3 things that are creating excitement across our trust
3 academies in the trust and each one living through an exciting story. It’s a good time to be the CEO of the Trent Academies Group – but then when isn’t it?
Let’s go to Farnborough first. Last night The Clifton Awards took place at the academy. Former England footballer Jermaine Jenas – one of Clifton’s own – and local MP Lilian Greenwood presented the prizes. It was a special night. Work such as this has led to Farnborough being shortlisted for the Department for Education’s Character Award. It’s a great honour and a tribute to the work that is taking place on a daily basis to raise aspiration and to ensure everyone is equipped with the traits required to lead happy and successful lives.
And then Arnold Hill where the new building is almost complete. Groups have been given tours and there is a real belief that it is a game changer. The upper school is long past its sell by date and the bulldozers are ready to move in. The new building is special. State of the art classrooms, a theatre and a sports hall are included. Arnold Hill pupils will have a very different experience from September.
And finally Rushcliffe where a consultation is underway with the community about plans for the new Arts/Languages block. The money has been made available by the government and it is hoped that planning permission will be granted. When combined with the recently opened Sixth Form centre the new block will transform not only the appearance of the school but also the learning environment for pupils. The second reason for excitement at Rushcliffe is the announcement from the TES that it has been shortlisted for the Secondary School of the Year Award. Only 6 on the list. Quite an honour.
At each academy teams of people are doing their very best to create the best possible life chances for young people. At the moment examination pressures dominate everyone’s lives. I really hope that there is time to reflect upon the great moments that each academy – and therefore the Trent Academies Group – is living through.
And outside the sun is shining.
14 days to go. The big Awards night of the year approaches.
So the Oscars, BAFTAS and PFA Footballer of the Year evenings have been and gone. The big one gets ever closer. On Thursday May 26th at The Farnborough Academy the first ever Clifton Awards night will be held. Trent Academies Group and the Aquinas Foundation are working together to recognise young talent in the Clifton area. Match of the Day pundit, and former England footballer, Jermaine Jenas and Lilian Greenwood MP will present prizes to children between the ages of 10 and 13. Hopefully the world now knows that the Trent Academies Group strapline is “Everyone will be given the chance to shine brightly” and the evening will reflect this with awards being related to the Arts, Sport and, of course, academic achievement. Each primary school in the area has been asked to nominate potential prize winners and a panel of judges will decide who the winners are. Actually, just being nominated means you are a winner. There will be fierce competition. Jonathan Ross couldn’t make it so the event will be compered by Mr. Ben Chaloner, esteemed headteacher at Farnborough.
This is the first of a whole series of events organised across the three academies in the group. Rushcliffe, Arnold Hill and Farnborough will each have their own awards evenings which involve prizes being awarded for a whole range of subjects as well as for making positive contributions to their academy and community. Anyone who has ever received an award – and most people haven’t – will tell you the memory of public recognition never goes away. I got a runners up medal when my primary school lost the 6 a side final on corners – corners ?!- in 1969. That’s about as far as it went. Looking forward to others enjoy the day.
Jez goes 1st. Who’s next ?
Earlier this week the mould was broken. An item appeared on the Blog that wasn’t written by me. And a fine piece it was too. Jez Maurice Smith explained a project based learning idea which will be launched in September 2017 at Arnold Hill. A year of planning lies ahead. It will be good when it arrives. I really hope that others will follow Jez’s lead and send through articles- short or long ones – which inform the 400 employees of the Trust, the thousands of parents and pupils as well as the outside world about life within the Trent Academies Group. There is so much happening. Please share your experiences and ideas.
And what of my week ? Since I last contributed to the Blog there has been a lot of sport going on. The Under 15 County Rugby Final took place last Thursday. In wet and windy conditions Rushcliffe edged out Farnborough in an exciting contest. The TAG derby. Both sides played well. There is real rugby talent across the academies. Last night I watched Rushcliffe lose 2-0 in the South Notts. Under 12 Boys’ final and tonight Rushcliffe are in the Under 15 Boys’ Final at the City Ground. I am setting off as soon as I’ve finished typing. I am also looking forward to watching the girls play in two high profile finals in the next couple of weeks.
The line that motivates all of us in the Trent Academies Group is that “everyone will be given the chance to shine brightly”. This applies to sport as much as academic study. I have seen so many examples of young people flourishing in education because of the chance they have been given to excel in sport. I see it happening all the time at Arnold Hill, Farnborough and Rushcliffe.
