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Posted on: 8/07/2019

What a week that was

We are just one week into being in the school building 'proper' and so far we have hosted a number of meetings, hosted a conference with local primary schools, held 2 'move-up' or 'transition' mornings, hosted our first lettings, hosted a 24 hour charity football event and hosted our first charity concert. Needless to say, we are still learning things andhave had one or two teething issues, like 'how do you turn the air con on?' but generally things have gone exceedingly well! Last Monday, as you know, was key handover and our Readiness to Open Meeting with the Department for Education. Both events were highly successful and I left on the evening of July 1st absolutely buzzing. On Tuesday I spoke with the uniform company about some of the teething problems the company have had with their website - I cannot thank parents enough for their patience regarding this. Trutex will be at the Open Evening on Wednesday, so please be prepared to ask them all your questions then and just so you know, we have taken a large delivery of items of uniform today for the 'sizing event' which will take place in the Agora before and after the Principal's talk. I think one of the proudest moments for me last week was standing on the plaza last Wednesday morning for the arrival of our first students for their 'move-up' morning. Having been involved in this project for such a long time, I had imagined myself on that morning very many times... when it actually happened I have to admit, I was close to tears (not again!). I spoke to the students in the Egg before they went off to their activities and I reminded them of our vision and values using the Alive model. As I spoke, I looked round at the expectant faces and remembered again the huge responsibility that lies ahead of us and the massive privilege of leading our students from childhood into adulthood. I saw enormous potential in the students and staff and already witnessed some fantastic relationships beginning to develop. Students met new people from other primary schools, made new friends and hopefully felt more comfortable having had a walk around the building. The look of astonishment on their faces when we took them into the sports facilities and the theatre was fantastic! The activities went really well - some students made art work which will be mounted and displayed before September, some made bath bombs and all our students were given the opportunity to decorate a cross for our 'installation' that is going in the chapel. On Thursday I had a planning meeting for a day of prayer that is being held in the Deanery on 20th July - this is a really important event as it will mark the first official time when we have gathered as a large group to pray in the building. And on Friday, after welcoming our students to the second 'move-up' morning (I thought I was ready for it this time, I thought I wouldn't feel emotional until someone asked to have a photo taken with me at the front of school....) I dashed off to get the train to London. Whilst on the train I took a very important phonecall from one of Her Majesties Inspectors from Ofsted, informing me details about our pre-opening registration visit. This takes place this week - more about that next week. The event I was going to was organised by a fantastic charity, the New Schools Network, who provided some excellent training on the First 100 Days of being open and then we had afternoon tea in the House of Lords. The permanent secretary for education, Jonathan Slater, spoke of his passion for education and reminded us of the reasons why we do what we do. And so onto Saturday, when we hosted our first concert in our theatre. This was a huge success, not least because of all the support we had from our fantastic staff. Some of our teachers and support staff volunteered to come along and help be stewards and front of house staff, and some of our community volunteers ran the sound and lighting desk and sound. The Swing Birds gave a fantastic show and we raised £1350 for Brighter Futures. I said afterwards that it was like we had been running events like that forever, I hope it appeared like that from 'front of house'! What strikes me already is the diversity of activities that have already taken place here. We are building an exceptional school, clear already from some of the work completed in our transition events and the relationships that have started to build. We are also providing an exceptional building for our community - as I sit here writing this, out of the window I can see people of all ages arriving for Leadership Martial Arts. I never imagined that my first Headship would be in such an amazing building, set in such a wonderful Community as Wichelstowe. I hope those of you who have had a chance already to see the building in action are as pleased as we are and I look forward to welcoming many more of you into the school in the coming months. Read More
Posted on: 1/07/2019

This is it!!!

It is 933 days since I was appointed as the Principal of the Deanery CE Academy back in December 2016. Today is a very important day for the Deanery and me. This morning we have just completed key handover so we now officially own the building. This afternoon we have our Readiness to Open Meeting (ROM) with the Department for Education. These meetings normally take place in Sanctuary Buildings, the headquarters of the Department in London. This is because often schools are sometimes only completed and handed over in the last 2 weeks of August, meaning school staff are rushing around trying to get everything ready before the children arrive. As you will know if you have been following us for a while, we have always been due to take over the building on 1st July. It is an incredibly exciting day and a real privilege to be able to welcome those people from the Department for Education who have been working so hard behind the scenes to support us here in Wichelstowe. It is such a complicated process to open a school and we have had fantastic support from our team, I cannot wait to be able to show them our amazing facilities and present our final plans to them. Last week we were busy both in the building and out and about at meetings making final plans and receiving training that is critical for all school staff. Monday I met Tom Bennett, who is the Department for Education’s behaviour tsar – Tom has been working with lots of Swindon schools to help us create a town wide strategy for decreasing exclusions and increasing engagement in schools. On Tuesday I attended Safeguarding and Child Protection training with our Designated Safeguarding Lead. And then for the rest of the week, Mr Scutt, Ms Pickett and I were busy in school making final preparations for this week. We also invited primary school teachers in who are sending students to the Deanery next year and so we met with lots of Year 6 teachers, SENDCo’s and some Headteachers who were eager to tell us all the wonderful things Year 6 can do and also were quite excited to have a tour of the building before anyone else. We decided to make cakes for our visitors last week and so held our first Bake Off competition. Now, I must say that I am probably better with a drill than a food mixer, but I like to think that I can bake a cake. However, I found last week that I am a very basic baker indeed. Ms Pickett, our Senior Estates and Lettings manager make the most delicious chocolate cake – I was outclassed on that one. But then Mr Scutt arrived. He is, in my estimation, close to being a professional baker and his children are pretty good as well! I hope you have seen the picture of his creations on Twitter, if not take a look. I am going to secretly enter him to the Great British Bakeoff, but don’t tell him! Oh and on Thursday we launched the date for our Meet the Principal evening for current Year 5 (admissions 2020) – we have an online booking system and to say that tickets went fast is an understatement. All I can say is that it is a good job we have a reasonably large school hall in which to accommodate all our guests! That’s it for now today as I need to go and prepare for our visitors from the DfE. This is the next part in the most amazing chapter of the life of the Deanery, and one of the things I am going to say at our meeting this afternoon, is that we’re not ‘ready’ to open, we are absolutely eager to open!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