Ordinary people doing extraordinary things…

…takes my breath away, and makes me proud to lead  my school.

Being in charge at the start of any academic year is an onerous responsibility – the who, what, where, when, why and how of school planning has to be tested throughout the organisation, ensuring that at every level, we actually have a plan.  Knowing what we are going to do to monitor and review the plan in the light of time and circumstance, and giving time and space for that review to happen are key parts of my work. Sounds boring of course, but then here’s the bite…

As any school term comes to an end, our work builds to a crescendo of activity, and as each year builds to an end so the opportunities for me to enjoy what we do, to witness the shades, tones, variety and spice of school life grow too. By the way, most who know me professionally understand that I have a passion for educational research; with Claires Court covering every age and type of day education to be found in England, I do tend to compare and contrast what we do against norms to be found elsewhere.  Our target remains to be outstanding in what we do, so the comparisons can make colleagues within CCS feel the collar tighten! I’ll give three examples of that joy of my work, and you’ll have to be the judge of my idea of fun!

I look forward to the publication of AR’s annual report on “What kids are reading” (not on-line) – read a blog here: http://www.ransom.co.uk/blog/?p=501– and I share the reports once it’s in with my English teaching and Library colleagues. The report is a bit skewed, as the books have to well known enough to be available digitally on the AR system, and I don’t extrapolate too far from the evidence they give. The concern growing (in the nation as well as in the report) is that our children are learning to read well, but as they hit the teenage years, children make choices that cause their reading age to regress quite severely; the easier and shorted the read the better is the stark conclusion. However, what fascinates me more is what children write about, and we’ve a number of projects on-going which encourage such writing, one of which being our Year 6 girls mob-written summer novel.

I say ‘novel’ but it’s really more a collection of short stories; this year’s edition is entitled ‘The  Dice Strikes 6’. We are into the third edition of the work, featuring the remarkably familiar sounding J.K Wilding, the bad tempered school proprietor, whose ground-hog day mission remains to recover a pair of lost dice stolen from him by the then Year 6 two years ago, the dice passing on to successive generations on girls in the prep. top year. An all-seeing, wise though often rather grumpy Mr Carruthers also populates the story; as form teacher of Year 6 he’s inevitably part of the narrative and like JK, an adult male likely to have much of his dignity removed by the emotional and descriptive work collaborated on by a group of 11 year old girls. Suffice it to say that I have been presented with this year’s book, and it’s a hoot!  Once it has been digitised, I’ll share the link. No great work of literature perhaps, but Year 6 have had a lot of fun, writing!

Underpinning extraordinary amounts of what we do is our mission to teach about creativity. Having bigged up the girls, it is only fair I point out the boys are no less active as story builders, and here’s how they done it recently using paints and camera –  http://goo.gl/nvYmq.  It is always going to be a big issue that some get to go on cricket tour and others can’t; if the alternatives come out as cool as our recent provision has, then it’s difficult for any to get upset.  The two adults in the picture series are Ridgeway’s Art teacher Martin Goddard and our Artist in Residence, Frances Ackland-Snow. Frances is leading our summer development of the Arts award through our Summer camp programme, a really exciting development now jumping down to the primary years, and one she is helping us to pioneer.  A lot of OfSTED ‘speak’ talks about giving pupils opportunities to take responsibility for their own learning; I’d always hope we do that well, but whether you’d actually leave that task to the Zombie boys of Film club, I’m not so certain.

Every year, including this Jubilee one, our Parents, Teachers and pupils collaborate to host a summer fete, this year held on Saturday 18 June. The great danger with any Saturday in the Summer is that it will of course clash with so many other events, so we have to be really inventive to ensure its ‘attractions’ are worth the visit by a school community willing to spend. Sure it is a fundraiser for our PTAs, but more importantly it provides our community, past and present, to come to school and enjoy some fun. You can see some photos I took on the day here – http://goo.gl/ONya3 . The novelties this year include a Dodgem car arena, and (I suspect an ISA school first) an inflatable ‘Pub’. Amusingly it was pointed out to me that the Pub seemed to be on occasion overpopulated by school staff, though since the senior boys’ staff were deployed to ‘people’ it, that seemed a base accusation. Suffice it to say that both were a great ‘hit’, not unsurprisingly so when the weather went foul and our visitors sought indoor attractions for shelter!

The highlights will continue every day to the end of term, across sports, drama, music, academic or recreational, often both. Off-stage now, most of my work is ensuring we are setting up the best we can for the next academic year; close to deadline activities such as new staff and pupils to be interviewed and welcomed into our community, critical path analysis of calendar and timetable creation so we create a plan for tomorrow that looks as or more effective than that for today. But the on-stage bit just couldn’t be better; I am delighted by the achievements of those I work with, both adults and children, employees and customers alike. When two dads, Felipe Foy and Chris Basley, give up their day job for the week to ensure we have an extraordinary funfare established to celebrate our Golden 50 years of achievement, I am genuinely humbled by their extraordinary efforts on our behalf.  Talk about ‘ordinary’? – talk about ‘extraordinary’, please!

The highlights will continue every day to the end of term, across sports, drama, music, academic or recreational, often both. Off-stage now, most of my work is ensuring we are setting up the best we can for the next academic year; close to deadline activities such as new staff and pupils to be interviewed and welcomed into our community, critical path analysis of calendar and timetable creation so we create a plan for tomorrow that looks as or more effective than that for today. But the on-stage bit just couldn’t be better; I am delighted by the achievements of those I work with, both adults and children, employees and customers alike. When two dads, Felipe Foy and Chris Basley, give up their day job for the week to ensure we have an extraordinary funfare established to celebrate our Golden 50 years of achievement, I am genuinely humbled by their extraordinary efforts on our behalf.  Talk about ‘ordinary’? – talk about ‘extraordinary’, please!

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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