18 Sep

Graham

Hi everyone,

A bumper blog this week.

We’ve been busy this week re-visiting all our risk assessments.

The central executive teams and local leadership teams, from all of our schools and organisations, have looked again at the risk assessments published on individual websites.  We have now been operational for around 3 weeks and have learnt even more about how we can safely stay open.

Our commitment to you all is for our schools and organisations to remain open as long as is possible.

Our colleagues, who are working directly with the children and young people, are giving us brilliant information on how we can change and alter our local arrangements. Can I take this opportunity to thank every single one of them?   Yet again I am going to thank our cleaning and premises teams.  The staff are telling me that these teams are constantly on the go, cleaning and sanitising different areas.

From a Learning Centre perspective, I know that if I stand still for too long, I’m in real danger of being sprayed and totally disinfected!

The children and young people are also behaving absolutely brilliantly.  They are being really sensible and have accepted many of new restrictions we have had to put into place.

As you can imagine, we have seen young people and staff, in all establishments, presenting with various symptoms.  Like many other organisations we have seen major problems in the testing process.  It is really impacting upon certain schools.  We have seen “bubbles popping” at New Bridge School and Spring Brook Upper.  We are doing our very best to keep our “bubbles” as small as possible thereby minimising disruption.

One of the frustrations of “just” managing the Covid-19 crisis is that it is restricting us accelerating much of our strategic and developmental work.  The leadership teams are aware that we always need to be “ahead of the curve.”  We’ve got to plan to ensure all our organisations are in the best place for the next 3/5 years.

It’s with this in mind I’ll share with you some of the “high level work” we are presently involved with.

At Hawthorns and New Bridge (all sites), we are exploring how we can further develop the building/s to better meet the needs of a significantly growing population.  Outstanding schools attract children!  I believe we have a Skype meeting planned for our Hawthorns’ families, w/c 28th September.  Pierre will send exact details in the next day or two.

Hollinwood Academy are a year or two in front with regards to their premises as they had a large extension last year.  I still chuckle about my initial worries, when I had discussions with Sarah Lockwood, about not having enough children!  We opened with 50 youngsters – we’ve now around 250!!!!! Our teams have dealt with this growth brilliantly.  They never sit still and are presently leading some of our work around the iPad 1:1 project, particularly with regards to an enhancement to Showbie and our virtual offer.

We are also supporting Spring Brook Upper and Lower with development work around their curriculum.  Toni and Mel and the teams are doing some amazing work in relation to better matching the curriculum to our children’s needs.  We’re exploring assessment centres, family support, wrap around services and a more “holistic” and practical offer.

Phil Arnold and a number of the Springboard Project team are presently working on the new Engagement Pathway.  We have some young people who are directed towards our school/s who haven’t been accessing mainstream education for a number of years.  To expect these youngsters to just (suddenly) re-engage is just daft.  Our teams are exploring what “learning” offer is appropriate for these youngsters.  We need to re-engage them, ensure they trust us and move them onto appropriate pathways.

John and the team at Horizons are also not exempt from strategic developments.  We have been adapting the building over the summer to ensure the premises are better suited for young people who use wheelchairs.  We are welcoming more and more young people to the provision.

Our central teams are also incredibly busy.  Jenny is leading our Apple strategy and also leading the development of the Rochdale Free School.  We are looking to open our latest school, Rochdale Academy, in September 2022.  Jenny has so much expertise in planning and designing new schools she is often more knowledgeable than the colleagues from the DfE.  Phil has been invaluable in further developing our “alternative” offer – he’s got more contacts than me!  Geoff has continued to lead on all our child protection and safeguarding work.  This has been extremely challenging over the last few months and has involved liaising with so many different agencies.  If our children and young people struggle we hope our “safety net” is there to catch them.

Dan, amongst other developments, has developed a revised PR, Communication and Marketing strategy.  I’ve seen the strategy – it’s amazing.  For example, very soon, all our families will get the opportunity of downloading and using a new App relating to your child’s school.  It’s brilliant and a super way of keeping you all absolutely up to date.

Moira and Rita are just the most incredible people.  Their collective experience and knowledge never ceases to amaze me.  They are constantly evaluating our governance processes, our accountability framework and our logistics.  Both of them are invaluable.

Simon and his HR team have been rather busy over the last 6 months. I’d like to think that by exemplary planning and open and constructive dialogue all our staff members feel massively supported.

I have invited Liz O Shaughnessy to join the central executive team.  Liz has so much expertise and experience in relation to training and development.  Personally, I totally believe that developing, supporting and training our teams on the future will be essential for our continued success and growth.  Let’s get the very best people into our organisations and then keep them!

Finally, Nigel’s skills around accountancy continue to ensure we are financially “well placed”.  All of the above can’t happen without careful and meticulous financial planning.  He leads this brilliantly.

One lesson from the last few months has to be that as an organisation we have to be able to respond quickly but also never lose sight of the bigger picture.

“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”

Never stand still – we’ll have a year of embedding soon!!!!

Stay safe,

Graham

You can find all Graham’s previous updates and blog entries here