Achievement across the trust
A school is judged by examination results. I believe there is so much more to a great education than a set of GCSE and A level results but fully understand that it is easier to analyse exam results than confidence, empathy and resilience. So examination results do matter enormously to schools - and to students. Of course they do.
Having looked at the GCSE performance at our three academies over the last three years there is a lot to be impressed by. Take English for example. At each academy the results have improved. I have seen the teams acquire stability. Good leadership makes such a difference. At Rushcliffe Lauren and her team have managed to build upon the successes of previous years. Last year 90% achieved a level 4 in language. At Farnborough Dave and his squad have lifted achievement from only 19% achieving a C in 2015 to 47% at level 4 last year and better anticipated this year. The quality of teaching over the last 2 years has improved hugely. And at Arnold Kathrine has brought a level of confident , informed leadership that has helped the team improve English results significantly. Last year 81% achieved level 4 or higher in English. A big shift from 61% in 2014.
I could easily have chosen another subject. Go into a merged trust feeling confident about the quality of teaching in the Trent Academies Group and the impact it has.
Chief Executive Officer
The TAG has achieved a lot
When I reflect upon the last four years it becomes clear that we have a lot to be proud of. There are many trusts that haven't come close to getting the things in place that we have. Here are 5 to start with. I'll return to this theme over the next few weeks no doubt as I prepare to exit stage left.
1. Assemblies across the trust are impressive. Twice a week well planned and imaginative presentations are delivered to attentive audiences across the 3 academies.
2. Everyone knows our strapline - yes, everyone should be given the chance to shine brightly.
3. There are lots of shared CPD events. Headteachers have met fortnightly,senior leaders have met termly, the whole trust has met annually, there are a variety of leadership programmes and newly qualified teachers meet three times in a year. Last night a training programme about mental health first aid started with people from across the 3 academies involved. Sharing matters.
4. The Arts and Sports staff have worked together to create some memorable events and both are high profile at each academy.
5. Links with employers are strong at each academy. Farnborough probably leads the way but there's a lot happening across Rushcliffe and Arnold Hill too. Caroline Tomlinson has done a great job in pulling this together- and it's led to awards.
I am unapologetic in saying that a rounded education is so important. My understanding is that the Spencer Academies Trust share this belief so the light can continue to shine.
Variety is the spice of life
I've had a very varied last week. I spent 3 days at the Hay Festival. It's always stimulating. I saw talks about HS2, early onset dementia, feminism, being in a coma, captaining a cricket team and OFSTED. Yes, I know. Paying £7 to witness an interview with Amanda Spielman was an odd thing to do. She says all the right things and wants to capture all that's best about schools but it appears that lack of funding means they can't really go much further than to let the data drive the system. I'm not about to start a campaign for more money for OFSTED but it is a pity that there can't be a deeper view of how a school is performing.
On Saturday I saw the Rolling Stones live in Coventry. Quite remarkable. 74 year old Mick Jagger bounces around the stage like he's 22. I'm now questioning my decision to retire. Well not really. Just looking more closely about how I can re-emerge as an energised force. Perhaps the first thing I should do is to track down Mick's doctors.
On Monday I spent some time at the home of the Leicester Tigers with some of the Farnborough lads. A long time since I was at Welford Road. Lots has changed over the last 30 years. And a great experience for the boys.
And next week the World Cup starts. Another World Cup? Is it really 4 years since the last humiliation?
The Clifton Awards
GCSE results haven't risen as much as would have liked at Farnborough. Not yet anyway. But anyone not involved with the academy needs to know that some amazing - not a word I use very often - work has been happening over the last few years which has made a real difference to lives.
Rugby success, Drama introduced, visits for all of Key Stage 3 to London, Stratford and Derbyshire, theatre visits, projects linking groups of students with big employers (East Midlands Airport, British Gypsum, Crowne Plaza and NTU), Photography displays at the National Portrait Gallery, mentoring by the local MP, seminars with footballers. And so it goes. Interest from OFSTED minimal. They're wrong. It all matters so much. It all helps to build confidence.
Last night the 3rd Clifton Awards were held. Lillian Greenwood MP and a poet called Rhythmical Mike presented awards to children aged between 9 and 13 from across the Clifton Family of Schools. Ben Chaloner compered - he's so Jonathan Ross - and Julia West organised it all - remarkable one woman show. It was sponsored by the Aquinas Foundation.
Will the event make a difference to lives? Yes. Interesting to hear Geoff Barton, General Secretary of ASCL, this morning on the news talking about the need to attract and retain the best teachers and leaders in areas less enthused by academic education. I agree. So let's encourage and praise.
Well done Farnborough staff - and thanks.
Not a rehearsal
Last week I went to my friend's "Celebration of a Life" service in Leicester. She died at 58 after spending 5 years dealing with cancer. She was a wonderful woman. The most positive of people who just got on with things. I met her in 1982 and know her husband, 3 daughters and 2 grandchildren really well. Everyone will miss her. But in the room there was a feeling that she had inspired us all. Everyone was talking about the fact that in the last few years she'd learnt Spanish, visited Peru 5 times on her own, had trained as a yoga teacher, climbed hills and been a great friend, mum, grandma and partner.
And underlying our conversations was a view that whatever we choose to do with our lives we should commit fully and enjoy the experience. Because it's not a rehearsal.
Just thought I'd say that. Enjoy the weekend.
Change is never easy. Whenever a way of doing things is questioned human beings become uneasy. No one said that merging with another trust would be easy. The 400 members of staff currently operating under the label of the Trent Academies Group are bright people. They work in systems they largely understand and not surprisingly that feels comfortable.
The suggestion that TAG merges with Spencer Academies Trust might make some people feel excited, some a bit anxious and some relaxed. I hope the visits from Spencer staff have provided helpful insights into the future. They are people who want to embrace what's going well at the three TAG academies. They also want to help improve things that aren't going so well. I think most people would say that the creation of our trust has not damaged what previously existed and hopefully many improvements can be seen. I assume this experience will be repeated.
I'm sure things will improve under the new banner. Much will stay the same. Some elements might change. But they would have changed anyway. That's life.
A group of us have visited three schools which have already been absorbed into the Spencer Trust, including George Spencer Academy. The people we spoke to acknowledged some tweaks to the way they operated but it seemed that change had been slow and logical. There hadn't been any crass decisions with change imposed just to make a mark and the Headteachers continued to play the key role in leading the school.
As I go through my last term as CEO of the Trent Academies Group I'll continue to provide updates and insights. I hope my reader will find them helpful!