The dog has just started snoring....It seems hardly a week since we started, but we are actually now in week 4! So much has happened in such a short time. We have had much positive feedback from students, families and community users, it is fantastic to see how our school has already had such a positive impact on the those who attend school here and use our fantastic facilities. Springing from our culture and ethos, we have established norms and routines for all aspects of our life at school. This was especially pleasing to be able to demonstrate yesterday to Tom Bennett, who is the Department of Education behaviour tsar. Tom was in the Deanery leading the final day of a four-day course for Swindon school leaders looking at how to run an effective school. Tom and the 24 delegates on the course joined us for lunch in the Agora and were hugely impressed with the calm and inclusive nature of family dining, with one member of staff commenting that the atmosphere was “wholesome” (and that wasn’t just the food!). Last Friday (20th September) saw our first parent and student tours during the school day. Two students accompanied me on the tours and actually it became evident very early on the tours that I was actually surplus to requirements. The parents were very much more interested (of course) in what the students had to say about the school and actually the students did a better job in most cases of explaining our systems and processes and the accompanying rationale! Well done Freddie and Sasha. This Thursday (26th September) sees our first Open Evening of this academic year. We are busy making plans for the evening, as we want to show off our school in its best possible way, but also to give a true picture of what life at the academy is like. We have been inundated – with students wanting to stay behind to help in various ways, and I think the offer of free pizza for their tea for them has been well received! It is fabulous to see how many students are already very proud of their school and want to encourage others to come here next year. Enrichment activities have been going really well, with students taking part in a wide variety of activities. We are still looking for volunteers to run activities later in the year, so if you are interested, please contact Mrs Kear-Luckman via reception. Students have been busy writing letters of application for various posts of responsibility – the first posts to be announced will be prefects, student council members and eco-monitors. I am going to have a very hard job, with my team of staff, to decide who takes up these positions of responsibility. One of the first letters of application I read started, “Dear Miss Culling, I would like to be on the school council because I can help the school be greater than it already is”. Whilst I am so pleased to hear a student already describe their school as “great”, to have such confidence in a young person is fantastic: ambition, drive and passion for making the school even better is just fantastic! We will announce the successful candidates in assembly and publish their names on the website shortly afterwards. We had an introduction assembly to our Harvest celebration yesterday, where Mr Duffy from the Swindon Food Collective came and spoke to us about how vital the volunteer run food bank is in Swindon. We will be collecting non-perishable goods to support the food bank in the run up to harvest, so please bring any donations to reception – students will be given details about ways they can contribute and details of our service will be released soon. Our school dogs have been busy already, having both completed their first induction days, they will continue to be introduced very slowly to the children. I am overwhelmed by the positive support I have received regarding the dogs and to see the joy on children’s faces as they meet Izzy and Elsa reinforces the rationale for having school dogs. Research has demonstrated the psychological and physical benefits of therapy dogs and I am delighted to be able to say that two students who suffer from anxiety (one completely dog-unrelated) have already benefitted hugely from the calming effect of two very waggy tails! In addition to the benefits for children, I am also aware that staff are benefitting from the presence of the dogs as well – there is something very soothing about stroking a dog and it is noticeable that my office gets many more visits on those days that ‘the girls’ are in! I would just like to point out that Izzy is curled up asleep while I write this and has just begun to snore, so maybe I have written enough for now! I hope this blog continues to be of interest and is providing an interesting insight into life at the academy.Read More
What a week that wasPosted on: 08/07/2019
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 and have 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.