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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

How lucky I am....

Posted on: 18/06/2019

Yesterday saw the start of the arrival of most of our furniture.  Some of the fixed furniture is provided by the construction company, BAM, but most of it is procured separately.  I think I have already spoken in previous blogs about all the choices I have made and now I am starting to see the choices turn into reality.  I wonder how many actual choices I have made?  I should have kept count I suppose – there must be thousands of choices to be made.  And of course, now I am finding one or two things that, having chosen them, I now do not like them.  It is a bit like ordering food at a restaurant – if there are lots of choices (and sometimes there are not, because I am vegetarian) then I often struggle to choose and end up picking something really quickly when the waiter comes over, because I feel under pressure as everyone else is clearly “ready to order”!  I can honestly say that there are only a couple of minor things that are not to my liking and out of the many choices I have made, I think that is not bad!  When you come to the school, see if you can spot what it is I now don’t like – I’m not going to tell anyone what it is, but I think you’ll be able to tell! 

Yesterday all the tables arrived on some really massive lorries – can you imagine how many student tables are needed for a school as big as the Deanery?  All the tables were unloaded from the lorries and put in the Agora – that is a lot of tables all in one place!  And today the furniture installers will begin to distribute the tables around the building to the correct classrooms.  This is such a big project that the company who have supplied all our furniture (YPO – who by the way have been FANTASTIC) have actually sent a manager to be at the school all the time that the deliveries are arriving and they have also supplied us with a team of installers.  The installers job is to help unload, then unpack all the furniture, count it, check it is not damaged, and then take it to the correct place and make sure it fits and works ok.  It all sounds relatively simple, but when you consider just how many tables are needed in a school that houses 1470 students when it is full….that is a lot of tables!  The chairs should arrive on Wednesday and of course there are a few more of those, because we need office chairs and meetings chairs and classroom chairs and dining chairs and chairs for people of different sizes!  Luckily there are seats already installed in the lecture theatre, the Egg (theatre) and viewing gallery in the sports hall….there are going to be SO many places where you can sit down at the Deanery!  Kind of ironic when you realise we actually do not have much time to sit down at all at the moment!!

Last week we were busy reading application forms for all the latest jobs we have advertised.  It was a fascinating time, reading the many hours of work people had put into their applications.  I realise that it takes not only time to apply for a new job, but often lots of emotional energy as well.  Good people who work in schools often do not want to leave the place where they work because they feel such loyalty to the children, families and colleagues that they work with.  I remember leaving each of the jobs that I have had very vividly.  When I left Oakfield school in 1992 I cried because that was my first job – I had wanted to be a P.E. teacher since I was about 11 and to have finally made it, I was so proud.  When I left St Joseph’s I cried because I had been there 9 years and really felt that I had become the teacher I had always wanted to be.  We had been inspected a number of times and done really well, especially in the P.E. department, and back in those days we won lots of sport competitions and trophies and athletic events.  Mr Huish, Mr Dixon, Mrs O’Connell, Mr Ouldridge and I were quite a team!  We spent many happy hours on the sports field together and we even managed to convince Mr Wells, the then Headteacher, to take a P.E. cover lesson.  That was a sight to behold – it was so foggy that you could hardly see the rugby pitches, and it was freezing cold as well, but there was our Headmaster, standing on the field, whistle in hand (and his coat on!) making sure that the P.E. lesson continued, despite the member of staff being off ill.  I cried for days when I left my next school, John Cabot Academy in Bristol, because I had made some really great friendships there and been at the school for 12 years through some of the most amazing times of development in education.  We changed from being a City Technology College into an Academy.  We started the now very successful Cabot Learning Federation.  We wrote and taught and sold an amazing new and innovative curriculum for Year 7 students.  We built a new part of the school, which housed Year 7, a fitness suite, a dance studio and also some sixth form classrooms.  And we changed Principal a number of times, so I had the privilege of working for some really inspirational leaders.  And then I cried when I left Nova Hreod, mainly because I was so proud at what a transformation we had made to the school during my time there.  I remember in my leaving speech there I used a phrase from Winnie the Pooh who said, “how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”  I think that sums up leaving any school – most people who work in schools feel this every time they leave somewhere.  And the ‘something’ is usually the students that they are going to be leaving behind.  And so today and tomorrow, as I prepare to interview the people who have applied for some key non-teaching jobs, I realise that some of the people who are coming to interview maybe actually quite heavy-hearted at the thought of leaving their current school.  For those who have been successful in getting an interview and the ones who have already got a job with us, the thought of starting at the Deanery at the very beginning of our journey has far outweighed the heaviness of heart that they might feel.  Staff have been attracted to apply because they want to be with us from the start, and set up and establish an amazing school.  With our focus on the very highest of expectations for each and every member of our community, this is so important.  I have been thinking a lot over the last week about what it really means to “live life in all its fullness” and it is this that we are seeking from each and every member of staff, the desire to be with us as we help every child to understand what this means and to discover in their own way how this can be true for them.

So whilst I know that choosing furniture for the 292 rooms is really important, it goes without saying that I think the choices that we have made and will be making about the staff who will be working at the Deanery are far more important.  There have been a lot fewer choices to make about staff (we will be a very small team for a few years), but it really is the people in a school who make a great school.  We have met many of our families who are coming to the Deanery and already know we have some super students joining us for their secondary education.  As I mentioned when we finished our teacher recruitment, we know we have recruited some exceptional teachers and we now will be making sure that we appoint some amazing staff to support them.  You will be finding out more about our staff over the next few weeks, both in this blog and on our website, so keep an eye out for that.  And of course, most of the team will be with us for transition evening on the 10th July.  Please, if you can, spare a thought for the candidates who we are interviewing over the next couple of days and also the panels who will be conducting the interviews, and if you do, perhaps you would pray for us as we make these final arrangements as the day of opening is now only 78 days away!!!!