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Posted on: 22/07/2019

Ofsted have been

I have to resist the temptation to start each blog post with “what a busy week that was”! Every day seems to be busy at the moment, but I am not complaining! We are having an amazing time, welcoming lots of visitors into the school, using the building in as many ways as we can before September to test all our systems, and also we are trying to get as many community groups in so that as many people as possible can benefit from our wonderful facilities. Some important news for parents: we had our Ofsted visit and I am delighted to report that our inspector was very pleased with what he saw. He reported to the Department for Education that he feels we are ready to open!! That is great news, we have completed all the legal activities prior to opening and can absolutely focus now on all the ‘nitty gritty’ aspects of making sure we are completely ready. The building is looking fantastic, with many more furniture deliveries having taken place since parents of our pioneering cohort visited. Last week we also invited into school those people who are considering places for 2020 – it seems amazing to think we are planning for those students, our second year group, when we haven’t even opened yet! On a visit last week to one of our feeder primary schools, I met with a group of three students Jamey, Joshua and Josh, who are joining us in September. I gave them the chance to interview me, I said they could ask any question they wanted and that I would use their questions in my weekly blog. So here goes: 1. How big is the football pitch? We have space on the field for 2 full sized and 1 junior sized football pitches! Our field is BIG! 2. Is the food going to be nice at school? Yes – I spent a long time choosing the right people to provide our food as I always have school dinners 3. Did the food taste delicious at open evening? Absolutely did! Sodexo did a fantastic job of showcasing their food 4. Who is your favourite football team? I’m not a huge fan of any one team, I do love watching good sport though, so I enjoy watching England when they play. If pushed I would say Norwich as that is my dad and brother’s team (but I don’t know anything about them really!) 5. Is Miss Cockwell (Headteacher at Oliver Tomkins school) your best friend? No, but I have built a really fantastic working relationship with her, as I have tried to do with all the other primary Headteachers, especially those who work in Church of England primary schools 6. Have you been a Headteacher before? No, but I have had some experience of being in charge when the Headteachers I have worked with in previous schools have been away from school. I also have been trained by some exceptional leaders who have given me a great insight into what it is like to be a Headteacher 7. What teams will we have? I want us to have all the traditional sports teams and more – I hope we can have a table tennis team, a badminton team, a chess team and a debating team as well as football, netball, hockey etc. 8. What is the stage like? The stage is amazing – it has a sprung floor, but you’ll notice it is not a raised stage, that is because the audience is raised 9. Have you got a trampoline? Yes! 10. Are your favourite colours grey and purple? Yes – actually I do like them and pink. I chose them for the logo and uniform because I think they look really smart and actually purple is a royal colour, so gives you an idea of the importance of what we are trying to do with our very smart uniform 11. Do you have your Alive model with you? Yes – always! 12. What car do you have? I love cars. I drive a Golf GTD at the moment, but lots of people in Swindon may remember my first real love – my yellow MG Midget that always used to be parked outside the front of St Joseph’s when I worked there. I love sports cars and I have owned 4 MG cars so far, I hope to get another one in the future! 13. Are we going to fill the school a year group at a time? Yes 14. Is sixth form boring? No, absolutely not, I loved being in the sixth form at my school and cannot wait until we have sixth form students at the Deanery! 15. How do SATs affect you in secondary school? Good question to end on! SATs will be used to give us an indication of your strengths and the areas where you may need some support. We will also do our own investigating to discover more about your ability, so SATs are not the only thing we will use to help us help you flourish. We just hope that you were able to do your best in your SATs and continue to try your hardest when you join us in September. Thanks for the great set of questions! Finally, I wanted to just finish with some news about an event that happened last Saturday. Our Deanery (our local group of churches) organised a prayer day in the school, to “pray the building in”. I was overwhelmed by the response – we had over 60 people come, both laity and clergy. I am so grateful to Revered Clive Deverell (our area Dean), Reverend Teresa Townsend (one of our Local Board of Governors) and Reverend Norma McKemey for all their organisation of the event and I am so grateful of the prayers of all – not just those who came to the event, but also I know that hundreds of people are praying for us. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.Read More

Holy week and Easter

Posted on: 17/04/2019

It is the school holidays and also Holy Week, so I have taken some time away from school work to be with family, friends and also to study and spend time engaging in Holy Week activities in preparation for Easter Sunday.

