This week has been spent in meetings with some of our school based senior teams and colleagues who work within the central advisory team. It has been wonderful listening to all the work that is being carried out.
First of all, let me give you an idea of our school based discussions. I’ll start with Spring Brook.
Our upper school has gone through considerable changes over the last 12 months. Alison and Mel were able to discuss the amazing transformation. Young people are much more engaged in learning and some of the teaching Mel and Alison have observed is inspirational. I’d like to mention both Rob and Orla who, at times, don’t know how good they are! Their teaching is immaculately planned, their delivery is absolutely right for the young people, their interactions are exemplary and their record keeping a model of best practice. We need to ensure that we use Rob and Orla’s skills across our trust. Numbers at lower and upper school are very, very healthy for the next year and our plans are well underway to work alongside the local authority in developing our growth strategy.
Hollinwood has had its own challenges around the growth in numbers of young people. Jaina, Laura and Nat were able to share some of the issues that are pertinent to the school. I have had representations from a small number of families who, quite rightly, want to better understand why the class sizes appear to be growing. I can categorically assure families that we will never, ever compromise on standards. The quality of what goes in at Hollinwood continues to be outstanding.
The challenge we collectively face is that too many families want places for their children at Hollinwood. This week alone our admissions team discussed 6 new children! Next week I’m meeting with the local authority to try to co-construct a solution. In my meetings this week we agreed that we need to employ some more teaching staff. There is no doubt that we need to work alongside stakeholders and families to develop a more sustainable continuum of provision. As I mentioned in last week’s blog, this will have to involve mainstream schools.
On to Hawthorns. We have not yet been able to appoint a permanent successor for Moira (and Margaret), the executive head and head teacher. Pierre Coiffait has taken on the role on an interim basis until a successor can be found. I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank both of them for their amazing work with the young people over in Tameside. I have worked alongside Moira for a number of years and have always been impressed with her passion for the job and, most importantly, her love of the children (and staff) within her care. She is totally committed to ensuring that each individual, whether they be 5 or 55, develops and grows. Margaret is equally passionate. Her knowledge of teaching and learning and her understanding of staff development is second to none. Interestingly, both Margaret and Moira share the same moral purpose of never accepting second best for the children, staff and their families. I guess that’s why the partnership between Hawthorns and the New Bridge MAT was destined to be – we all share the same core values.
New Bridge was next. As you know, I’m now based back at New Bridge School – in the cupboard that Judith used to occupy. I think it’s fair to say that the discussions with Gavin, Debbie, Dawn and John were the most challenging this week. The variation in the needs of our pupils and students changes on an annual basis. This not only affects the curriculum but also means that the total budget we receive at New Bridge changes on a year by year basis. The reality for next year is that we will have more children and young people than ever in our history, but significantly less money because of how the children are funded! Place this alongside other financial pressures and, as you can imagine, our discussions were tricky. We have to balance the books without reducing our offer. New Bridge’s strength lies in our personalised approach. Every young person has to succeed within our curriculum offer.
Finally, our central team advised me about the improvements to our after school and holiday clubs, the work we are carrying out in relation to mental health and our ground-breaking work (alongside the university and the Home Office) to ensure we better tackle radicalisation and extremism.
I’ve got more meetings with our Medtia teams planned for next week. A man much wiser than I stated,
‘Be the best you can be, and work to surround yourself with people who are even better.’
Have a great weekend,
You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here