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.
Each of our three academies is different. Some trusts decide to impose a template -"it works at one place so it'll work everywhere". We don't. There are some aspects which we insist upon. Quiet, orderly assemblies - usually led by senior staff. That's not negotiable. There also has to be a behaviour management system which focuses upon sanctions and rewards. However we (and by we I mean the "Trent Academies Group") recognise that each school has its own history and personality. To ignore that creates huge problems and we haven't followed that route. This makes it trickier perhaps because if there is a weakness at one school and a leader from another is asked to move across for a while they have to spend time learning how the place operates. There won't be dramatic differences but there will be some. I'm delighted that some colleagues have moved from one place to another and made a big difference.
Take Dave Salter. English teacher at Rushcliffe for 10 years and moved to Farnborough. Doing a great job. Respected by the staff and pupils. Leon Jackson is leading Science at Arnold Hill having been Head of Science at Rushcliffe for a few years. He's immersed himself in Arnold Hill life and is making a big impact. Ben Chaloner, Alison Hallam and Richard White were highly respected members of the Rushcliffe staff and now work with Clare Watson in leading Farnborough with energy and imagination. They've been joined by Simon Ward for the rest of the year - and last year he spent two terms at Arnold Hill. And then Maria Collins and Vanessa Roper travel between sites on school improvement missions. Marian Beaumont, Saeed Latif, Angela Brown, Robin Harrison and Lee Roberts travel between sites ensuring HR, ICT, Finance, Site and Catering matters are under control.
So there is a lot of activity taking place and those with responsibilities across the sites have to adapt to new conditions and new people. Like me they don't expect sympathy but it's helpful if others are aware of the challenges faced. It's important that all 400 employees realise that the Board is totally committed to the objective of helping all pupils in the trust (4000 of them) achieve their potential and that will increasingly mean people will be asked to work across sites. Not only does it help children it also develops staff, broadens expertise and helps career development. But no one said it would be easy. Interestingly I was talking to someone from a major company with sites across the country and he was telling me about the importance of leaders seeing a problem at one site as a problem that faced them all. It's not only educational trusts that realise the power of the group in changing destinies.
I went to a Grammar School. We didn't have many great lessons. It was a plod through a curriculum that taught me things I've rarely needed. O levels and A levels in the bag I moved on into life. I was able to remember a lot of things and I suppose that helped as I moved into the world of work. Regular readers will be aware of my cynicism as to what the "powers that be" decide is worth learning. It was, therefore, with some amazement that I listened to the new boss of OFSTED Amanda Spielman at last week's ASCL conference. The HMCI made a big deal of an education not being just about a set of examination results. I repeat - not just about a set of examination results. Hallelujah.
Now, I don't think this means that examination results suddenly don't matter. Of course they do. Good GCSE and A level results are a passport to a range of new opportunities. To do badly in examinations can be restrictive. But it's not the end of the world. And similarly if a school doesn't get sensational GCSE results there seems to be a new understanding that it's not necessarily a bad school. Those of us who have been immersed in all sorts of schools throughout our careers are fully aware that there are great teachers across the system. Great teachers who pupils will remember for ever. Teachers who make lessons interesting, who care about those in the class, who don't just follow systems, who think creatively about how to engage young people, who enjoy their job.
I've observed hundreds of lessons. Most are effective, some are disappointing and ineffective. A few are brilliant. I've seen children arriving in a lesson to be told they need to hide under desks because there's an air raid about to happen, food being prepared and cooked to high quality restaurant specs, role playing a debate in Stalin's government, hot seating a South African racist before Mandala's release, maths competitions, short story writing, recreation of a French breakfast experience and a film made by a teacher about the Peasant's revolt in which he plays the lead role. Memorable. And great.
Under Sir Michael Wilshaw there was a move towards the idea of OFSTED not having a set way of teaching. This seems to be continuing on Amanda Spielman's watch. When a school is under OFSTED scrutiny it's hard to let go of past expectations but the more great lessons there are the better. If you think you are about to teach one please let me know. I'd love to watch!
However whilst great lessons are wonderful so are the regular good lessons which combine to ensure thoughtful planning, combined with sensible behaviour management and helpful feedback give pupils a positive experience. Don't stop doing that - just consider if you might do something a bit different now and again. OFSTED won't beat you up - and I'll be delighted. Welcome Amanda Spielman.