Sunday, 22 May 2016

A day at the Palace

Last Monday I had an invite to Buckingham Palace. Two students were to be presented with their gold awards for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. James Bevan and Aoife Hooper were the recipients and it was a very proud occasion for students’ family and school.  It was such a pleasure to be there along side Mr Davies who puts so much time into all things D of E.  It was such a wonderful event and I was delighted that Aoife and Ed got to meet the Duke himself. The award is a real challenge and achieving gold is no mean feat. I think there are 55 students this year in year 10 working towards the bronze award.

This week I asked some students which co-curricular activities they took part in and the answer surprised me, “none”! Even more shocking was the fact that they didn’t take part in activities outside of school either. This is a rare thing at Cathedral and I emphasised the importance of taking part in the full school assembly on Friday. Education is so much more than the subjects we teach and learn, it is about developing into well rounded, confident, articulate young people. We have changed the title to co-curricular subjects deliberately, perhaps we should get rid of the co! 

Saturday, 16 April 2016



Over the break there was a good deal of media attention following the publication of the white paper (Educational Excellence Everywhere). I hadn’t appreciated the level of distrust surrounding academies that still seems to prevail. Back in 2008 when I was appointed there were less than 100 academies and we were seen as something of an experiment, I could understand the lack of trust. Over the last eight years things have changed, there are now 5272 academies in England, 2020 are secondary! The white paper challenges all schools to become academies by 2022.

On facebook I noticed the following posting warning us about academies suggesting that they:

-Take schools out of the control of experts and hands them to people who can make money from them.
-Offer a complete top-down reorganisation that wasn’t promised in the manifesto because that worked well for the NHS
-Frees parents from the burden of having a say in the running of their local schools
-Empower teachers and headteachers by telling them exactly what’s right for them
-Guarantee higher standards by not taking children with additional learning or other needs
-Remove control from evil, democratically elected councils in favour of nice, unaccountable bureaucracies
-Help fulfil potential such as academy CEOs potential to earn 200k+ and make money from employing their own companies.

I find it disappointing and frustrating that there is so much misinformation in the system. My response to the seven points are as follows:

1.     There is no money to be made and all academies must have qualified teachers and leaders!
2.     Not sure how the NHS comparison is relevant
3.     Parents continue to help govern academies, thankfully
4.     This doesn’t make any sense to me
5.     Nonsense, we have a statutory duty to abide by the admissions code
6.     We are accountable to the EFA, Ofsted, and all stakeholders.
7.     I wish!

It is good and right that we debate this important issue informed by the true differences between academies, free schools et al. Please do join me for the parent engagement evening later this month where I look forward to hearing your views.

Sunday, 10 April 2016


I recognise that this this not a subject that I am entitled or qualified to give advice on. Over the last eight years I have been rather glued to my devices, checking e-mail each day and finding it difficult not to be in touch with school life, even throughout the holidays. This Easter I attempted to take a complete break and that included being gadget free! I set up the auto reply on the e-mail account and disconnected work for the ten days of the family holiday. The results were certainly beneficial for me and I began to notice the impact ICT was having in other families.  

Two incidents stand out, the first in a solemn Eucharist in the Cathedral. I was irritated to see two children sitting in front of me wearing headphones and playing games, one of them particularly violent. While the service progressed, including some beautiful music, the two children didn’t look up at any point, and at no point did the parents suggest they disconnect! I resisted the temptation to make comment, perhaps I should have done.

While staying in a hotel I began to notice families sitting after or during dinner often in silence in silence each glued to a tablet or phone. No group discussions, games or human interaction of any form, just a family unit plugged in, in isolation, it can’t be healthy. We have a policy on devices within school, which I hope is sensible. We ask students not to use them during lesson time unless it is connected to their learning and I know that many parents are comforted by the fact that their children have a phone with them particularly relevant perhaps within a city centre site.  I wonder if we need to consider supporting students and staff more, encouraging them to be less reliant on devices, and to take a break.

Sunday, 13 March 2016


Later this week we will send a letter to parents asking them to be mindful of staff wellbeing when contacting the school. Some staff report that the number of incidents of highly challenging e mails or phone calls have increased and this is noted across the world of education generally. The TES covered the issue earlier this year:

Three-quarters of teachers believe parents’ behaviour towards them has grown worse over the last five years, according to an exclusive poll for TES. Among the primary and secondary staff questioned by YouGov, only 2 per cent said that parents’ behaviour had improved since 2010. And 25 per cent said that there had been no change at all in the way that parents behaved.
By contrast, 73 per cent of the teachers surveyed said that parents’ behaviour had become worse. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said that she was unsurprised by this. “Primary school teachers are particularly vulnerable to verbal abuse, because often parents are picking up children from school,” she said. “But secondary teachers also find themselves being verbally abused in meetings with parents.”

Many teachers believe that the advent of social media has exacerbated the problem. David Blow, headteacher of the Ashcombe School in Dorking, Surrey, said: “All it takes is something happening locally, or a bad Ofsted – something that a school could have managed really easily five years ago.

“Now, a couple of parents start up a Facebook page and the anxiety can spread. Something that’s in print is much harder to deal with than something people are just talking to each other about.” A representative sample of 796 classroom teachers and headteachers from England and Wales were surveyed for the poll.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Recruitment new teachers for CST

The recruitment season is well under way and I will write to parents before Easter with an updated staffing list. Mrs Morgan published an article warning of a recruitment crisis in the Sunday papers. 

Addressing the ASCL’s annual conference, Mrs Morgan said: “while the headline data shows a sustained low, national vacancy rate, the reality on the ground for many heads is that they are struggling to attract the brightest and the best." She acknowledged that the cost of recruiting can be a burden when schools have “other, better things to be spending money on," adding that £40bn is to be spent on education in the next financial year, a figure representing “the highest amount this country has ever spent on its schools.” On fears that highlighting recruitment issues may put people off of becoming a teacher, the Education Secretary said: “Let's focus on commenting to the outside world on what a great profession teaching is, how rewarding it can be and what good teachers have the power to do."
The Mail on Sunday   The Independent on Sunday, Page: 14

I need to remind myself constantly that we are very lucky to be able to attract such large and able fields of applicants. Most schools struggle to attract a handful of applications for mathematics jobs and we had 25! Over the last few weeks we have shortlisted from over 200 applications for the following vacancies:

Deputy Headteacher Primary School

We spend a lot of time and money on recruitment but there is no more important job.