And now, the end is near and so I face the final curtain
Into the last week as CEO of the Trust. Lots of " this is the last times " being experienced. The last Rushcliffe Awards evening. The last Farnborough Awards evening. The last visit to Arnold Hill. The last meeting of the Farnborough Employers Support Group. And so it goes on. Lots of great memories. So many people wanting the best for youngsters.
I've been peppering Twitter with pictures of me. An ego gone mad ? No. I want to get across the richness of life across our trust and the quality of the people. We've achieved a lot and I'm so proud to say it's not been all about exam results- thought they have improved at each academy over the last 3 years. I love the fact that Shrutee and her team took 20 Farnborough pupils camping at Wollaton Hall, that there's a Rushcliffe Music trip to Spain , that Arnold Hill Sports Day was inspiring ( did Kevin Callaway take part in the relay ? ) and that Farnborough Years 7-10 went on "free" trips to London, to Scarborough, to Stratford and to the Peak District. All these activities take time and energy. Nothing happens without enthusiasm. And all these things will stick in the memories of those taking part.
I'm wearing my bright yellow "shine brightly" tie with pride for the rest of the term- even though my wife tells me it's a shocker and an ex- Holgate colleague has warned against it saying " have you forgotten you're from Wigan ".
It's coming home
England were better than usual. I actually sent a message to a friend at half time saying "Can't remember the last time I enjoyed watching England play as much as I have in the that half ". And then it changed. Such is life. There was something approaching unity across England for a week or two despite the ongoing attempts of our political leaders to create chaos. But that's all over now and all we've got is a heatwave and a visit from Donald Trump. We live in very strange times.
And so I look at the smaller things for sanity. The Battle of the Bands at Rushcliffe (I was an underqualified judge), the summer concert at Farnborough (dominated by "The Greatest Showman") and memories of the abseiling at Arnold Hill. People doing what they can to create positivity.
France? Croatia? I think I'll be Croatian on Sunday. Will Donald have gone home by then?
Is football coming home?
I'm a football obsessive. There, I've admitted it. However I've not always warmed to the England team. I was 7 in 1966. My memories are blurred but I recall the final goal and the happiness that followed. I do very clearly remember going to an event in Cheshire in 1969 when Bobby Charlton was the Guest of Honour and a film of the whole match was shown.
1974 and 1978 were important years. England failed to qualify for the World Cup and I became Dutch. Johan Cruyff was my hero. What a player. In fact the whole squad seemed peppered with smart, creative people. Since then England have qualified and have regularly disappointed. The joke in our house is that I support England for a week and when they go out I become Phil Van der Crompton.
But this year - no Holland and England are in the quarter finals with a seemingly relatively straightforward run to the final (I know..). Last night I watched Skinner and Baddiel on YouTube. It just might be "coming home" because England haven't yet played well and are in the last 8. If I've got hope it’s because Southgate and Kane seem like smart, creative people. Is England becoming Dutch? Where's my bike?
Now don't lose to Sweden lads. Johan would be appalled if you did.
It's great isn't it. Like another country. Radio Nottingham phoned on Tuesday to ask if I'd talk on air about how we dealt with it. Luckily I missed the call because I'm not sure what I'd have said.
I love the sun but I know how difficult it is to teach in our buildings. If there was air con everywhere all would be fine but instead we have "intelligent" ventilation at Farnborough and Arnold Hill - though it often doesn't seem that smart - and largely 1960's systems at Rushcliffe. Designing buildings in England faces the challenge that heatwaves like this are so rare. Is it worth spending heavily on air con when most of the time we are complaining that the weather is miserable? I imagine that this week the answer is a resounding yes.
And then there's the uniform. Should it be abandoned for the duration of a heatwave? At what point does it become too hot to wear a blazer? A tie? Long trousers? It's easy to stop re-enforcing the rules but not so easy to pull it back. Making decisions isn't easy when it comes to the weather. I won't miss the questions about uniform during the heat and whether to open or not in the snow.
Hope you can see why I'm quite relieved to have missed the Radio Nottingham debate. It won't be long before we are back in Nottingham after our week of being Naples.
Having finished writing these comments I’ve seen on twitter that Arnold Hill staff have been abseiling down the side of their building. That is some way to celebrate the sunshine.
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.