A weekend of the Arts
Last Friday I saw Stewart Lee at the Royal Concert Hall. Not everyone will like him. I do and have seen him seven times at various venues. He's not just a comedian, he's an artist. Clever, creative and controversial. It was great way to spend a Friday evening. An artist who made me laugh and think - and frown in puzzlement.
On Saturday I went to see "Much Ado About Nothing" at The Globe in London. The theatre is quite a place to visit. The central bit only costs £5 per ticket I believe but it's standing only and if it rains you get wet. It threw it down with rain. I was in a covered balcony seat. The play itself is a bit trivial, more "chick flick" than Macbeth or Hamlet. But it was enjoyable none the less. Afterwards I found out that two of the lead roles were played by two people who went to De Lisle School in Loughborough and it once again ignited my belief that Drama and the Arts matter enormously in an education system. They should be nurtured and encouraged as they allow the development of traits that might otherwise lie dormant.
So to Music, Drama, Art and Dance teachers at Arnold Hill, Farnborough and Rushcliffe I say "You matter. Let's encourage the talent in our academies". And if anyone has spotted the new Stewart Lee in one of our academies please let me know - but don't ask me to teach him.
Many people won't know about the termly senior leader events that are held. They run from 4.30-7.00pm at one of the three academies. This week we held one at Arnold Hill. There were 24 Heads, Deputies and Assistant Heads present to focus upon raising achievement (First TAG strategic objective).
I made the point that up and down the country about 30% of young people fail to hit the benchmark of what the government considers to be a "good education". Across our trust we have broadly similar level of failure if we look at those who achieve the EBAC or 5 higher grades including English and Maths. That's a lot of people who don’t "make the grade". Of course a good education includes many other elements but they aren't as easily measured and we will continue to be judged on the things that a number can be attached to.
I then shared what I had found out on my study visit to Nashville. Central to this was the role of employers in helping find solutions which might engage children more fully and prepare them better for the world of work (Third TAG strategic objective). This has been crucial to the improvements in Nashville over the last 10 years.
Caroline Tomlinson updated everyone about the employability projects that had taken place across the trust in the last year. 27 of them. Each was intended to energise aspects of the curriculum that might appear a little dry by linking to challenge set by a real employer. There were some good signs but further commitment is needed if this is really going to illustrate how what is learnt in schools has any relevance to life beyond. The work will go on this year with the added dimension of an increased emphasis upon team work. Employers constantly mention how important being able to work in teams is. Let's emphasise it in lessons was the message.
Emily Dalton and Ella Strawbridge concluded the event by explaining how Arnold Hill's involvement in PIXL had made a difference. There are hundreds of opportunities and resources available and at least some of the Arnold Hill improvements have been driven by access to them.
So two and a half hours that opened eyes to different techniques to engage perhaps unwilling young minds. I have spent my career trying to help young people fulfil their potential. Hopefully we can l do this as Leaders United (Second TAG strategic objective).
Let's talk about you
The staff performance management process - some call it appraisal - is underway. Over the next month everyone should have an interview with a line manager in which last year's objectives are reviewed. It's a great opportunity to discuss how the year went and to share successes. Line managers will be expected to look carefully at the objectives and to offer constructive criticism if required but they should also give you the chance to talk about what went well. There aren't too many opportunities in a year that allow us to be centre stage as individuals. This is one and I hope you find the experience helpful. If there is something that you would like to do please flag it up.
And line managers.... please ensure there is a healthy dialogue about the development of the person you are reviewing. It shouldn't be a chore for anyone. We have so many capable people who are eager to develop further and to contribute. The performance management system should recognise this. Later in the year we'll put out a "survey monkey" to see how it's all gone.
That's the best word for the first week back. Optimism. Everyone is starting with a clean slate and we can write what we like on it. Not many career choices allow that fresh start. Footballers? We could compare us to them. The transfer fees are a little lower I suppose but every September there's a similar feeling of a new beginning. As a Wigan supporter I have to add that 2 of the last three seasons have ended in relegation - but the intervening year we celebrated winning the league!
Perhaps a farmer is a better comparison. Tend a crop for a year and then see what emerges at the end? It shouldn't be like that and in reality it isn't. Our work is not all about examination results at the end of 5 years. Everyone in education is looking to create a stimulating experience for young people which makes a contribution to them becoming caring, self-sufficient, creative and confident members of our society. If they have a string of top grades behind them then all the better but that is not the only way to gauge the effectiveness of a school.
I spent time at each of the three academies in the trust on Thursday and saw smiles and optimism all around. Great things will happen every day - and some things will get us down. That's life. Let's ensure that we work as a big team to nurture the pupils in our care and help them grow into wonderful adults. And if they get top grades that's even better.
Optimism is the word. Great start.
Chief Executive Officer
A blog to end the year
The numbers reading my blog have been variable. Sometimes sensational numbers, sometimes me and my mother. I haven't written anything for the last month in the hope that you have started to miss my musings!
I have to write something to summarise how I feel after this week's evening events. I've been to awards evenings at each of the three academies. Each very different. Each uplifting. I think the formal recognition of achievement in its many forms is crucial and I much prefer the small scale events that we hold to the 3 hour monsters that some schools organise.
Tuesday night was a bit different in that I went to the Contemporary Art gallery in the city. A group of Farnborough pupils had been working with Katherine Green, a photographer with a national reputation, and the National Portrait Gallery. They had created a superb set of photographs which captured the spirit of Clifton. Over 100 people assembled to see the launch of the exhibition and the pupils were, quite rightly, treated as celebrities. I think everyone there felt proud to be associated with Farnborough. If you get the chance do call in to see the exhibition. It's there for the next week and moves to The National Portrait gallery in October.
So at the end of the term I'm feeling more than satisfied that we as a trust have worked together to provide a great, wide ranging education for the young people in our care. I see staff with a real commitment to the cause and pupils appreciating their work. Working in education brings its challenges but also brings many rewards.
I do hope everyone has found satisfaction in their work over the last 12 months. As ever it's flown by. The next 6 weeks will go quickly too. I hope the sun shines brightly over the summer and that we are able to re-charge batteries ready for a wonderful 2017/8.
Thanks everyone. Have fun.
The power of good people
I was brought up near Manchester so I have to mention what happened at the Arena on Monday night. The accents of the people interviewed are the accents of my friends and relatives back in the North West. It feels so very close to home. But then to parents who have collected children from events it also felt close to home. To young people who have been to shows in similar arenas it felt personal too. What happened has affected everyone. Truly horrific.
We cling to the fact that in times such as these goodness emerges. It's always there of course but it becomes more obvious in the darkest of times. So many people have shown kindness and gone beyond what it expected. It does lift the spirits to see it happening.
Anyone who's met Lilian Greenwood the MP for Nottingham South would say she's a good person. She has worked extremely hard for her constituency for the last 7 years and, in my view, should be re-elected with a landslide. Her quality was shown last night when she attended The Clifton Awards at Farnborough. She said she would present the awards two months ago and stuck to her word. This was despite the date clashing with the hustings in Clifton. It meant she had to ask someone to stand in for her and debate with the people trying to oust her from the seat. If she hadn't attended the Clifton Awards it would have been diminished. I'm grateful that she missed the hustings and I hope it works out for her. She's an excellent MP.
In the first week back after the break we are hosting some visitors from Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. At the last minute arrangements have had to be changed and I'm full of admiration at the way Aran Higgs based at Farnborough and Greg Vickers at Rushcliffe have stepped up to help ensure it goes well. Good people again. They're everywhere.
It'd be great if the good weather ran into next week but it's England so don't hold your breath.