“A leader is best when people barely know he exists” Lao Tsu

I had the privilege to be invited over to the Cabot Learning Federation (CLF) in Bristol on Wednesday to talk to NPQH candidates about headship and school leadership. I undertook my own NPQH as an aspiring Head/Principal through the CLF Institute and it is a model of leadership development and succession planning that allows schools and academies to continue to get good school leaders coming through. When David Carter set up the CLF he knew good succession planning was crucial to its success and the belief that everyone is a leader in school. This has never been more important than right now in this time of unprecedented educational uncertainties. I thoroughly enjoyed my NPQH with Cabot & the National College especially as it was giving me the leadership nourishment and challenge at the time I needed to prepare for leading a school like Wyedean.

Every day as a Head feels like it is an NPQH challenge and no two days are the same. Monday started off with the A48 closing at 7am for the roadworks not 9:30am as stated. The chaos this caused with students and staff trying to get to school was appalling. It’s a good job I had planned my Year 11 assembly on the theme of humour and laughter after that start to a week. The power of social media, for good and for bad, never ceases to amaze. Parents, governors, local counsellors and students were quick to take to Twitter and Facebook to put across the concerns regarding the two weeks of disruption this would cause to students being in school and for exam classes about to go on study leave. My sincere appreciation to Gloucester County Council and the Highways Agency SW for listening and acting.

As the week went on the Year 8 assembly theme changed to Friendship so things were definitely improving by Thursday and even the sun began to shine which finally justified my decision to turn the school heating off on a freezing cold Monday. My Year 7 History class went outside to work in the sun as we were looking at the topic of bad rulers in history, even picked up on Twitter by Horrible Histories. How will Elizabeth II be seen by history? Not quite the same as King John or Mary I. An interesting debate in class as the Queen marked her 90th birthday this week. My Year 13 Politics class grappled with the powers and role of the Vice Presidency this week. Who would Trump choose as a running mate if he is still there in the autumn? The Science learning area are involved in a fascinating project at the moment with planting “rocket seeds” that have been in space and I saw some great learning in Maths this week as I walked around the area. Year 11s are just off to the Maths mock now as I type this blog. Study leave beckons ever closer. We have a vacancy in Maths at the moment for September so if you know of anyone interested the details are on the website. The Sixth Form football team sadly lost narrowly in the county semi-final to Tewkesbury but were a credit to the school.

The leadership team worked with Jackie Beard of the National Governors Association on Thursday as we continue to develop as a high performing school and my thanks to parents who came in this week after school to work with Jo Davies of the Ceridwen group for parent voice on improving the school. The teaching and learning briefing this week focused on the recent round of lesson observations and I saw a great example of stretch and challenge this week in a Year 9 DT lesson linked to global designs. I met with Caroline Harmer of the Global Learning Partnership to plan the autumn global conference being hosted here at Wyedean as well as our development of the global leaders’ scheme.

To finish this week’s blog, the hoax curriculum letter this week doing the rounds was spotted immediately by sharp eyed students – not the boxing lessons being an odd inclusion but the spelling being way too good in the letter to have come from me as Head. Exam students have far too much time on their hands it seems. At least they are motivated by what is happening politically to education right now in England. As for uniform rumours no striped blazers and boaters just yet but the student council are running a consultation on how we can improve the current uniform without major changes. The final decision on this will be communicated in June.

My thanks to Forest Activities Festival for the invite to attend on Sunday at the Speech House grounds Coleford and I know my three daughters are looking forward to it. I haven’t checked with Mrs Ford yet but then this is where I hand over my leadership for the weekend when I get home.

 15th April 2016

“Please can you pass on our sincere thanks to the terrific team for giving up their holiday time to take the students away skiing. Our son had a brilliant time and we are always amazed at your staff’s patience, energy, enthusiasm and flexibility. As always the Wyedean Community enables students to be themselves whilst understanding their roles of independence, responsibility and enjoyment. Thank you too for your on-going support of all that makes Wyedean a wonderful learning and developing environment.” Year 10 parents email, 11th April 2016

There are some great photos and comments on the two visits that went out from Wyedean over the Easter break posted on the school’s website, Facebook and Twitter. I have no problem starting a new term back after Easter reading the very kind words from parents in the quote starting this blog piece. It’s less than a month until the Queen’s Speech and along with lots of educators I am waiting to see what form the education bill will take based on the March 2016 White Paper. The highly respected Institute of Fiscal Studies announced real term funding being cut by another 7% taking spending levels back down to those last seen in the 1970s. These are unprecedented times in the public services and in education in particular. Some of my A Level Politics class discussed the Brexit referendum and the possible consequences of either result being announced. For them this will be the first time they will also be eligible to vote as well.

The new day of the summer term kicked off with a huge burst of optimism when I went to see the Year 11 Motivation day with a very talented speaker from The Fix Up Team (@thefixupteam). I am resisting the temptation to constantly remind Year 11 how little time they have left before Study Leave but as expected, along with Sixth Form and A Levels, this dominates these few precious weeks before Whitsun break. The leadership team are in throes of planning the new timetable and I met some Year 9s to speak about how they chose their options especially in the context of EBacc.

The school has been working this year with groups within pastoral like EACH (Educational Action Challenging Homophobia) through assemblies and working with groups of students. I was impressed with a group of students who have recently set up a LGBT group in school to support their peers. It makes me very proud to see such leadership from Wyedean students. Another proud moment was seeing the outstanding creativity and innovation in the DT exhibition on Friday lunchtime for GCSE and A Level. Even the Dyson Foundation thought so on Twitter.

It was a strange moment to speak to staff last Tuesday at the School Priority Meeting as a sort of part “state of the union” address and part “try not to make them fall asleep”. I think I got the balance right as a Head. I did work at a school once where the Head had about 72 “urgent” priorities for the school to focus on. The positive school culture along with the hard work and professionalism I see daily as I walk around convinces me that Wyedean School’s priority to be a high performing school in all that it does is being achieved.

I was fortunate enough at Easter to spend a few days taking an elderly relative of mine to Arnhem to see where his cousin had died at the bridge as a paratrooper fighting there in September 1944. It was a very poignant visit especially when we went to the Commonwealth cemetery at Oosterbeek. Every September all the local schools go to Oosterbeek and lay flowers on every grave to remember and to also look forward. I spoke to a Dutch teacher who said how important it was in local schools to remember these moments in Europe, and the importance for younger generations to be aware of what it has taken to get the peace and prosperity we enjoy and perhaps take for granted in our continent today.



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