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3 Governors’ meetings in 3 nights

This week my evenings have been booked up. I’ve been to meetings of the Governing Bodies at Rushcliffe (Tuesday), Arnold Hill (Wednesday) and Farnborough (Thursday). The meetings have ended around 8.00pm. I’m not complaining. It’s my job and, crucially, I get paid. But the governors don’t. They volunteer to give up around 10 evenings a year to interrogate the Headteachers and myself – but mainly the Headteachers – about the way their academy is operating. And they have to read a lot of documents before the meetings so they know the right questions to ask. It is important work and they do it for free. They have my admiration and gratitude.

Some of the questions they posed this week are:-

How will Rushcliffe cope with the increased numbers wanting a place in year 7?

Why was the lunchtime plan at Arnold Hill changed?

Will Farnborough’s GCSE results be better this year?

How did the Trent Academies Group INSET day go?

Is Arnold Hill having any trouble recruiting teachers this year?

How are children with reading difficulties being helped at Farnborough?

How was the new caterer at Farnborough selected?

What is the quality of teaching like at Arnold Hill?

Have teachers been moved across the trust at any stage?

What impact is the reduced funding having on Rushcliffe / Arnold Hill / Farnborough? (This keeps cropping up)

And so on.....

Each academy has a group of Governors who really care. Some are parents, some are members of staff, some are just interested members of the community. They visit the academies during the day, they meet parents, they meet pupils, they advise, they challenge things that puzzle or concern them and they congratulate as appropriate.

They keep us on our toes. And that’s how it should be.

Phil Crompton
Executive Headteacher

What sticks in your mind from school days?

Great lessons make a difference. A huge difference. We all recall teachers who changed our lives because they were interested, interesting, well organised and passionate about their subject. Let’s take that as read.

However, if someone asks what your best memory of school days is I’d be very surprised if anyone were to say “Mr. Crompton’s Geography lesson about Sao Paulo in 1992”. It was possibly a great lesson – but everyone experiences more than 4000 lessons in their secondary school life. What really stands out?

I do think some people might say “That trip Mr. Crompton organised to Wales in 1986”, “The time we won the Leicester City League with a last minute winner at Beaumont Leys – Mr. Crompton was our coach” or “ the weekend at Warwick University in 199 “. Life changing? perhaps. Life enhancing? Certainly.

For me the most memorable school moments were:-

  • A week in Paris. We stayed at a boarding school. Remember hearing Terry Jacks‘ “Seasons in the Sun“ being played at a flea market. How bohemian we were! Was forced to speak French to people. That was quite a challenge for a Wiganer.
  • Running in the final of the district athletics tournament in the 200 metres. I was second in the heat and third in the final. Not quite Usain Bolt but memorable.
  • Going to Southport Theatre to see “St . Joan.” Real actors, proper theatre. It all came to life.
  • A field trip to the Isle of Aran in the sixth form. Seeing real rock formations was such an advantage when it came to the A level Geology examination – and we had a few laughs too.

My point is simple. An education is a precious thing. We want to help children grow into well rounded, well qualified young people. Examination success is crucial in our world. But exam success is not everything. It’s so good to see exciting opportunities being offered to pupils across the Trent Academies Group. The pupils are grateful. And so am I.

Phil Crompton
Executive Headteacher

February 22nd 2016

It was a historic day for the Trent Academies Group. Almost 400 people assembled at The Farnborough Academy for the inaugural Trust Conference. I can’t pretend I wasn’t a bit nervous about it. There were lots of things that might have gone wrong – but none of them did. A fine example of team work. Buses arrived on time, hall set up perfectly, electrics worked well, refreshments in place and queues didn’t take too long. And the presentations, speakers and discussions seemed to go well and feedback suggest they were appreciated. I felt that the day worked. I will know more when the Survey Monkey evaluations have all been returned.

One thing I really hope is that every member of staff is aware of the challenges faced at each academy. I hope there is no sense of superiority anywhere in the Trust. We have quality people who are working hard at each academy. So many people trying their best to ensure that all our pupils get the chance to shine as brightly as possible. Only a tiny percentage of staff have experienced more than our academy and I am sure they recognise that each academy has its strengths – and areas it needs to develop. The work is never complete.

One of the Governors who attended – and I’m pleased so many did – said he worried a little about the use of the term “support staff”. He wondered if it was a little demeaning. Having asked a few members of the support staff I’m assured that it is fine and certainly better than “Non-teaching staff”. But if anyone has a better term please let me know. In my presentation I tried to get across the impact that enthusiastic and capable support staff have increasingly made over the last 20 years. It’s a different world to the one I started my career in and I certainly have deep gratitude for the work they do and how they do it. To those who have only known a world with support staff I say appreciate them, it was tough when they weren’t there.

And so hopefully the Trent Academies Group moves forward with greater unity. Contacts have hopefully been made and we are more aware of what we need to do to ensure our pupils – 4000 of them – have the best chance possible to access satisfying jobs.

Phil Crompton
Executive Headteacher

Twitter is interesting and helpful

Now that’s a statement I would never have made 3 years ago. I was far more likely to say “Who cares what someone had for breakfast?” or “Do I need to know that a person has been to the gym?” I look back with sadness at my ignorance. Brace yourself for the enthusiasm of a convert!

Twitter can be tiresome – but it does depend upon who or what you follow. If someone posts boring things then stop following them. Turn them off. They can trouble you no more. I find myself being directed to articles about education that can be helpful, link up with old friends (and most of my friends are now very old), get commentary from football matches and updates from newspapers about current affairs. It’s a veritable treasure chest.

