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CEO Update – 15.9.23

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‘Choose a job you like and you will never have to work a day in your life.’

I’ve been really fortunate that throughout my professional career I’ve had (and still have) the opportunity to experience many ‘Wow!’ moments. This week has seen one of those as we have interviewed for the head of Hawthorns School.

When I listen to prospective candidates give their presentations, I consider the importance of ethos. Sometimes the space to reflect on the characteristics of our schools and the aspirations within our trust is invaluable.

After the interviews I was able to reflect on my (relatively) new role as a CEO and be incredibly self-critical about the mistakes we have made along the way.

Our mission statement in our schools is simple – ‘Learning together, Learning for all, Learning for Life.’ It’s rooted in the belief and ambition that we can change the world for all our learners. No watering down, no settling for less, every single child and young person deserves the very best.

The schools and organisations in our trust are sometimes criticised. Negative comments I’ve heard are that we have the best staff, we have more money, we have the best facilities, we’re too risk taking, we should know better (!) and, best of all, ‘those children/young people will never be able to do that!’

Interestingly, I agree with some of this ‘criticism’. We do have the best staff because we do our very best to make it attractive for them to work with us – we have TOIL for all staff, we reward them, we have some of our most able non-teaching staff leading curriculum areas. We have excellent terms and conditions of employment. We ‘grow our own’ next generation of teachers and school leaders. We have plans to develop improved international links for them to visit and see first hand the best practice in the world.

We have wonderful facilities because we have developed an outward facing culture that is always on the ‘front foot’ when looking for finances. We don’t have more money per pupil (actually we are in an area of the country that funds at relatively low levels) but we are entrepreneurial in our approach.

As for being ‘too risk taking’, we see it as refusing to accept the status quo and settle for second best. We generate uncertainty because we push boundaries and encourage dreaming. I believe that when you take calculated risks, it builds momentum. We use our energies where we can make a difference – we try not to get caught up in the detail of areas we have little influence over!

So, on to the criticism of expecting our children and young people to be able to do certain things. We want to change the world so that all our children and young people can contribute, be accepted and be valued as members of their communities. We may just be a small trust in the North of England but some of the most successful companies in the world started in garages in California!

Our appointment of Pierre Coffait as head of Hawthorns has convinced me that our direction of travel within our trust is secure. At the end of his presentation, one colleague who was interviewing said, ‘I wanted to stand up and applaud.’

So ‘Wow!’, Pierre! Your appointment has affirmed that ‘shooting for the moon’ is just fine! It affirmed that there are school leaders in our education system who share our values. It affirmed that the leaders of the future will continue to inspire and influence.

Have a great weekend – I’m so looking forward to the school blogs as the children and young people have been involved in some amazing learning this week,


You can find all Graham’s previous blog entries here


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