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.
I visited one academy in Nottinghamshire and the Headteacher told me that he had no interest in what happened beyond the fence. He saw that as a line and beyond that it was " nothing to do with me guv"- or words to that effect. This is what some people feared when academies appeared on the scene. Part of me sees why he wouldn't want to show any interest in the community. He couldn't control it. In theory he could control what happened on the site. The results were good, behaviour good. He was doing his job. Untouchable.
But it's such a shame. Communities were built around schools. They remain one of the few places where people are able to connect. They provide a shared topic of conversation. They have expensive facilities that should not be accessible for a short period of time.
Unfortunately pressures of accountability mean less and less interest is being shown by academies in the communities that surround them. PFI projects are part of the problem. The buildings belong to the academy for a relatively short amount of time despite the vast sums paid for the usage. Any extra use leads to enormous costs. In effect the buildings are rented and why spend extra money on renting the building for community use ? Money is scarce. So sites stand dark and unused for most of the time- beyond 7.00am to 6.00pm 195 days a year.
Our trust does want to engage with communities. Rushcliffe sports facilities are available for hire with the football centre thriving and hopefully we will have a new lettings system up and running in the near future. The Sixth Form befriending work is a wonderful example of community engagement. Arnold Hill is has had a Play Football operation on the site for some years. It is well used. A lettings arrangement is in place too. We believe the sites are for community use if it is at all possible and financially viable.
Farnborough is limited by the PFI project but we have worked with Field Sports Management to increase use of the site and next Thursday we host the second Clifton Awards. Jermaine Jenas and Lilian Greenwood will join us to recognise the sporting, academic and artistic abilities of children from 9-13 across the community. It was a great event last year and this year will be just as good. Academies are there for communities and it is a privilege to have the chance to serve those communities. If you have a spare hour on Thursday evening please come to Farnborough for the awards event. It lifts the spirits.
Careers and Enterprise Company
I spent Wednesday and Thursday morning in Sheffield at the very impressive Institute of Sport. I was almost tempted to try out the indoor track but common sense prevailed. I was there for the Careers and Enterprise Company annual conference. 800 people from schools and business were there to share thinking about how young people can be best prepared for what awaits when they leave school. There does seem to be a wind of change blowing through the system. Sir John Holman from York University spoke at the conference. He carried out an international enquiry and concluded that "Good careers guidance is the key to social mobility". The world is peppered with people who received little or no careers guidance. Sometimes they ended up in the right job. But.....
Sir John's report led to what are known as The Gatsby Benchmarks. These say that all good carers provision should have:-
- A stable careers programme
- Learning from Labour Market information
- Systems to address the needs of each pupil
- Links between curriculum learning and careers
- Encounters with employers and employees
- Experiences of workplaces
- Encounters with FE and HE
- Personal guidance
I have always believed that young people need their eyes opening to the vast array of jobs that exist - and might exist - in the world. We then have a duty to develop their confidence to a level at which they feel able to apply for jobs that suit their skills, interests and personalities. And, of course, we should show that the curriculum is more relevant than many pupils think by asking employers to help us set up work related projects.
The conference was stimulating as was the school leader event that followed. There is a growing understanding that the system hasn't been working and that we need to do things differently. The Trent Academies Group strategic objective says that "we will prepare our young people to be the most employable in the country". The Board was certainly right to put this in the strategic plan. Engaging fully with the Careers and Enterprise Company makes sense. It can only help us to accelerate the change.
How the trust is governed. Read on to find out more....
Last night we held a Governors United session at Rushcliffe. Governors from each of the three academies spent two hours getting to know each other and finding out more about how trust governance operates. It was an important event because we have a number of new governors and also because a really impressive model of governance is emerging.
Andrew Pickin is Chair of the Trust for the rest of 2017. He explained the roles of members, trustees (sometimes called Directors) and governors played a part in the organisation. Governors then discussed 15 situations and agreed which tier was responsible for each action. This seemed to bring light to the darkness. It is hard to underestimate the confusion that was created in 2010 and it has taken some time to settle. We are in a strong place now.
Vanessa Roper gave everyone an update on the new GCSE and Progress 8. Making that complexity straightforward is by no means easy. Vanessa did it very well.
Angela Brown demonstrated the National Governor Association website. It has lots of really helpful information and governors across the trust can access it for free. It seems there are no prizes to be awarded for the first Governor to complete all 49 training units. Simon Massarella is still favourite to get the full set!
And I talked about the Trust strategy. It's important that I'm not the only voice keeping the strategic objectives high profile. So here they are : Maximise Achievement, Leaders United, The most employable people, Appreciating talent, Financially secure, Legally sound and The TAG 10. Please memorise and broadcast.
A very pleasant evening with people who generously contribute their time and skills without charge. I'm grateful to them.