CEO Blog Post 27.05.21Posted on: 27th May 2021
First, a huge thank you for all the continuing hard work this term in teaching and supporting our children and young people. It’s been a real team effort in schools dealing with all the changes to keep everyone safe, whilst ensuring pupils’ educational and well-being needs are met. Ofsted inspections have confirmed that St Peter's Academy (SPA) and The Littlehampton Academy, in addition to Sir Robert Woodard Academy, are taking effective action on providing education during the current restrictions.
When I visited SPA earlier this month, I saw first-hand the additional work that teaching staff, in particular, are undertaking in assessing grades for Y11s and Y13s and how thoroughly and thoughtfully they are approaching this exercise. It was great to see how they were applying their professional judgement and subject expertise to the generic grade criteria issued by the Joint Council for Qualifications.
A topic I focused on at SPA - given that the Principal, Michael Astley, and Director of Finance & Resources (and Trust HR lead), Louise James, are leading work on our People Strategy - was staff well-being and its links to continuing professional development. Well-being and professional development are at the core of our People Strategy: to provide a compelling offer to our workforce in order to attract, recruit, develop and retain the best people who meet high professional standards and have uplifting, purposeful careers. The work of Sam Sims at the Teacher Development Trust (here) shows:
- excessive time spent on marking, lesson planning and administration is associated with increasing amounts of stress; whereas,
- spending time on collaboration, teamwork and professional development is associated with reduced stress.
So, there’s a sound evidence base for our focus on developing networks where colleagues can collaborate, and promoting continuing professional development: not only can it lead to improved outcomes for pupils, it can also boost well-being through reducing stress. Practically, we will have a new Employee Assistance Programme starting next term and are looking at further support we can provide colleagues.
The summer term’s subject networks are well underway. I want to thank Vice-Principal colleagues who have helped facilitate these. The networks bring together Heads of Department and/or subject leads to share good practice, including on curriculum development and CPD sources, and discuss issues and challenges in their subjects.
I had the pleasure of facilitating the music network where we discussed approaches to boosting instrument playing post-lockdown, reviewed software and packages, discussed CPD sources and shared curricula materials.
I’m pleased that we will be able to strengthen support for the core subjects and modern foreign languages from September. After open recruitment, we are employing part-time subject leads for:
- English – Alice Penfold will join us from Paddington Academy, which is top 10% in the country for progress in secondary English;
- Maths – Lucy Dixon, who has been advising on maths, will join the Trust and also be working at St. Augustine Academy; and
- Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) – Jill Rowell, who is the Head of MFL at Kings Priory School (KPS), will take on the role in addition and be backfilled at KPS.
On science, we will continue using advice provided by Gareth Honor, rather than employ a subject lead. Together with Ruth Ashbee, who is the Trust’s Curriculum and CPD Lead, they will form a strong school improvement team led by Carol-Anne Alcock, our Director of School Improvement.
Improving facilities, improving schools
It was great to see the building works underway on my visit to Polam Hall School this week and the plans for refurbishing the science lab. We have been fortunate in securing more money and so we’ll soon have a three-year plan of improvements across all the schools in the Trust.
The visit was also an opportunity to meet and say thank you to George Panayiotou, National Leader of Education and CEO of Castleford Academy Trust, who has been working with Polam Hall on its improvement journey over the past two years. I know the school has benefitted enormously and his commitment to ensuring all pupils, wherever they go to school, benefit from public spending on education was clear.
The recent Woodard Webinar from Professor Daniel Willingham on teaching students how to learn is available on the Staff Portal. It was full of science-based tips on ensuring time spent studying is productive. The final Woodard Webinar of this year is on 17 June, 4.30-5.30pm led by Tom Bennett. Tom was a teacher in the East End of London for thirteen years. Currently he is the Director and founder of researchED, and leads the Department for Education’s Behaviour Hubs project.
Prof Sir Chris Husbands recommended reading The Crisis of the Meritocracy by Peter Mandler at a recent meeting, so I did as I was told. It confirms that understanding people’s motivations and behaviours are the key to good policy-making, in this case that parents’ educational aspirations have been much more important than policy changes in driving increasing levels of education, particularly higher education. Over 95% of mothers of babies born in 2000-02, whatever their own level of education, wanted their seven year old child to go to university.
I’ve also bought each school in the Trust a copy of Young People on the Margins by Loic Menzies and Sam Baars, who are at the wonderful Centre for Education and Youth (CfEY) where I serve as a non-executive Board member. It’s packed full of actions to bring those on the margins into the spotlight. Do borrow it from your Principal!
The month of May might have been a wash-out, but I hope you get a good break at half-term. See you in June for the final half-term in one of the most extraordinary school years of our lives, where your dedication and efforts to ensuring the best for our pupils has also been truly extraordinary.
Chief Executive Officer