I’d better dash, I don’t want to miss the kick off.
Project based learning: Jez Maurice Smith from Arnold Hill Academy says ……
“Remember to lift your head and take in all that’s going on in the classroom”.
A frequent piece of advice that I give teachers that I work with. It’s all too easy to get stuck head down moving from group to group with questions, guidance and intervention. In doing so the needed help and direction can so easily be missed. So just like on an arduous hike, don’t forget to take your eyes off your feet and take in the vista.
Last June I was challenged to design and deliver a Learn2Learn, cross-curricular course taught by a mixed team of subject staff. All I knew was that I didn’t want to simply deliver a set of worksheet driven, skills sessions. The learning had to have a reason... Keep your head up.
By chance I came across the charity Friends of Chernobyl’s children. They foster children from Belarus for a month long medical respite visit for 5 years. A month in the UK is life extending to them as they grow up in a country affected by a disaster 30 years ago in a country that wasn’t their own. Head down and looking at my feet I might of missed this. Suddenly the course was born. We had a reason and a purpose. Y7 now study their situation and their circumstance through all the different curricula. We’ve learnt about the radiation, debated the ethics of nuclear power. Explored historical sources, learnt some Russian and written poems about the disaster. Why? The answer is simple because this is the life of the 13 ten year olds that we are raising money for. The 13 that want to spend a day in our normal lessons in June. The children whose life is so very different to our own.
The teachers of Project Based Learning are not experts in all, they are role model learners. My teachers take risks, learn with their students and endlessly amaze with their creative delivery of the course. They love it.
Half full or half empty that my favourite and most challenging learning and teaching should come from a cataclysmic disaster. Whichever, my message remains simple. Keep your head up and find the learning opportunities around you.
Jez Maurice Smith
Enterprising young people
Last night I attended the Nottinghamshire final of the annual Young Enterprise competition at Nottingham University. I try to go every year. It’s an inspiring evening. Rushcliffe has reached the final – as they do most years. They didn’t win this year but did earn the Environmental Award. The Sixth Formers involved had come up with the idea of making candles with special messages at the base and these messages only emerge when the candle has burnt down. Ingenious.
The overall winners were The Minster School. They had a similarly clever idea which involved creating a selection of jars with different contents in them. Very clever. The Becket School team had produced a book about the different foods that can be found in Nottingham- “Flavours of Nottingham”, Nottingham Girls High School were marketing a mug which could have messages written on the side, East Leake Academy set themselves up as Urban Gardeners and Ashfield School had set up a system which meant mobiles could be charged easily. Splendid ideas.
I was particularly impressed by the way the students approached the whole experience. Their very professional presentations explained how the idea had emerged, how they had worked as a team/company, how they had overcome problems and how they had learnt new skills. Each team was excellent. Any of them could have won. Once again I was left with a feeling that when young people are given the chance to do something demanding they respond superbly. This was a real life challenge and the students dealt with it remarkably well. The future of our society appears safe in their hands. And thanks to the advisors – the two Davids who give up lots of time but they want to. It’s appreciated.
Victoria Wood RIP
There have already been a lot of high profile deaths in 2016. Johan Cruyff was probably my biggest sporting hero. Sad to see him go. However the announcement that Victoria Wood has died aged 62 is particularly upsetting for me. The fact that she was one of the most famous Lancastrians – along with Morrissey and Freddie Flintoff – is part of it. It’s always nice to see someone from the same neck of the woods become successful.
But the thing I really liked about Victoria was her ability to help us smile and laugh at ordinary things. I first recall her in Wood and Walters in the early 80’s playing the part of a disaffected Liverpudlian school girl. I’d just started teaching and it all rang so true. Later I saw her in concert a couple of times. She was hilarious in a very self deprecating way. She was able to tell us about how she saw the world and the amusement that it brought her. It was rarely the big things – usually little things that might pass by unnoticed.
I’m not suggesting we should go around laughing at life all the time. There are serious things to be done and decided. However, the passing of Victoria has made me further appreciate the value of a bit of humour in making life more enjoyable for the deliverer and the recipient. The process of change that we are going through in education requires a sense of humour at times. I hope we can all remember that amid the tension.
Here end Radio 4 Thought for Day!