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CEO Update – 15.9.23

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Goodness – this week has really flown by!

It’s quite amazing how some weeks seem to go by so incredibly quickly.  One moment it’s Monday morning, the next it’s Friday afternoon.

So, what I have been involved with?

On Monday I was able to give the news to our Hawthorns families that the council has published papers that commit to the re-development and expansion of the school in Mottram.  We are hoping to use the Londendale site at the end of the M67.  What’s incredibly exciting is the finance being made available – up to £13million.  I’ll repeat that – up to £13 million.  That will be far and away the largest single investment we have made in school buildings.  My commitment is to work alongside all our families, young people, staff and communities to build a truly inspiring school.  Can I pass my thanks on to the families who have lobbied for the past 12 months?  I’d also like to pass my sincere thanks on to the councillors and council officers in Tameside who have made incredibly bold and brave decisions at crucial times.  We’ve a race on now between Rochdale and Tameside as to who can complete their build first – Free School in Rochdale or Hawthorns 2 in Tameside?  We’ll put up some webcams so you can judge for yourselves!

On Wednesday I was asked to lead a development/training session for the SSAT’s Leading Outstanding Schools group.  I had been asked a while ago to present my own leadership journey.  When I was preparing the slide show, it was a real eye opener!

I was fortunate to be a head when I was 34 in the mid 1990s.  At that point headship couldn’t have been more different.  There was no budget control (local management of special schools was just beginning to get traction).  There was no national agreed curriculum model – schools had the flexibility to deliver a curriculum that was appropriate for their communities.  There was no expectation around measuring progress. The staffing solution was very “traditional” and involved people being placed in roles pretty much determined by the local authority.  Inspection was also very different!   We used to get 6 months’ notice, followed by a 4 or 5 day inspection by Her Majesties Inspectors.  The Head’s role was very different – it felt very “hands on” and actual.

Fast forward 25 years and the role couldn’t be more different.  The accountability has moved from local authorities into schools.  Decision making, around pretty much all the crucial areas of schools, is now managed at a school level.  Most importantly, the reliance on an expert team is absolutely fundamental.  We’re fortunate to have senior colleagues at a Trust and school level who are absolutely incredible.  Some of the very best.  The influence of Governors and Trustees is now absolutely paramount.  I’d argue that the changes have been very much for the better.  I truly believe that our expectations and ambition have increased tenfold.  With greater autonomy we have also seen greater accountability.  What we have also seen is innovation and creativity impacting upon the outcomes for our young people.  Just think where the system will be in another 25 years’ time.

This ambition was in evidence on Friday afternoon when I visited the “Prom” at Hollinwood Academy.  Many of the young people that were at the prom were the children that joined us in our formative years at Hollinwood.  I think many started when we were in first or second year.  What an amazing group of young people – the majority are moving on to college, some into work, some going to specialist placements, some going on to pre-internships.  Good luck to them all.  I’m sure Laura will blog about the day.

All our schools have a narrative of “can do”.  I love that – “creating meaningful futures” for every single individual.

Have a great weekend.


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


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