It’s great to get back into the swing of school life and it’s certainly been an interesting week.
Early in the week we had to deal with the publicity generated by our successful Free School application. Most of the conversations I had were positive, with the majority of people seeing the Springboard Project as an excellent opportunity, although a small number felt that we were replicating the work of the UTC (University Technical College) in the centre of town. I think there are some similarities between the two but, to me, the main difference is in the young people who will attend each organisation. The Springboard Project is particularly aimed at those young people with a Statement of SEN or an Education, Health and Care Plan.
We also hosted a visit from Andre Imich from the Department for Education on Wednesday. I have worked with Andre, the lead advisor for children with special needs, for over 10 years and I have always valued his insight. By having regular meetings, either by phone or in person, we ensure that Oldham is always ‘tapped into’ the latest national agenda.
Clearly, as I mentioned last week, it is an incredibly busy time for all our public services; we are all facing unprecedented demands with less money to achieve our ambitions. There seems little doubt that there is still an unrelenting drive towards the whole education system being academised. Nicky Morgan’s recent white paper, one of the last things she did as Secretary of State, nodded towards a U-turn but interestingly still held firm on an ambition of moving to an autonomous Multi Academy Trust (MAT) system. The view, centrally, is that when a MAT reaches an optimum size it can generate enough savings and revenue streams to offset the financial shortfalls we are all presently experiencing. So, should we continue to expand, thereby protecting and extending our offer or stabilise, which could possibly lead to financial challenges in the very near future? Our trustees are presently wrestling with these enormous decisions.
Given all the turmoil currently within the system, I have to remind myself of the children and families within our care. All our schools are ‘over subscribed’ and we now have a waiting list at every one of them. Our post 16 and post 19 provisions, including all our Key Stage 5 pathways, Future Finders and Horizons, have more young people than ever. We have re-opened our Bridging the Gap pod at Manchester Metropolitan University as a direct consequence of the increased numbers and accelerated progress that the children have made through their journeys with us. Our teams across all the different areas of our organisation are doing a tremendous job with your children. We have to protect and nurture this excellent work and also ensure that it is sustainable for the future.
Anyway, that is enough on politics from me this week!! I’m in London at the beginning of next week presenting about our schools for Capita – these events always generate a lot of discussion and debate and I’m really looking forward to it.
Have a great weekend,