Oh what a week!

We all know that in our schools and the college every single week will bring known and unknown challenges – sounding a little bit like Donald Rumsfeld there! And, through these weekly messages, I do welcome the opportunity to spend a significant proportion of my time saying thank you to my colleagues, the pupils, the students and our friends and families, for everything that they do: whatever the challenges are, whenever they present and however significant there might be.

Mostly those thanks are for a job well done during a pretty typical week. That does not devalue those thanks or underplay the significance of the work undertaken; however, there are just some weeks which are fundamentally different to others. I wrote, the other week, about us all putting our shoulders to that granite block. Together we can shift it; alone we stand there panting.

This week, of all weeks, we have truly understood the value of being in this multi-academy trust. I know that we are small (and perfectly formed) but that has not meant that we were unable to support each other, when necessary. In fact, I would argue that our connectivity (professionally and geographically) has meant that many of us have been able to offer real and tangible support to our schools and the college. Maybe a single institution or an institution in one of those conglomerate multi-academy trusts would have been left to flounder.

Monday morning, we were hit by a significant IT failure at Thomas Rotherham College; oh, and the SATs re-started at Sitwell Junior School after a three-year hiatus.

We know that the 20-year-old IT system at TRC is creaking – to say the least. That’s why we are committed to a £1 million plus project to upgrade the system over the summer. A massive and necessary investment in the college. If I were to draw an analogy, working with a 20-year-old IT system is like still trying to drive around in a Ford Model T car. It might keep chugging along but when it goes it really does go. Enormous credit and thanks must go to our IT support team, all the teachers and all of our students who found workarounds and ways of managing during those very difficult days, earlier this week. Particular mention must go to the exams team for finding a solution to the online exams that needed to take place Tuesday and Wednesday.

Again, thank you all for remaining patient and upbeat despite those challenges we faced.

And how did we find a solution to the 75+ students who needed to sit their exams on Tuesday and then again on Wednesday? We called on our partners at Oakwood High School.

Four groups of children, for two mornings, were re-roomed and relocated from the OHS IT rooms, and this resulted in lessons being taught in the dining room and outside under the canopy! This, in turn, allowed those online exams for our TRC students to continue. A blessed relief! The staff at Oakwood who responded so positively and promptly deserve enormous thanks and praise.

It would’ve been easier for the staff at OHS to, metaphorically, put one’s fingers in one’s ears and just hope that the problem would go away. That did not happen. Many, many staff came together to find a solution.

And I haven’t got space to write about the Oakwood Awards Evening – supported by the OHS staff body and even staff from TRC ­– just amazing!

And for Sitwell Junior School… I could have quite easily have written this week about how challenging the SATs were. And they were! The children were amazing, showing a real understanding of the tasks; they were patient and committed to doing their very best. The staff body had done an amazing job in preparing the children for the first round of SATs for three years. Team Sitwell really pulled together to make the week as positive and productive for those children as possible. And those children responded with resilience, resourcefulness and real determination. They all deserve to be thanked and have their achievements recognised and celebrated.

If that wasn’t enough; the OFSTED call came in on Tuesday lunchtime and Team Sitwell had to face their inspection Wednesday and Thursday. We cannot discuss the outcome of that inspection but I can say, having had the pleasure of spending some time in the school over the years and especially this week, how incredibly committed the whole staff body is to ensuring that the inspection team recognised the strengths of the children, the community and the school itself. Every single person played their part. I don’t really like to mention individuals but I must pay particular credit to Christine Hoyland (and maybe others) who spent their lunchtime sitting in front of a broken manhole cover to ensure children weren’t endangered and they could have their lunch safely. Over and above doesn’t just do it.

And so, when the weekend comes we know it’s well-earned and well deserved.

Every single person working in our institutions, working for Inspire Trust, has played their part in ensuring that we all got to the end of the week unscathed.

We are stronger for this week and we are stronger as a multi-academy trust for the commitment all of our colleagues evidence, day in and day out.

I would say this wouldn’t I? – but, it really is better being together. Together we are more resilient. Together we are more resourceful. Together we are stronger. Together we can overcome more hurdles. Together we can stride further and faster. Together we do a better job for our children and young people. Together we serve our community more purposefully. Together we ensure that the educational provision for the children and young people of this community, of Rotherham, is as good as it possibly can be. That’s what we do! That’s what we are about! That’s who we all are! Every single person plays their part. Every single person looks out for and supports the children and the young people. Every single person looks out for and supports their colleagues. We are very fortunate to work together and I feel particularly honoured and privileged to work for and with you all.

Maybe this quote just sums up Inspire Trust?

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