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CEO Blog Post 29.03.21

Hardip BegolAs we approach the Easter break, I wanted to thank you for your work this term – it’s been a real team effort in schools involving teaching and support colleagues in maintaining a safe and secure environment, establishing and operating test centres, remote learning for two months for most pupils and on-site teaching throughout. 

It was great that every school in the Trust could welcome pupils back on 8 March without a staggered start so they’ve had the maximum time in school this term.  Although the national picture on the pandemic is looking more positive, there continue to be infections and we must all remain vigilant and follow the protocols – and encourage pupils and families to do the same.     

I visited St Augustine Academy in Maidstone in the first week back and spoke to student leaders about the return.  They had nothing but praise for the schools and staff: they were also resilient and optimistic about the future.  It is clear the school is pursuing the Trust’s vision:

  • Opening minds: igniting a curiosity about the world, nuturing spiritual and cultural growth and developing a love of learning that should stay with young people for life.

  • Raising expectations for everyone in the Trust – staff, pupils and governors - about the standards we can reach and the outcomes we can achieve, irrespective of background.

  • Transforming lives: a successful education will transform the lives of young people into adulthood with rewarding careers, strong relationships and making a positive contribution to their community and society.

Jason Feldwick Hardip Begol

School Improvement

At the heart of the Trust’s strategy is a belief that collaboration between colleagues in our six schools – using the best evidence and expertise – will add value to each school’s improvement journey, pupil outcomes and delivering high professionals standards whilst providing fulfilling, uplifting careers.   I’m pleased that following the appointment of Carol-Anne Alcock as our Director of School Improvement last term, we have appointed an outstanding Trust lead for assessment, curriculum and continuing professional development.  There will be further details about her soon.  She’ll bring expertise to the work already going on in schools on these issues and ensure our subject networks and CPD offer is of the highest quality and impacts on practice and outcomes.

We have also advertised for part-time Trust subject leads in English and literacy, mathematics, science and modern foreign languages.  We are looking for outstanding classroom teachers who are also skilled at leading, motivating and coaching colleagues in these subjects to improve assessment, curriculum, learning, teaching, CPD and pupil outcomes.  The roles are 2 days a week and will involve travelling to the Trust’s schools but also using technology where appropriate.  The roles can be combined with 2-3 days of subject teaching in one of our schools to make a 0.8/full-time role.  More details are available here and the deadline for applications is 10am on 26 April 2021.   

Professional Development

The evidence is increasing clear that literacy and reading is one of the keys to unlocking pupils’ success in learning – poor reading skills are one of the biggest barriers, which make pupils feel demoralised and unsuccessful as learners.  This attitude can plague people for their whole lives, limiting their opportunities.  Like safeguarding, literacy and reading is everyone’s responsibility.  That’s why I’m so glad that we have secured Alex Quigley (https://www.theconfidentteacher.com/ and https://twitter.com/HuntingEnglish) for the next Woodard Webinar to talk about what non-English teachers need to know about literacy and reading – I promise it’ll also be interesting to English and literacy colleagues as well.  It is at 4.30-5.30pm on Thursday 29 April

A reminder that all of our Woodard Webinars are available on the staff portal under “webinars” – hours and hours of the best education experts in the country.  We always go for the highest quality as your time is precious and valuable.   

Curriculum

Following the successful Ofsted inspection of Sir Robert Woodard Academy in January (report now published), The Littlehampton Academy was inspected on 18 March and St. Peter’s Academy on 23 March.  Unfortunately these monitoring inspections do not enable the inspection judgement of the school to be changed but it was an opportunity to show the amazing work that had been going on in relation to remote learning, especially for the most vulnerable pupils, and how curriculum development had continued despite everything else that has been thrown at schools.  I welcome external inspection.  We are entrusted with one of the most important things in young people’s lives – their education and development – and it is right that our assessment of the quality of education is scrutinised by external experts.  The really positive feedback from pupils and parents was great to hear.  Well done to everyone – it was a team effort.

To keep up the momentum on curriculum – the core business of schools – we are making available access to the virtual Schools North-East Curriculum Conference on 21-22 April for all schools.  The programmes is developing but Sir Kevan Collins, who is leading advice on what needs to be done in the recovery phase of the pandemic, and Mary Myatt who has spoken to us before are keynote speakers.  Much of the programme is during school hours but recordings will be available on-demand.  We will send round further information. 

Governance

One of the Trust’s strategic priorities is to achieve the highest standards of collective leadership and governance to deliver sustainable school improvement and safeguarding.  Extensive evidence shows that effective leadership and governance is important to successful organisations.  That’s why we have a full-time Trust Governance Lead.  I’m so pleased that following a recent recruitment exercise that Emma Myers will take up this post after Easter. 

Emma is an accredited governance professional with extensive experience in providing services in a range of educational settings.  She has been the Assistant Governance Manager of a large not-for-profit education support services provider, where she was responsible for a large team of governance clerks providing clerking services in over 230 settings.  A governor herself, Emma is passionate about improving the educational standards and wellbeing of young people by increasing the effectiveness of governance.  Emma has also served as the clerk to the Board of Trustees of the National Governance Association: it’s a real coup for the Trust to secure her. 

The Finkler QuestionReading

I’m reading fiction at the moment: The Finkler Question.  There’s a lot of discussion about fictional characters having to be relatable – there’s certainly an argument for that and the wider the range of fiction that young people are exposed to the better – but there’s also something about getting an insight into the lives of people very different from oneself.  It’s also amusing.     

Have a great Easter holiday when it comes. There’s going to be first-ever collaboration between BBC One, Radio 4, the Church of England and Canterbury Cathedral, as the Archbishop of Canterbury shares his Easter message live from the Cathedral. 

Hardip Begol
Chief Executive Officer

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