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.
Hull : City of Culture
I went to university in Hull. I really like the place. It's battered and bruised, as you'd expect of a former fishing port on the North Sea coast. This year it's the City of Culture and last weekend I met up with 7 old - in every sense of the word - university friends to see how it has embraced the opportunities the title brings. It was really interesting. The people who took off their clothes, painted themselves blue and walked around the city at dawn for an art project have been the highest profile news but across the city galleries and shops have popped up. Hull is trying hard and change is noticeable. I felt strangely proud of the place.
Philip Larkin was the librarian at Hull University for a long time. He was also one of the country's most famous poets. At Hull Paragon station there is a statue of him and some quotes from his poems are printed on manhole covers. My favourite lines were these :-
"Reaching for the world as all our lives do,
Reaching that we may give the best of what we are and hold as true
Always it is by bridges that we live."
As I drove back across the Humber bridge I reflected upon Larkin's words. Connections matter.
Election 2017 and new Twitter Account
I've started a new Twitter account. It's @Philcrompton23. It deals with employment and education matters. Nothing about Wigan Athletic or other such nonsense.
I'll be using it to share thoughts about the election. It won't be party political but it will try to ensure that education and employability issues are given little nudges. I imagine education will be in the top 5 topics raised but BREXIT and the NHS will no doubt be higher profile. Everyone involved in education should ensure that politicians are asked for their views on funding, the role of multi-academy trusts,recruitment and retention, grammar schools/secondary moderns, the curriculum changes......
There's a lot to be discussed and decided. I fear it could be sidelined. Do what you can when you can.
It's been an interesting week. Spent this morning talking with the MD of East Midlands Airport. He's keen to encourage links with the Trust. The two days at Ellis Guilford School were enjoyable too. Lots of positive things going on there.
And remember .......@Philcrompton23
Schools, academies .....
Spent some time at another school this week. Let's call it Mystery School. It was impressive. Great buildings, enthusiastic members of staff, informed senior leaders and interested governors (who don't get paid by the way). And the pupils - and there were lots of them - were smartly dressed and seemed polite and respectful. So a good school. I enjoyed my visit. It's a local authority school not an academy. Would you know? Not at all. It's had an individual nature for years and has done some innovative things. I never thought schools needed to be free of local authority control to be impressive - and I still don't.
However we live in a new era. Every year the money local authorities can access to support schools is reduced. The expectation is that all schools will become academies. Initially it was to be achieved before the end of this parliament but now it seems the target is unofficially moved to the end of the next one. The train seems unstoppable. So Mystery School is looking to become an academy and perhaps to join a trust. It's a big decision for the governors who admirably volunteer to help. I've been a Headteacher - and now a CEO- for a long time. I've interacted with lots of governors and continue to be impressed by the way they are prepared to wrestle with the big educational issues on behalf of their communities. If they didn't give up their time for free we would certainly notice a big difference.
I am increasingly pleased by the way our three academies are moving along. Rushcliffe, Arnold Hill and Farnborough have been working a triumvirate for over two years now. Staff and Governors are working effectively across the three and the trust is developing its own personality. This week pupils from the three academies met together at Arnold Hill for a Maths and English improvement conference. Things are happening. But there is still a lot of work to do in this ever changing educational world.
Lots going on at our three academies. Lots going on at Mystery School. Good people doing their best for young people. Long may it continue.
Enjoy the break.