Trust INSET day
On February 20th - the day after half term - we will be holding the second Trent Academies Group INSET day. This year it will be at Arnold Hill - a chance for everyone to see the excellent new building. Buses have been organised to transport people from Farnborough and Rushcliffe. They will pick up at 8.15am and return at 3.00pm. Those who live on the north of the city are welcome to drive to Arnold but there isn't enough parking at the site and street parking is all that can be expected. Sorry. I don't think anyone is having their day extended. Indeed most of us will have a shorter day than usual. There will also be lunch provided.
So that's the organisational side of things explained. Some will ask the questions "Why go to all this bother? Why can't we just stay at our academy and get on with things?". It's tempting to throw in the old L'Oreal line: Because you're worth it. And that is part of it.
The day will involve listening to speakers, engaging with other colleagues and hopefully having a few smiles. It's a chance to find out more about the trust of which you're a part and perhaps to feel more part of it. I really hope that support staff and teaching staff will find the activities helpful, informative and entertaining. The best organisations pull people together and develop a shared purpose. We can only do this once a year and that's why we want everyone to be there.
Yes... there are lots of things to do at base camps. There are lessons to plan, rooms to organise, meetings to be had, books to mark, displays to put up. However the Headteachers, the Senior Leaders and the Board agree that they shouldn't be the only ones to have shared trust experiences. Everyone is part of the Trust and on this one day we'll be together in one place sharing thinking and helping to make the Trent Academies Group a better organisation.
What did people do before they worked in education?
Before I became a teacher I was a trainee accountant for Touche Ross & Co in Leicester. My first auditing job was at a shipbuilders in Lowestoft in November. It wasn't glamorous. Six months I lasted before the call of a Spanish campsite was too loud to ignore. I emerged from a summer on the Costa Brava with a great sun tan and few Spanish words - and started teacher training the following Autumn. Any regrets about leaving accountancy? None at all. It wasn't for me.
In my role as CEO I'm grateful for the bit of financial understanding I gained a hundred years ago. I believe we are all products of the experiences we accumulate in life. I sometimes wonder what jobs and careers others have pursued before they entered the world of education. Off the top of my head I know of people who have experience of advertising, marketing, retail management, police work, social work, nursing and banking. There's even a pro-footballer and a boxer amongst our number.
Good start to 2017 it seems. The sun even shone in January. And hopefully all our pupils - and staff members - are going to shine just as brightly throughout the year (Apologies!).
Music matters: 3 events in a week
Three wonderful evenings in the last week. First off - Rushcliffe's Winter Concert. A mixture of the traditional , the strange (what was that Christmas tree like instrument that Mr Jones was playing ) and the exciting. Some real talent on show. Enjoyed it enormously.
On Wednesday I went to the Arnold Hill production of "Grease" (missing most of the televised Wigan v Newcastle match - but sadly not all!). I'm not sure how it could have been better. Great singing, amazing dancing, superb musicianship and technically superb. OFSTED look for outstanding. This was an outstanding production.
And Thursday took me to Farnborough for the Christmas concert. I look forward to this event every year. It means the festive season has started. 2016 didn't disappoint. The choir had pupils of many nationalities and when children from Lithuania, Nepal, Ghana and Nigeria each sang a couple of lines in their own language it was so moving. And then a rousing, sanitised version of "Fairytale of New York" closed the show and meant we can all say Christmas has begun.
All the pupils involved in the shows - and I estimate 200 - seemed to have a great time and I know the audiences did. Music connects and creates memories. Perhaps each school should be encouraged to record their last concert and show it to inspectors when they turn up. Or perhaps we should accept that inspectors will never truly capture the qualities of a school and just enjoy the fact that we know music matters and keep encouraging pupils to play, sing and perform. We are committed to ensuring everyone has the chance to shine brightly of course.
Happy Christmas everyone.
