Leadership and the Peloton…

Welcome back to the Summer Term at Claires Court, dear Reader. The Easter break for teaching staff is but 9 working days long at best, with professional development a very key aspect of our 3 INSET days spent as a professional body of 150+ educators and support staff working collaboratively and yet in different teams for age, stage and work focus. School leadership and management at this time of year feels very much like working the Peloton, that great ‘snake’ of  energy by which road cycling manages it affairs at race time. It’s fair to say that the academic staff on the 3 Claires Court sites are both my greatest responsibility and the source of my greatest pride.  They are a feisty bunch too, and not just committed to the one site; we have a number of staff who commute across sites, and plenty with cross-site responsibilities as well. As a member of staff, you can find yourself in a variety of teams too, each of which attract their own set of responsibilities and challenges. At any given time during our training days, staff will find themselves wearing different ‘jerseys’; some sessions attract all those working in specific departments to focus on their subject, others are ‘interest’ led, still further are whole site with specific issues to tackle. In short, we have small and large groups, dynamically jostling with each other, some breaking away to forge a new initiative, only to be subsumed into the pack at a later stage as the ‘peloton’ requires.

What might we be occupying ourselves with, given that school was ‘out’ for Easter? Any one with responsibilities for working with the Under 8s was most likely to be updating for 2 days their paediatric First Aid skills, a statutory requirement these days every 2 years (20+ adults). As we are introducing ‘De-fibrillators on all of our places of work, these and a very large number of other staff also took part in practical training in their use. The only effective treatment for a person who has suffered a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the combined administration of CPR and the use of a defibrillator. A defibrillator will deliver an electrical shock to stop the irregular rhythm and allow the heart’s natural pacemaker to restart the natural rhythm. The addition of ‘Defibs’ are very much part of the school’s policy to improve the medical welfare and provision for both pupils and staff. Separately the Nursing staff have been updating teaching and support staff on the use of Epipens and medicine management, not new but certainly something more closely highlighted as a regular need for us to check that staff know what to do.

On the Academic side, at both primary and secondary level, we have run workshops so staff learn how our overarching assessment processes and report writing are to knit together for more effective reporting on attainment and skill development for our parent body. I am not shy in stating that the hard ‘yards’ we have worked to create the Claires Court Essentials is not a job done but a work very much in progress.  Whilst we will continue to be innovative and forward thinking in our approach to a curriculum best suited for this decade, we need to ensure that our actions match my rhetoric – put simply, it’s not just the children who need to acquire new skills, but adults who need to adjust their working practice for a better ‘fit’.  Our partners in our latest digital offer, Discovery Education’s new Secondary service provided two major training sessions for teachers and support staff to ‘surf this new cloud’ and work out how best to deploy in lessons and for homework.

And of course we have the inevitable ‘staff meetings’ to pull dates and plans and activities for the new term into a coherent whole, to keep staff clued up with what’s expected of them, and of course to allow new ideas to surface and be shared. We have new courses to be designed for both new A levels and GCSEs, and some 600 pages updated in 20+ handbooks for each year group (and gendered too) for our curriculum statements for the next academic year. Some would like to think we could fit all this activity into the working term, but sadly, there are of course lessons to prepare and give, myriad sports, activities and events to train, execute, review, celebrate and indeed simply just enjoy in the Summer term that lies ahead. And anyway, whether it be Rowing camp or Ski trip, extra coaching or workshop activity, we’ve had plenty of things to offer for the children over the Easter break as well.

At the close of Parliament on 31 March, new safeguarding and welfare measures become law, with Keeping Children Safe in Education and Working Together to Safeguard children both requiring face to face training for staff to ensure we comply with parliament’s wishes. Frankly, with so much legislative and curriculum change throughout the year in Education, the state sectors’ 5 reserved days simply would not work for Claires Court and our needs – we have 12 protected days for CPD and this year we will use them all in very full measure! Without this time, we could neither plan nor build our next steps. And that’s where my leadership perhaps plays out best, to make and break teams sufficiently to ensure all the preparations have taken place – after all, we have a vision to provide outrageous opportunities beyond a child’s expectations or even dreams.

The actual Tour de France sets off this year on the 4th July from Utrecht in Holland, and ending with the ceremonial run into Paris on the 26th July. I like the fact that the race is decided by this final race, that there are indeed champions and stage-victors, with a multitude of different jerseys being worn, such as the king of the mountains (polka dot) and the sprinters (green) being almost as obvious as the overall winner (yellow). In like manner, the nature of our school is to celebrate together our end of year in July, focussing on retirements and departures new of course, but also on those staff who have gained new qualifications through the year. We’ll have spent quite some time interviewing and recruiting new staff to join the faculty, no mean feat at a time when dramatic teacher shortages now reach all disciplines! Pleasingly, the growing reputation of the school with this strong commitment to professional development makes us not just an attractive place to come to work, but a serious institution to build a career, indeed a lifetime around.

So the Summer Term commences, with some 1065 children on roll, ready to tackle learning and skills, face challenges and opportunities, stand up to be counted and collaborate for best effect. Now’s not the time for the Peloton to stay in its tight column and ride its own way, but break up into a hundred different parts and then some so that the business of school can happen. Suddenly it is no longer about the adults, but the children, their welfare and provision. The sun has certainly been shining and we seem well set for the weeks of hard work ahead. Of course, there’s an election in the offing, the results of which will be incredibly important for shaping the school’s next steps for our new campus. But those choices are for a nation to make, and once the verdict is in and we know who are to form the next national and local administrations, then we’ll reform some part of the Peloton so we can carry our plans forward with all appropriate speed and urgency.

I’ll close my allegory on the Peloton with a Sir Bradley Wiggens quote “It’s the stuff of dreams. As a child, being a fan of the sport, I never imagined that one day I’d be in this position. Kids from Kilburn don’t become favourite for the Tour de France. You’re supposed to become a postman or a milkman or work in Ladbrokes.”

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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2 Responses to Leadership and the Peloton…

  1. Ann Jesseman says:

    I would hole heartedly agree with your appraisal of the staff at CC who will go that extra mile to ensure that the pupil gets what they need to reach their full potential. It is always has to be an ongoing development and for our son Jack we have seen a shy boy develop into a confident young man ready to move onto 6 Form and face new challenges. We now look forward to our daughter Kate joining the school in September to realise her true potential. Thank you.

  2. Jo Jones says:

    Yes, James great to hear your uplifting comments on your staff, here’s another one from me, I truly believe the impact and life lessons learnt will never be forgotten.
    ” Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports. Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon the limits of human endurance. The coach must therefore impart the secrets of the special kind of endurance that comes from mind, heart and body.”
    Too True.

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