06 Dec

Graham
Well, after last week’s hectic week I didn’t think things could get any busier. How wrong I was!

On Monday I was sat at Spring Brook Lower meeting the team about a new living skills venture when my phone rang. Geoff, one of our Assistant CEOs, informed me that Ofsted had been on the phone and they were preparing to send the inspectors into all of our New Bridge School sites (Roman Road, Learning Centre and Medtia) on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I’m not able to comment upon the overall judgement but needless to say we are all pleased with the outcome. Can I take this opportunity to thank all our staff, our families, our governors but most importantly, our children for their support? It was truly overwhelming.

However, what I’d like to blog about this week is the journey that New Bridge, and inextricably our Trust, has been on.

In 2004 we opened New Bridge with 180 children, on two sites. 110 were at Roman Road, 70 in the Learning Centre. They were supported by 120 staff. All the staff had been at one of the three schools that amalgamated. We approached the new school (named New Bridge by Dave and Jan Leech) with a key principle in mind.

We believed in a change agenda where anything was possible.

Then, like now, our children, our families and our communities deserved an innovative approach to schooling. So, we set out our 48-week proposal and we set out our ambitious curriculum offer. 15 years later and we are still transforming.

Our subsequent growth, over the same period, affirmed our original intentions. Families, quite rightly, choose schools for their children. Families continue to trust our schools; local authorities still want to send children and young people to our schools. Other schools have chosen to be part of our journey. We do our best to offer all our children and young people the very best education and care possible. We now support over 1000 children (and young people) on their learning journeys. They are taught and cared for by over 500 local people. So, what are our key components that continue to make this happen?

I think sharing a Core Vision is essential. Combinations of people are far more powerful than one individual. Groups of people who share common values and who have similar “can do” motivations drive ambition. Ambition drives change and innovation. Change starts to become the new norm.

Ambition is the next component. Let’s just make it happen. Post 19 – make it happen. Work internships – make it happen. Residentials for all – make it happen. Curriculum pathways, iPad 1:1, DofE. You get the picture.

Getting the right team is crucial. Last week I quoted Steve Jobs who famously said he surrounded himself with people more knowledgeable and able than he. For the last 20 years in Oldham, that’s what I’ve done. All our senior colleagues, our deputies, our teachers, our support staff, our finance teams, our administration teams etc. etc. are often far more skilled and adept than I. The heads in our schools would now knock spots off me!

Recruiting, retaining and training the best staff is fundamental.

Ensuring our communities are represented through governing bodies, directors and trustees is also massively important.

Hard work and resilience come next. Hard work means sometimes putting the hours in and, at other certain times, accepting the knocks. We never suggest we don’t have our challenges – I’ve blogged over the last few years about the financial difficulties we continue to face. We, collectively, have to get up and get on with it.

Tim Cook recently said,

“You’re trying to pick people that fit into the culture of a company …….. you want a very diverse group with very diverse life experiences looking at every problem. But you also want people to buy into the philosophy, not just buy in, but to deeply believe in it.”

So, has our culture changed over the last 15 years? Not one jot.

Our teams in all our schools deeply believe in giving children and young people the very best life opportunities. They offer children and young people the best learning opportunities. They keep them safe and secure. They encourage independent learning. They are passionate about communication. They are all amazing at it. They all play a part in every one of our successes. From our lunch time supervisors to our heads of site, from our apprentices to the Assistant CEOs, none of us play a greater or lesser role. We are in it together. Our culture is defined by team – and a Northern, disruptive team at that.

This was my fourteenth inspection. I couldn’t be prouder of what, together, we are creating. Onwards, upwards and sidewards – we go again.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Graham

You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here