I hope by now students have received their postcards of welcome from me and look out for the post after Easter when I will be sending induction, uniform and registration information home.  Dates of transition days will be finalised and published.

I am reading some really interesting articles at the moment about leadership and autoethnography (my research for my Doctorate is in this area) and I have been noticing three things. 

First, an auto-ethnographer is described either as being 'a self-indulged narcissist' or 'self-reflexive and vulnerable'.  It strikes me that the same could be said about bloggers, of which apparently, I am now classed as one!  I hope my posts are interesting and I often wonder who reads them.  I offer my thoughts and insights just as that - I hope they are interesting and perhaps go some way to answering the question I was asked on Twitter a while back, "just what does a Headteacher with no students actually do?!".

The second thing I have noticed, is the parallel drawn between medicine and teaching.  This occurs a lot in 'evidence-based' practice: evidence-based medicine is held to be the gold standard of operating (pardon that pun!) and similarities are suggested that mean teachers should follow the lead and practice evidence-based teaching.  Real evidence-based medicine (argued by Greenhalgh at al, 2014):

  • makes the ethical care of the patient its top priority (all teachers would agree with this for students);
  • should make care individualised (again all teachers would agree with this for students);
  • is characterised by expert judgement rather than mechanical rule following (emphasis is mine);
  • shares decisions through meaningful conversations (all teachers would agree with this for students);
  • builds on strong relationships (all teachers would agree with this for students)
  • applies these principles at community level for the good of many (all teachers would agree with this for students).

The reason I put the middle bullet in bold is because I feel very strongly that teachers have to find their own way.  What works for me in the classroom or on the playing field, may not work for my colleagues.  We are individuals and whilst we will certainly have many well-established routines at the Deanery, I will resist saying to staff "you have to teach this (my) way" as that detracts from their professional integrity and personal style. 

Finally I am chuckling to myself that a) we have decided that there will be minimal homework for students at the Deanery in Key Stage 3, as we have a longer school day we want students to enjoy family time, rest and participate in out of school activities in evenings, at weekends and in the holidays.  Here I sit in the library at University, doing my homework!  I am amongst thousands of books, academic papers and my half-written essay, remembering that I have chosen to do this study (probably because I was inspired by all those who have taught me to love learning) and I am still studying at the very ripe-old-age of 50!  I passionately believe in lifelong learning and will hope to instill this in our students at the Deanery and hopefully bring a few members of their families along with us - watch out for evening classes run by Deanery staff in the future.  But b) I have also realised that I am writing this (for school) when I should be working (Uni work) and enjoying the holiday (family, friends and church activities).  Well, those of you who know me well will understand why, my work is also my passion, and I openly admit to enjoying every minute of it.  I was on a course recently with a friend, and during the introduction the course leader explained that you could either complete the course by attending for 5 days or complete the course with an essay submission at the end (involving quite a lot of reading and studying).  My friend was filled with fear, no-one had mentioned an essay to her, to be honest, she wouldn't have signed up for the course if they had!  Without saying anything, my friend looked across at me - I was smiling, excited at the prospect of more study, books, papers and an essay at the end to add to the fun!!

Happy Easter everyone – have a great holiday, a really uplifting Easter weekend and watch this space: next term so many things are going to happen and happen really fast.  There will be less than 100 days until opening; all the furniture will start arriving; the building will be finished; we’ll get the keys and by the time the next (summer) holidays come around, the Deanery will be open!


Greenhalgh, T., Howick, J. and Maskrey, N. (2104) Evidence based medidine: A movement in crisis?  BMJ, (348),  pp. 3725