meeting I can read instead of playing Crossy Road!). We have a real duty to look after ourselves, because as Christians we believe we are created by God and have a real part to play in the world if we live life in all its fullness. We cannot do this if we are overwhelmed by work and too busy to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. So, I hope you will share this Lenten journey with me, spending less screen time, sharing precious time with friends and family and finding more time to be out walking in the fresh air and beautiful countryside all around us (and of course for me is being out with my gorgeous 3 dogs).