The end of the penultimate week… almost. It feels a long term and I know educators, support staff and students are gearing themselves up for that final week, week 15, of this long term. I am talking about my Headship experience in Bristol on Monday and I have been doing a lot of reflecting over these last 3 months as the new (newish now) Head of Wyedean School. I had an opportunity to have such a conversation with the director of education for Gloucestershire, Jo Grills, who very kindly came to visit the school on Wednesday. Jo made a very astute comment as she left about the school reception and how important this first impression of the school is for visitors, staff and students. Jo was very complimentary as were the parents who came in for the Year 13 evening last night. I had a similar experience in Severnbanks School Lydney on Monday when I went to visit the Head there, Pam Howells. It was lovely to hear the singing of the students rehearsing the Nativity play as well as talk to Pam about how the schools in the Forest of Dean need to work more closely and how we should continue to lift the aspirations of our students. Pam is a very inspirational and dedicated Head and she referred to herself several times as a “proud Forester”. Those students and the community know how fortunate they are to have an educator like Pam as Head.
I have been really keen as a Head to keep building the links we have with own Forest and Wye Valley communities here. I have only ever known strong community-school partnerships and how we work together to raise the aspirations of our young people. I have seen so much of this partnership over the last 3 months and it was very evident this week. The new food hall for Marks & Spencer opened up in Chepstow this week and on Tuesday the Gospel Choir were invited to sing at the opening. The manager was thrilled as were the many shoppers who were not necessarily walking into the store but stayed listening to the singing. On Wednesday evening the school held the first ever International Christmas Market for Wyedean. It was a lovely event as many parents and students turned out to support the evening. This will be an annual event for the school and community and plans are already underway for next year. This may read strange for a Head to write but I really enjoyed the Full Governing Body meeting on Tuesday. We welcomed many new parent and academy governors and although items such as the cuts in education across the country are sobering topics the support and ideas from the governors supporting the school was a perfect example of leadership for me. Every stakeholder at Wyedean wants this school to be even more of a high performing school and even more aspirational than it has already reached. I met with PGCE teachers this morning ahead of their second placements. It is heartening to know the quality of new teachers and their passion for learning means a torch of education is continually being passed on. I was reminded of the moment in “The West Wing” quite a few years ago where the character Sam Seeborn gives a speech where he declares “Education is the silver bullet, education is everything”. Never a truer word said.
One of the best parts of the job is like this morning when my head of MFL came in to my room at 7:45am and told me the plans she has for Mandarin and Chinese as Wyedean as a Confucius Hub. It is poetry to hear of the opportunities for students and staff such as Chinese New Year on the 8th Feb, a Chinese Business Etiquette course for Sixth Formers, Shanghai Maths teaching model and more Mandarin for our primaries. And on Tuesday we Skype with the University of Bristol Classics School to discuss the Latin programme we are starting here at Wyedean. I know we live in austere times but we have reservoirs of hope in how we look at learning and life opportunities for our students.
A couple of years ago Wyedean School students campaigned in the Welsh Assembly about the lack of safety on the Chepstow-A48 bridge. This week we cannot say thank you enough for the completed safety barrier that allows our students crossing from Chepstow to get to school safely. I am about to drive back across that bridge and see my middle eldest daughter in her first primary school nativity play this afternoon. I will be thinking of those kids in Lydney performing to their proud families as I watch my Annie as a proud dad this afternoon. Education is about these moments! More of them please.