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CEO’s Blog – 28th April 2023

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Well, what a week! What started with good news quickly descended into the chaos that was ‘the beast from the East’.

First the good news! Finally, after months of legal wrangles, the go ahead was given for Hawthorns School in Audenshaw to join the Trust. I know the team have been very frustrated with the endless challenges that have been laid at our door. My thanks go to Jamie at Browne Jacobson, our legal advisors, for always offering sound and sensible advice. Anyhow, now we’ve had the go ahead from the Regional Schools Commissioner it’s now about moving forward. I’m really looking forward to sharing their news over the coming months – we’ve now got 3 primary schools (or primary departments within all age schools). I truly believe that it’s only by co-operation and joint working that we can all continue to improve.

We also heard this week that one of our Pastoral Team at Hollinwood Academy, Leisa Williams, has been nominated by our families in the annual POINT Awards. Leisa has been put forward in the ‘Passion for Parents’ category. I know Leisa will talk about a ‘team effort’ but she truly does a remarkable job. More news to follow!

Now, on to ‘the beast’. I hope this blog gives you all an insight into the decision making processes that go into closing our schools/organisations. On Wednesday we had a degree of forewarning as the weather was worsening by the hour. I left Spring Brook at about 5pm and didn’t get home until way after 7pm – the M66 was closed following a pile up. All evening a number of our Oldham ‘weather watchers’ kept me in the loop as to the weather conditions throughout the borough. It was becoming increasingly clear that the snow, blizzard conditions and black ice were causing major travel disruption. At around 10.15pm I again checked both ‘Accuweather’ and the ‘BBC weather’ to check the forecast for overnight. I also emailed all heads and leaders of post 19 organisations to get their views. The threat of (up to) minus 10 temperatures with an added wind chill factor, allowed me to take the decision to close all our schools and organisations.

Can I tell you all that it is a decision I never take lightly. In the last 20 years or so in Oldham, I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the actual times I have closed schools. I remember a similar situation in 1996 when I was a deputy at Hill Top (now that’s going back a few years!), when we had the frightening experience of trying to walk children all through Moorside to the bottom of the hill. Fortunately all the children arrived home safely but I learnt from that experience that safety has to be our main priority. We need to ensure all our children and young people do not come to any harm.

On Thursday, following further calls I was informed that the main roads in certain areas were just about passable but the side roads were lethal. Saddleworth and Shaw were still feeling the brunt of the storm. Closing on Friday (today) seemed the only logical decision I could make.

I totally understand the inconvenience this causes families and the disruption for our children and young people. I would like to thank you all for your understanding and many messages of support on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s hope for a less traumatic week next week. I just hope it’s another 22 years until we face the same challenges!!

Oh, by the way, I’ve decided to change sites (again!!). In my own ‘mini tour’ of the Trust (I’m thinking of getting some tour tee shirts printed by Digit4ll) I’ve agreed with Gavin that I’m going to base myself back at New Bridge School for the rest of this academic year. I’m really looking forward to reacquainting myself with the children and staff team.

Have a safe weekend and see you next week,


You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here


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