And how can it help the Trent Academies Group? At the moment we have a mere 160 followers. Nowhere near enough. Rushcliffe Old Boy Dan Jarvis MP for Barnsley has 38,000. So every time Dan tweets a moderate size town gets the message. We’ve got work to do.

If you are a tweeter please follow @TrentAcadGroup. And re-tweet things. If you aren’t a tweeter please set up an account and tap into the wisdom that is shared by the contributors. Now that’s another problem the only wisdom that gets tweeted comes from me at the moment and anyone who knows me even reasonably well will appreciate the fact that we are in trouble if I’m the only source of wise words. Please help. You may have noticed that the Executive Headteacher’s Blog on the website has been renamed The Blog. If you have something to contribute please send it through. An event that’s happened or will be happening, a match report, a revision tip, a photograph......

We need to ensure the Trent Academies Group name is heard across the city, the county, the region, the world. Please contribute and help make our Twitter account something that’s worth following. Other Trusts are doing it and they don’t know any more than us.

Enjoy half term. See you at Farnborough on Monday the 22nd for :-

21st Century Employability

How Schools Can Help Prepare Young People for Tomorrow’s World of Work


Phil Crompton
Executive Headteacher

Teachers still changing lives

Last October I met up with some old school friends – and I mean old! We chatted about our memories of our days at Ashton-in-Makerfield Grammar School in the 1970’s. The memories flooded back of the teachers who put us off a subject for life – even now I tremble at the smell of sawdust – and those who inspired us. My friend David (now an accountant in the south of France spoke fondly of Mr. Grant, a Mathematician who encouraged him to study Maths at Oxford. He talked about the way Mr. Grant was passionate about his subject, pushed him to higher levels and simply believed in him. For a lad whose parents ran a corner shop that meant a lot. Without Mr. Grant what would have become of David. Who knows?

I have similar recollections of the impact of Mr. Rimmer. He had a crew cut and used to sing the hymns very loudly in assembly. But the main thing I recall is that he loved Geography. He told interesting stories about remote places on the other side of the world, explained how rocks were formed millions of years ago and helped us to understand how the great cities grew and functioned. He was a fascinating man. And, crucially, he recognised the fact that I had an interest in the subject and encouraged me to take it further. So I went to university. Without Mr. Rimmer I wouldn’t have set out on the journey that I’ve experienced over the last 30 years or so.

This week I’ve been meeting pupils at the three academies. I do it every half term. It’s been Year 9’s turn this week. Without much prompting they tell of the teachers who inspire them. They are still around I’m delighted to hear. And what do pupils across the Trent Academies Group tell me that makes a difference? Not much changes. They like teachers who care about their subject, who congratulate them when they are doing well and advise them how to improve – and if they get a laugh or two then even better. They also like teachers to make sure that anyone who misbehaves is dealt with. Sounds like they are all looking for their Mr. Rimmer and virtually everyone is finding one. That’s great news.

Phil Crompton
Executive Headteacher

The power of being polite

On Tuesday the night the Rushcliffe debating team so nearly made it to the next round of the Regional Debating competition. They were very impressive. Very articulate and quick thinking. Mr Lewis and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We were both so pleased that Miss Allen has continued to organise the debates. They really bring an extra dimension to life at Rushcliffe. It is fascinating to see how the protocols of the debates almost force participants to be courteous. A little different to Prime Minister’s Questions.

But there’s been a lot of football around as well. Our old friend Jermaine Jenas completed his hat trick. He’s now spoken at Farnborough, Rushcliffe and Arnold Hill. His visit to Arnold Hill went down very well with Years 10 and 11. He spoke to the year groups for 15 minutes and then took questions for another 20 minutes. He told everyone about the commitment that helped him get to the top of the football world whilst contemporaries with equal ability fell by the wayside and he stressed the importance of practice – don’t expect to just be good at something, keep working at it until it becomes a habit. It was also interesting to hear him say that being polite had been helpful. Polite, well-mannered people are the types who others want to help. Be polite – I agree completely.

Mr Ward asked for the names of 15 pupils who had collected lots of positive points this year and they were given the chance to meet Jermaine as a small group. He signed shirts, gave autographs and posed for pictures. It seemed enjoyable. The Trent Academies Group wants those who try, who help, who show interest to be rewarded. Meeting Jermaine Jenas was a chance for some of Arnold Hill’s good guys to experience this.

And then on Wednesday it was the Year 8 Boys Football tournament at the Nottingham Forest Academy. Sean England (Head of Education at the Academy) gave us the chance to make use of the Indoor Arena at the Academy. It’s a great facility. 7 a side teams from the three academies played each other twice in competition for the Trent Academies Group Trophy. After six hard fought matches Arnold Hill emerged victorious. High quality, high energy. I was worn out just watching and impressed by the sporting way the teams competed. Very polite. Up and coming Forest player Alex Lacovitti – remember the name because I couldn’t (I’m embarrassed to say) – kindly refereed all the matches. Coaches Burton, Shaw and Palmer found the afternoon highly stressful – and that was just travelling to and from Wilford Lane.

And next week it’s the girls’ turn. Looking forward to it.

If you haven’t started to follow the Trent Academies Group on twitter then please do. It’s good to be in the loop @TrentAcadGroup

Phil Crompton
Executive Headteacher