Dignity and respectI cannot believe it is nearly a month since I last wrote this. How time is flying by. So what have we been up to since I last wrote? Well, we held our first Open Evening for next year’s prospective students in the actual building where children will be going to school. Last year I held Open Evening’s in various (slightly drafty) church halls and churches, not so this year. Thursday 26th September saw over one thousand people come and visit the Deanery and I am proud to say they saw it at its best. We were delighted to be able to have the support of 30 of our current Year 7 students to act as welcomers and show off some of the wonderful activities we have been doing in lessons. Our staff put on some wonderful demonstration lessons and showed off Talbot wing where Year 7 are based. Our community facilities were in full use, with netball, Leadership Martial Arts and Hockey being played, as well as football on the field. It is safe to say we were exhausted at the end of the evening, but delighted with how much interest there was in our fantastic school. Since then we have had Open Morning tours every Friday, either for people who could not make the Open Evening or for those who wanted to see our school in action, with lessons taking place. We estimate that at least another 450 people have visited on the Fridays, how wonderful it is that people are taking the time to make a really considered choice with regards to their secondary school choices. I am so grateful to Miss Evans, my PA, who has run these tours with the Principal’s students. The morning after Open Evening we had some student visitors from Costa Rica come and join us for a day at the Deanery. Some of our students got to talk to them in their home language of Spanish, and then we treated them to one of the wonderful Deanery lunches. After lunch we played sports with them – basketball, cricket, table tennis and football. The following week saw an unexpected turn of events. I took a phone call at about 8.15pm from one of my DBAT colleagues informing me that a group of caravans had arrived in the car park. I had only left school about half an hour previously, as we had been at our first Science evening lecture. We had two fantastic scientists come from the University of Bristol and talk about ‘Gases in the Air’ to students from some of our local primary schools during the school day and then they repeated the same lecture in the evening for parents and other children. I was a bit taken aback at the telephone call, but after some discussions with our security and site team and the local police I was reassured that all was calm. The next morning I arrived early at school to check that the site was safe for our students to come to school as normal. That is one of the fantastic benefits of our facilities, that we actually have a very secure safeguarding line and can have members of the public on site whilst the students are safely in school, behind securely mag(netic)-locked doors. I was delighted that we were able to show hospitality to our visitors – they were invited to use our community toilet (especially helpful for two of the ladies who were pregnant) and also when I visited the caravans to talk to the visitors, they asked if they could have some bin bags so they could tidy up after themselves when they left. My experience of our visitors was a positive one – I was able to speak directly to our students and say that we respect the way our visitors choose to live their lives and that our Alive values call us to live well together and be selfless human beings. I was very proud of how our community - staff, students and families – reacted to our unexpected guests and am proud that we demonstrated dignity and respect to them before they left 2 days later. ‘Dignity and Respect’ was the theme of the conference I attended a few days later in London with the Anglican Association of Secondary School Head teachers. We were staying at a beautiful sanctuary in London, at The Royal Foundation of St Katherine in Limehouse. It is both an amazing place to stay and rest (without televisions in the rooms I hasten to add) and also a good place to go if you just wish for a good wholesome meal in a yurt! Situated right next to the heart of the bank business district, it really is the most remarkable oasis of calm. We had lectures from Bishop James Jones, who was the independent panel chair for the Hillsborough Disaster; Nigel Genders, the Chief Education Officer of the Church or England; Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, a former Bishop in New Zealand, now Bishop of Ripon, who after her lecture led us in a beautiful communion service. A really proud moment was when the school choir from St Mary Redcliffe and Temple school in Bristol joined us to lead our worship on the first day – their Head teacher, Mrs Gilpin, is Chair of the Committee, so she had invited her students to lead our worship and I have to say she cried tears of pride pretty much throughout! We also had a fantastic lecture from Dr Robert Loe from Relational schools, who reminded us how important positive