17 Nov

A couple of weeks ago I talked about pace. Some weeks I can spend my time hurtling around the country but this has been very much a ‘catch up’ week. These are usually the most productive. The other wonderful thing about ‘catching up’ is that I can spend time in and around our schools and organisations. I still think the best part of my job is being alongside the young people and the staff that support them.

As you know, most of my time at present is now spent at Spring Brook Upper where the young people are both a delight and infuriating, almost within the same breath! All of them have so many attributes; they are witty, creative, determined and full of character. We need to give them the self-confidence to believe in their abilities. They also face so many individual challenges. Our staff work tirelessly to support them, sometimes within difficult situations. I have total confidence that the team will ensure we get it right for all our young people.

On Tuesday morning I was asked to attend a meeting related to the ‘opportunity area’. Many of you will have read in the press that Oldham is one of 6 areas, nationally, that central government has determined is in need of extra support. Our Trust has been asked to support some of these initiatives. I attended the meeting to try and understand the breadth of the challenge and also what would be expected of our Trust. The details are still to emerge; when they do, I will ensure that communication is clear and all our stakeholders have an understanding of our role.

We have also spent an amount of time this week reflecting on the growth of our Trust and it is interesting to hear people’s perception of this. We have never actively looked to promote the Trust – we don’t tout for business!! National organisations come to our Trust for support and that is very much our role as a national support school. In a school-led system we will be asked to provide local and regional support. Much of our practice is innovative; the way we go about our business and constantly seek new models of working, many find inspiring. We are very comfortable sharing this ambition with them. One reason we are ‘outstanding’ is because we are always striving to improve our offer for every one of our learners. A few weeks ago I talked about ‘keeping ambition alive’. We should never be sorry about our drive to improve to ensure all our children and young people get the very best deal – they get one chance of schooling!

So, back to our growth! In real terms, we haven’t actually taken on that many ‘new’ projects. What has happened is our existing schools and organisations have been so popular that they have grown incredibly quickly. All our schools are massively over-subscribed with huge waiting lists and Horizons has grown even faster!! This is the real challenge – not dealing with the growth of the Trust but understanding and managing the numbers of children and young people that want places in our schools and organisations.

In many ways it’s a great position to be in – families have confidence in what we do, they want to send their children to us. The trustees, local governors and leadership teams have the task of ensuring that growth is not detrimental to our existing children and young people. We have to ensure that the added capacity offers further opportunities for all our youngsters…..keeping ambition alive!!

What an amazing privilege.

Have a great weekend,


You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here