At the start of my Headship at the Academy, I told students, staff and families that my mission up until Easter was to look, listen and learn as much about the place as I could so I could make an informed decision about what I needed to keep, grow and change. This has been a fascinating process and I wanted to share it with you!
How did I do it? – I have visited lessons every day since I started at the Academy! I’ve seen lessons in every department and from every year group. I’ve also eaten lunch with the students in each of the kitchens, spent time in all of the house wells, and got down on to the field when the weather permitted us to open it. I’ve met with the House Captains and the Sixth Form Council, and met with several deputations of students who wanted to chat. I’ve taught my own Year 7 class and supported students in the Academy Skills Centre. I’ve been to Breakfast Club, run a detention, and take on Miss Bones and Jens Hullah in an epic rowing challenge. It’s been incredible!
What did they say? – students are overwhelmingly positive about the Academy. They really appreciate the expertise and energy that teachers put into their lessons. They recognise that they are lucky to come to an outstanding school and they want to make the most of every opportunity. Many students speak very highly of the wealth of extra-curricular activities on offer, including the performing arts, sports and outdoor education to name but a few! In lessons I’ve seen students eager to learn, well-organised, focused and well-behaved.
I’ve had a few requests from students to relax some of our rules and regulations. In particular, students wanted me to allow mobile phones in school. I won’t do this – we have very good reasons for not allowing them to be used in school as I explained on this blog in the post Why We Don’t Allow Mobiles In School. Along similar lines, some students wanted to be allowed to listen to music in class – but the research shows that this can undermine learning as I explained in the post Can I listen to music while I work? I revisited this theme for my assembly on Concentration which seemed to go down well!
Students have been very positive about our use of social media to celebrate the work of the Academy. This is in its infancy but we’ve broken 300 followers on Instagram this week (which is nothing compared to the Performing Arts Department’s account which is nearly at 500!)
How did I do it? – I’ve been meeting with every single member of staff individually. So far I’ve held 106 meetings! I’m looking forward to the rest after the Easter holiday. It’s been great to hear what they’ve had to say and to get their perspectives on the place. I’ve asked them what the best things about working here are, and what they think I should be working on.
What did they say? – When asked what the best thing about Churchill is, almost every single member of staff has said “the students.” Time and again the teachers and the support staff have spoken about how the young people at Churchill are keen to learn, focused on achieving their best, and willing to support the Academy and one another. The warmth and strength of those relationships is a vital part of the Academy’s success – the students love the staff and the staff love the students. I sometimes feel I’m the luckiest Headteacher in the country!
How did I do it? – It seems like a long time ago now, but back in January I held “Meet the Headteacher” evenings to meet with families from each of the Houses. Since then I’ve met families at many of the school events such as the Options Evening, Parents Evenings, West Side Story, the Spring Concert, the Dance Showcase, Dance Their Socks Off, Spelling Bee, Vocabulary Millionnaire final, Young Musician of the Year…it’s been busy! I’ve also been grateful to the parents who have emailed, phoned, written or come in to see me since January, and I have found this especially helpful.
What did they say? – as I explained in the newsletter in February, families are overwhelmingly positive about the work of the Academy. In particular vertical tutoring and the house system, the quality of staff, the ethos and values of the Academy and the performing arts opportunities were singled out for praise. These are all vital parts of what we do at Churchill and it’s my mission to protect them! Families advised us to improve communication, reports to parents, facilities, catering services and extra-curricular provision. These are all things we’re working on. Finally, families wanted us to enforce expectations around uniform, improve the buildings and facilities, develop homework and improve communication and reports to families. I’m on the case…
What now?The next step for me is to put in place the plan to take the Academy from its position of considerable strength to the next level of success. The signs are already looking promising: our successful bid for a new building begins the process of improving the quality of the facilities. We are fully subscribed for September with 270 offers of places made at Churchill to Year 6 children and their families. Students are working hard, staff are positive about their prospects, and the sun has shone sufficiently to get the field open at lunch time!
Over the next term we are working on:
- Care: ensuring the wellbeing of all members of the Academy is prioritised and that appropriate support is provided to those that need it
- Inspire: planning professional development so that the provision of excellent teaching and learning is the focus for all
- Challenge: redeveloping assessment, target setting and reporting to make it clearer and more helpful for students, teachers, and families
- Achieve: ensuring that outcomes are the best that they can be, whilst recognising that achievement is about more than just exam results.
We are also planning for our new building, preparing our new website for launch, and so much more besides! Watch this space…