relationships are in schools and from Dr Paula Gooder, who gave the most amazing lecture on bible stories relating to dignity and respect and then she took us to her place of work for a short tour (!) and choral evensong. St Paul’s cathedral nonetheless! I was really excited to go back there as I had visited there in July 2018 for the consecration of our Bishop of Bristol, Bishop Viv. And to have the opportunity to sit in the choir stalls, right next to the choir as they sang, was just uplifting. My time spent following Evensong was a little strange. I had planned to Skype into school, so I could attend the Local Board (Governors) meeting – just one of the advantages of having high tech ICT kit in such a modern school! What I hadn’t accounted for though was how long it would take to get back from St Paul’s after Evensong, so I realised I was going to have to Skype in, not from the comfort of my room back at St Katherine’s, but from somewhere on the way home! I chose a bench outside St Paul’s, used my mobile phone as a hotspot and dialled in on my laptop! I thought I would be fine, sat snuggled in a corner with my coat, my scarf and my headphones on. What I hadn’t accounted for was the slightly strange looks I got from passers-by at 7.30pm and the sudden drop in temperature once it got dark (pretty much straight away!!). After a few long items and some good discussions on the agenda, my wonderful Local Board members told me to pack up and get the Tube back home…..I didn’t need telling twice! Suffice to say, I had to walk right past a very well-known Sushi bar on the way back to the station, so I may just have popped in there for a warm-up supper! Being able to be out of school at the conference was not only very uplifting personally for me, but also taught me a very important lesson. I spoke to a lot of Head teachers last year who said that I probably wouldn’t want to be out of school for any conferences or meetings at all in this first year. This puzzled me. Part of my responsibility as a Principal is to attend meetings and conferences – there are going to be times when I have to go and represent the Deanery or continue my own professional learning and development. This was one of those times, and I am very proud to say that I did not hesitate in accepting the invitation to attend the conference, knowing very well that the Leadership team and staff I have appointed back at school would cope very well without me being there. The students did me proud and I was so moved when one student came up to me on Monday morning and said, “welcome back Miss Culling”! The students really have been fantastic this term – they have adapted to life at the Deanery exceptionally well. We have already established some excellent norms – family dining at lunch is a pleasure, and the students now have a rota to lead grace before we eat. We were moved by the donations received from students and their families for our wonderful harvest celebration assembly, and we were delighted to welcome some of our friends from Uganda to come and speak during the assembly. Our Student Council have had their first meeting of the term, our prefects have been busy at work already and our student librarians have now taken up their posts and have begun to make a difference already. Have you seen the wonderful professional pictures of our library on Twitter? Our Principal students have been busy and have excelled at leading tours on Open Mornings. Our catering company have really excelled themselves, our Cornerstone coffee shop has already become a lovely community hub and I have to admit I have put on a few pounds this term as the food and coffee is so good! Don’t forget to visit the Cornerstone during half term, with Gruffalo activities for the children. And finally a word about the school dogs, who have become very popular already. Izzy has just about completed her induction. She is very popular with students asking if they can walk her a break times and lunchtimes – she’ll never say no to a walk (unless it is raining!). She completes her morning inspection of the corridors, checking that no crumbs have been left, and she has even managed to behave well enough to be present in a couple of lessons. However, today she injured her foot while out taking some well-earned weekend exercise. Hopefully it will heal quickly and she’ll be able to come into school before we break up for the holiday. Elsa hasn’t done quite as well as I thought she would – she is taking a bit longer to get used to being in school and I fear this is because she is used to being with Fuzzy all day. Sadly Fuzzy is a bit too old to come to school, so we will just need to take our time to get Elsa used to being at the Deanery. Despite this, the impact of having the dogs in school has been remarkable, with both staff and students benefitting hugely from their presence. Sorry this has been a bit longer than normal, but there is so much to say! And sorry I have been blogging slightly less frequently than before, but I am sure you understand!Read More
Holy week and EasterPosted 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