Working together

Can I thank you, yet again, for the support for our schools and the college during this very difficult time? None of us take for granted that professionalism, commitment and hard work of the staff. But we want to recognise that all of us who live the experience, day in and day out, fully understand what each and every one of you are doing, in your own way, to make a difference to the lives of others (children, young people and your community). Thank you. We have broken the back of this half term and although it won’t be a downhill run to the Christmas break we can now say something of a Christmas holiday light at the end of what has been, for many, a dark tunnel.

This is the time of the year when I would normally take the opportunity to rail and rant against and about Black Friday. As we know, Black Friday is an American commercial construct, which we in the UK, over the last five years or so, seem to have taken on as ours. It was designed to bridge the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas and ensure that retail sales were maintained. At least lockdown this year has saved us all from those unedifying images of people fighting over flat screen televisions in retail parks across the country. I would, also, point out that research this week suggests that most Black Friday sales are not the reductions that the retailers would want us all to believe. Most of those items are not significantly cheaper than they would have been on any other November weekend. You are all staying away from the shops, I would suggest that you stay off the device and don’t fall into the trap of over indulging with the Internet purchases.

It would probably be better for me this week to just make some comments about some of the fantastic work the staff have been engaged in and has taken place across the schools and college this week; with again there being a clear focus on teaching, learning and assessment. That is our bread and butter. That’s what’s going to ensure that we continue to drive improvement with and for our children and young people. That is why we do what we do.

Although we talk regularly and put at the heart of all that we do teaching, learning and assessment, this week has been another week where we took the opportunity to focus on the key pillars of institutional success. Staff have been involved in teaching and learning conversations, will have had the opportunity to review expansive teaching, learning and assessment updates and some have been involved in the TRC INSET day; with a focus on assessment – being able to accurately describe where are young person is at and what they need to do to move forward. And that is at the heart of who we are and what we do. We know that to improve the educational provision and give the children and young people of this community the very best educational experience we need to know what they can do, where they are going and then we can help them make progress. We work to understand the individual, the child or the young person sat in our class or working with us. That is at the heart of what an exceptional experience for those children and young people will look like.

In the system we wait with some apprehension for an announcement of OFSTED’s position about the post-Christmas return to full inspections. We will take whatever that decision is in our stride – as always. But it did get me thinking about how we do work within our schools and college; within the Trust. We cannot and will not ignore what external bodies do and think of us. But we will not be driven by some narrow criteria, which may shift from year to year. There are some broad issues within the educational landscape which I think we do well to navigate. We do need to be conscious that there are some challenges which we need to face head on.

Accountability: high status accountability may shift, to some degree, a relatively small number of institutions however it cannot drive up long-term standards. I hope that you would recognise that we work to protect all of our learners from that high-stakes accountability and we do this by ensuring that we work together.

School improvement: sustainable school improvement takes time. Our school improvement programmes and work are seen as being part of a continuous journey, not a destination to be reached. We do not work in those finite terms. We do not frame everything within the context of OFSTED criteria. We understand how others will judge us but we are building programmes and experiences which all learners will take value from. For me, successful and sustainable improvement will only occur when it is a collaborative and collective endeavour. I want to see teachers working with other teachers within the institutions and beyond the institutions. I think we can take some value from all of our colleagues, from across the Trust, working together in developing the very best practice.

Culture: we have worked hard, over the years, developing a culture within the schools, college and Trust which puts people at the heart of everything that we do. We understand that there cannot be and will not be quick fixes. We invest in people. That investment includes holding everyone to account for their performance, we then support that individual on the next stage of their personal development. All of our ethos statements have inspiring children and young people at their heart. We work to develop in them aspiration and ambition. We work with our learners to ensure that they have the tools to be able to do their work, to the best of their abilities, day in and day out.

We understand that together we are stronger. We understand that putting teaching, learning and assessment of the heart of everything we do will make the difference.

‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.’ Edward Everett Hale