The power of an assembly
Assemblies matter. They are an opportunity to get across a clear message to big groups of pupils and we need to take them seriously if we want to embed a culture which reflects our values. Each of the academies makes a big deal of assemblies and we see some very special events. The EATZ assemblies at Rushcliffe set the standard. The concept of entering in silence, being welcomed by a senior leader, being addressed by a member of staff and then leaving in silence was a new one in 2010. Now it's normal.
The pupils have , over the years, listened to a wide range of "Thoughts for the Week" ranging from talks about leaders, inventions, charities, families, religions, wars, the alumini...... Hopefully most pupils take something from the assemblies. Even though they might not find it easy to admit at the time. I particularly enjoyed Mr. Summers talking about poetry earlier this term. I felt as if I was back at the Hay Festival.
At Farnborough the assemblies follow a similar pattern. They are a chance to sit quietly and reflect. Pupils don't speak in assemblies. They sit quietly and listen. Mrs. Hallam recently spoke about the importance of the community and how the academy needs to present itself positively to those who live in the area. Really interesting - and important. Farnborough pupils acquire information that enhances their lives from adults who have really thought through what they want to say.
This morning I attended an assembly led by Mr. Egan at Arnold Hill. It included some thoughts about how people use self help books to overcome barriers which prevent them from fulfilling their potential. He particularly discussed the effect of fear and our reluctance to challenge it. This led to Charlie from Year 13 talking about how she had overcome anxiety about performing on stage. And then she sang - quite superbly - "Hopelessly Devoted to You" from "Grease". It was a lovely experience for everyone involved. The power of the assembly.
And if you want to see a great show please get a ticket for "Grease" at Arnold Hill next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
So many impressive people
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Arnold Hill's new auditorium hosted the Ernehale Infants School Nativity play. I watched it on Wednesday. It was lovely. There must have been 50 children dressed as Mary, Joseph, shepherds and aliens. There was one little chap in a suit and bow tie. Not sure what his role was but he looked great. on the front row enthusiastic members of staff acted as prompts for the cast. The 300 plus parents and grandparents watching the show looked so happy and proud. It was memorable.
I'm sure some of those involved found aspects of the story difficult to accept but it didn't seem to matter. Innocent little children of all faiths, races and backgrounds were contributing to a community event. People were pulled together and enjoyed it. There aren't many examples of that happening these days.
Thanks to everyone involved with setting up the Ernehale Infants Nativity. It was wonderful.
And then on Wednesday night it was the Arnold Hill Year 11 Awards Evening. It was the first time this had happened. Year 11 at Arnold Hill is packed out with capable people and it was good to see some of them being recognised. I was asked to say a few words and in summary I said :
- Don't always take the easy option
- Don't ever think you know it all. Keep learning
- Find a job that you are passionate about.
- Have an interest / hobby
- Be happy. There are lots of ways to live your life. Don't beat yourself if Plan A doesn't work.
and at the end - having seen the pupils revive their awards - I had a 6th idea:
- Get the best jobs because if you don't there's a good chance someone less talented will. Believe.
Bright Lights of London
I've just returned from the Chamber Awards event in London. We were representing the East Midlands, having been selected as the organisation that is currently the most effective at developing partnerships with employers. It was a great evening. Unfortunately we didn't win but making it to the last 8 was pretty good.
There continues to be a lot going on across the trust to help our pupils become "the most employable young people in the country" (Strategic objective in TAG strategy). Our biggest priority at the moment is to ensure that every faculty has a project which links the curriculum to the world of work. Some great things in place but every Head of Faculty is aware of the need to make this happen. Sometimes the pupils are baffled about the reason for being expected to learn things and it's up to us to bring alive aspects of the curriculum. We can't be teaching things just so exams can be passed surely- and if we are then let's tell the government that it makes no sense.
Walking across London between 5 and 6 yesterday evening made me realise just how tranquil life in Nottingham is. The lights aren't quite as bright but the pace of life is better for the blood pressure.