To Lancaster and back…

It’s been quite a week! Last Friday, myself and three colleagues had made the journey to Birmingham for the ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders) Annual Conference. We were looking forward to two days of professional development and discussions with colleagues. I was especially excited, as I had been asked to do a question and answer session on the main stage with Jay Blades, presenter of The Repair Shop and all round hero of mine! All this was cut short mid-morning by a phone call from Ofsted, announcing they would be inspecting our Academy on Monday and Tuesday.

This was a unique circumstance. Normally, Ofsted phone the day before and turn up to inspect the very next morning. This means they normally phone on a Monday to inspect on Tuesday and Wednesday, or on a Tuesday to inspect on Wednesday and Thursday, and occasionally on a Wednesday to inspect on Thursday and Friday. However, due to the NEU industrial action this week, none of those were possible. So, for one week only, they called on a Friday.

Thanks to the wonders of technology (and the incredibly helpful people from ASCL) we were able to plan the inspection between Churchill and Birmingham, with the senior team separated by 100 miles. We then had the unusual experience of a weekend in between the notification and the inspection, before returning on Monday to meet the inspection team and get started.

There are very strict rules in place which mean that that inspection itself can’t be discussed before the report is published – so I won’t be discussing it here until that time. Suffice to say it was a thorough, testing and very rigorous experience, and no stone was left unturned.

After the intensity of those two days, we were then faced with the peculiar half-life of the school mostly closed due to industrial action by teacher members of the NEU. Our Sixth Formers, and Year 11 students who booked places, made the most of the limited provision we were able to offer, but the quiet lull across the Academy site was in stark contrast to the buzz of the previous days.

It was wonderful, therefore, to see all our staff and students back on Friday, with the added thrill of Lancaster House’s To Lancaster and back! indoor rowing challenge. Lancaster House students have begun the task of virtually rowing to Lancaster and back – a total of 868km throughout the UK canal ways – in order to raise money for their House charity, the RSPCA. You can sponsor a student directly on the sponsorship forms they have been given or make a donation online by visiting I used to do a bit of rowing as a university student – but that was a very long time ago, as I found out to my cost when I sat down to add my own kilometre to the total!

Well done to all the students involved – and particularly to Kate, Adam and the Lancaster House Council, for organising this terrific event.

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