Summary of 2017
Donald Trump, David Davis, OFSTED, Andy Murray's injury, Wigan relegated.
Shows and trips, links with businesses, enthusiastic staff all over the place, optimism and Wigan top of the League 1.
Bring on 2018.
Thanks everyone. And have a good holiday.
As Noddy Holder the Bard of the Black Country screamed "It's Christmas".
5 things to be proud of
People in education get hit with sticks too often. I see people trying hard to get the best for children. Day after day, year after year. Here are just 5 things I've seen over the last term that show this in action:-
- I went to the Arnold Hill Showcase last night. It was great. Angus's rendition of "The street where you live" was a classic moment. These things don't just happen. They need organising. They need time. They need energy. Next week the Farnborough and Rushcliffe concerts will be wonderful. Thanks to all involved.
- The Farnborough staff have bounced back from the OFSTED setback with a remarkable team spirit. Resilience come live. 700 young people turn up regardless of the views of inspectors.
- The Arnold Hill staff have spent most of the term waiting for an OFSTED visit. It's draining. Will the call come today? Tomorrow? It came. People arrived. People left. 1500 young people still left to teach and guide.
- Rushcliffe looks like a building site. Lorries, cranes, dust and noise. Where do we park? Again - everyone just gets on with it. It's an inconvenience.
- Clubs and after school activity keep going after school despite illness, tiredness, dark nights. Drama, choirs, football, rugby, science, reading........ On it goes.
I like people. They keep doing their best. Thanks.
What is essential learning?
Apparently Westminster School is setting up 5 schools in China. They will be teaching the Chinese curriculum. Now that's a challenge. A real challenge. I got the impression that English teachers will be delivering it. Harder by the second.
Teaching the English curriculum presents enough challenges. I've often spoken and written about relevance. It's not easy to set a curriculum that includes the knowledge that an education person "should have" and the knowledge that a person needs to move successfully through "real life". This week I was in a class in which some Year 9 pupils were finding out about Macbeth and his motivations. They weren't the best readers and were struggling to grasp the nuances. It isn't easy of course. Please rest assured that I'm not saying we shouldn't teach Shakespeare. Of course we should. My concern is that sometimes we attempt it when the pupils aren't ready and that can put them off forever.
And perhaps the system does overvalue the merits of the Bard and undervalues the challenge of cooking a good meal, joining 2 pieces of wood, doing exercise, singing a song..... You get my point.
Who decides what matters? They don't always get it right. Best of luck in teaching the Chinese curriculum. Hope it's more logical.
Awards, re-unions and a request to OFSTED
Splendid evening at the Nottingham Post Education Awards on Wednesday. Delighted to see Laura Wainman from the Rushcliffe Sixth Form receive the Science Student of the Year Award. What a smart young woman. When the comperes Dino and Pete from CapitalFM heard she was also a fencer they - not sure which of the two - said "Good decision. Give the prize to the woman with the sword". It made me smile. Laura clearly has bright future ahead. And then, to cap it all, Steve Lewis was named Head Teacher of the year. A good night for the Trust. On a personal level I'm also pleased to say that the person who won the Inspirational teacher award was appointed by me at Bramcote Park 15 years ago. Where's all that time gone? Well done Richard Bateman.
The event was held at the Crown Plaza and I was delighted to be served by Ebenezer who left Farnborough last summer. He did well in his exams and was some rugby player. He's now at College and working as a waiter as a part time job. Had a lovely chat with him. A fine young man. And Farnborough produces a lot of them
I've spent the afternoon calling into lessons at Arnold Hill. Lots of good things happening. They are in that tortuous period when they await the call from OFSTED. I saw so much to suggest things have improved so much over the last two years. I hate to say it but I do hope the inspectors arrive next week. The sooner the better. Come on guys. Arnold Hill is well worth a look!
This week's blog is a bit of a ramble. I hope my 3 readers have found it worth a look.
I stopped at a petrol station on my way from Farnborough to Arnold Hill and bought some pasta with feta and tomato sauce. I ate it whilst listening to the Budget announcement by the Chancellor (unfortunately some of the sauce ended up on my tie - annoying, but another story).
The statement covered many bits of the way we live from electric cars to off shore tax and funding for nurses. I realised that I've followed announcements like this for several decades now. The focus used to be on how much would be added to the price of a pint of beer. It seems much broader now. But all of them are united by an attempt by a government to move the country forward. Is there a vision? Usually the decisions are brought about by practical issues they need to address in the short term but I think, perhaps generously, that most Chancellors have a view of what the world should be like.
In schools we plan every year and we aim to move closer to the promised land. Is there a vision? Well, there should be. I walked around Rushcliffe today and was struck by the fact that what we talked about 7 years ago with the staff, governors, senior leaders, pupils and parents has been achieved in lots of ways. Purposeful classrooms, well behaved children, refreshed buildings and systems that work. It wasn't always like it is now. Having a vision, then planning and then implementing the plans has worked. And it will work at Arnold Hill and Farnborough. Things take time. Each of our academies improves every year. We must remember that.
And now I'd better get my tie cleaned.
The story of our trust
In 2014 Rushcliffe was judged to be "outstanding" and we started to work with Farnborough School when it was put into special measures. In 2015 we formed the Trent Academies Group. The Farnborough Academy emerged from Farnborough School - same pupils, same building. In Jan 2016 Arnold Hill joined the trust when it was judged to be inadequate and to have serious weaknesses.
So much has happened since then. Each academy is better than it was. Rushcliffe has earned World Class status, Arnold Hill has moved from "serious weaknesses" to "requires improvement" and will hopefully be "good" soon. Farnborough hadn't been inspected as an academy. In September a team spent two days at the academy and after almost two months of deliberation has now produced a report. It's available on the Farnborough website http://www.thefarnboroughacademy.co.uk and will be public from Monday 20th November.
The report notes improvements that have taken place since January 2015. They don't make any reference to the preceding 9 months when we introduced a new school day, data systems that worked, a new senior team and lots of new teachers, a new behaviour management programme, a new attendance monitoring system and re-introduced trips and visits. As far as OFSTED is concerned this was activity under the banner of the Farnborough School not the academy. Seems a shame but rules are rules I suppose.
The improvements refer to better teaching, a safe and orderly environment, committed leadership, good links with employers and better care for vulnerable pupils. However they were concerned by the attendance - it dipped last year after 3 years of improvement, behaviour - specifically the number of exclusions and the GCSE results. In the end it's hard to avoid the view that the GCSE results and the associated Progress 8 figure were the biggest factors in influencing the OFSTED judgement.
Our response started some weeks ago. I'm there more of the time to support Ben and the team. They are an excellent group and I would trust them to lead any school. Steve Lewis has a high profile role in English and Maths, working closely with Gareth Summers and Vanessa Roper, and a former HMI has already visited to make sure we are on the right track.
There's so much going well at Farnborough. Good people working hard and caring. The GCSE results will improve, exclusions will come down and attendance will improve. Nobody said it would be easy - but it'll be worth it.