This year it feels like I have had 3 jobs!
Spring term saw me starting at GLF Schools, still living in Sutton, commuting down the road to Epsom where our Head Office was based. I was planning Aureus and tasked with creating the GLF TSA strategy. I travelled up to Oxfordshire regularly to see the progression of the Aureus school site. I moved up earlier than planned in March as I was spending so much time on the motorway and could only eat so many M&S sandwiches for dinner!
Summer term saw me moving from the site office, out of my hard hat, high vis and wellie boots into my office. It was quite surreal having an office in a building site. An oasis of calm whilst the contractors still bustled around me. By May half-term we were nearly there and Aureus finally began to feel like a school. We got the keys in June (I think as now all a blur!) July saw my SBL, PA and Site Manager starting – I finally had a team to plan things with! We held our Yr 6 induction evening and for the first time had the staff, students and parents on site, together in the main hall.
Autumn term saw the staff induction, student induction and our school opening. I blogged here on bringing the team together. I blogged here on my reflections from our first half-term. I cannot believe how quickly this half-term has gone. It seems like yesterday I was in Dubai sunning myself and reflecting on our first 6 weeks, we are now in week 12 and nearly ready to break up for Christmas. A #nurture1718 blog is to follow on my reflections on the year and my plans for next year.
Our values are strong across our MAT and within our school. GLF stands for ‘Grow, Learn and Flourish’. Our pledge at Aureus is to ‘nurture hearts and minds’ through values-based education, our holistic curriculum and our STEAM specialism.
How have we grown this term?
One of our students summed this up perfectly this week when they were planning their speeches for our official opening:
“We are like the seeds you have planted Miss. You are giving us the things like mindfulness to grow. We will grow into trees in Year 11.
“Did you know we were doing plant reproduction in Biology this week?”
This extended metaphor totally sums up who we are. Our children speak passionately about our values. They are confident, articulate and reflective. What we say in assembly, is reflected in our curriculum and discussed in our coaching time.
We have grown in so many ways – personally and professionally, as students and as staff, we have flipped from macro thinking to micro moments. Everyone’s confidence has grown as they find their feet in our brave new world.
What have we learned this term?
I am in a group called #NQHeadT on Twitter with 50 other new Headteachers. In some ways it does feel like I am a NQT again. The role is so different to previous ones I have had. The scale and the scope of my remit is massive. Changing regions, LEAs, Trusts and taking on a start up school add additional pressures to the already immense role. But you have to just take some deep breaths, keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, and work through your daily to do list!
Key learning for me includes:
- That there is not a checklist/ guidebook for everything you need in place to open a new school!
- That the best made plans don’t ever cover everything.
- That you don’t know what you don’t know until you need to know it!
- That every time you go to do something for the first term, it is the first time you do it, so you need a process, a template and it takes a lot more time and energy!
- That we have taken on a massive job – it is much bigger than any of us thought it would be.
- That we need to be resilient as everything is not going to be right the first time.
- That the culture/ ethos of our school and the dynamic of the team is vital in our success.
- That we need to hold on to our values when the going gets tough.
- That we need to remain positive and optimistic as it is not going to be plain sailing.
- That we are up for challenging the system, affecting change and doing things differently but we need to take the wider community with us.
- That balancing workload with wellbeing is really hard!
How have we flourished this term?
Wellbeing is one of our core values. This was a choice we made. The majority of our team have come from broken schools and toxic cultures. We are committed to doing things differently and looking after our staff and our students. We have put it on the agenda and under a spotlight which means we are inviting internal and external scrutiny.
Our DHT for Culture and Wellbeing and our LP for Staff Wellbeing have created a fantastic action plan for our MH & WB strategy. But that does not mean that it is easy. It does not mean that we have got it right from the get go.
We are knackered and we are definitely in ‘surviving’ rather than ‘thriving’ mode at the moment. Looking forward to things settling as they embed in term 2. We do not have a magic wand. But what we do have is a brilliant team. We are united and all on the same side. Everyone looks out for everyone in the building and that is really refreshing. I don’t dread walking into the staffroom or sitting in Leadership meetings.
So although it is hard, and mistakes will be made, I really like and respect everyone we have recruited. I am excited to see who jumps on the bus with us in the spring term to join us in year 2!
Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher
Currently feeling hopeful about:
- Term 2!
- We have moved our 100th day of opening celebration party to our 200th day in March due to the adverse weather conditions. We have achieved so much already in Term 1, I am excited to see where we are in another term’s time.
Currently reading and thinking about:
- Paul Dix and the team from Pivotal Education came to host a behaviour conference at Aureus on Friday to launch his new book ‘When the Adult Changes, Everything Changes: Seismic Shifts in School Behaviour’
- All of the staff will be reading this for our next book following ‘From the Heart’ by Dr Neil Hawkes
- I have also just re-read the blog by Stephen Tierney on his reflections on his first 100 days as a headteacher.
Currently feeling grateful for:
- Our Leadership Team – Bennie, Julie, Amjad, Chris and Ellie are brilliant to work with, full of ideas and energy. A special mention to Drew who joins us in 2018 but is already an established member of the team!
- Our Teaching and Coaching Team – Charlotte, Laura, Paul, Anna, Chris and Lannah are all working really hard and are extremely committed to nurturing our young people.
- Our Operations Team – Rebecca, Cherry, Tina, Neil, Paul, Emma, Helen, Lindsey, Justine, Mou and Katie are a fantastically supportive team who keep the cogs going behind the scenes.
- My PA – Zoe is wonder woman. She has whipped me into shape and brought a military precision and order to our busy team.
- Our External Team – Clare, Kate, George, Dom, Matt and Andrea are all based at Aureus but are not our salaried staff, it is fab having them and their expertise in the building for us all to benefit from.
- Our Friends of Aureus – the number of people prepared to travel to come to our official opening was impressive and the words of well wishes following our decision to cancel it due to the snow were overwhelmingly positive. The support network we have locally, regionally and nationally is really quite something.