The key to leading a school?

This Tuesday, Mr Suttenwood and I visited Great Yarmouth Charter Academy which has attracted a large amount of publicity for its various approaches to education over the last 18 months. The school is partly modelled on the Michaela Community School in Brent. The Headteacher, Barry Smith had been Deputy Head previously, and has transposed some of that model to the different setting. Some parents will have heard of the school and the approach (others won’t), but we were visiting partly through intrigue (he hosts visits virtually every day); partly to learn from different practice (we should all keep an open mind and keep learning); and partly to challenge our “comfort zones” (not that I would ever describe Headship as comfortable). There are so many adjectives that I could use to describe the transformation of the school, and if I am honest I am still processing elements of what I witnessed. I will conclude a few thoughts. Firstly: Mr Smith was incredibly giving of his time, and exudes passion for the students in the school; secondly, his personal style is not one easily replicated, and yet that is intrinsic to the model of the school being created; thirdly, the school was entirely different (which was his intention) to anything I have ever experienced in terms of the interactions and approved style of teaching; fourthly, it reminds us that context is the key to everything we try to achieve (he openly described the predecessor school as one of the worst in the country); finally, those that ‘pooh pooh’ his transformation should witness it first before being critical. How and what we will take on board for Marshalls is a different question, and certainly it won’t be every aspect before the community fear that I have stolen the blueprints, but learn from alternatives we must. As for the individual elements and the adjectives associated, they rightly should remain private; suffice to say I would encourage other colleagues to go and visit and take stock of the journey, rather than judging from an ignorant position. 

To lighten the mood, due to some misunderstanding with the PTA, the senior leadership team and a couple of Year 11 students were locked in school on Monday evening for 5 mins (the site team believed I had my main school keys, but they were actually in my car already), so I had to climb out through a classroom window to get to my keys; needless to say, one bruised and scratched back later, and a little cursing from me, there was much hilarity from Mrs Essery and Harriet.

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