Our 200 Days Celebration: Glorious Aureus

 

Tuesday 27th March 2018, was a landmark for us in our  history at Aureus School as we celebrated our 200th day and our official opening. We opened our doors to our visitors, partners & friends who came to celebrate with us.

We reflected on how much we have achieved in our first two terms in a student-led assembly. Our CEO, Jon Chaloner, our Vice Chair of our School Strategy Board, Bogusia Wojciechowska,  our Oxfordshire County Council representative, Allyson Milward and local resident William Darley who found the Didcot Hoard that named our school,  joined us in reflecting on our journey from an idea, to a building, to a school, to a community.

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Our students shared their ‘Magic Moments’  from our first two terms together including Mindfulness, Family Dining, Personal Development Time, PGL, Student Council, Shakespeare for Schools and Hot Chocolate Friday!

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Our guests all had a student-led tour of our beautiful facilities to experience the Aureus Way. Our staff and students showcased our different daily activities within the  values-based education they experience at Aureus. It was great to have our Mayor, our local councillors, our community and our collaborative partners all there to share our celebration.

Being outward-facing and developing partnerships to bring value to our community is central to our shared vision and values. We were delighted that we had supporters with us from VBE, SSAT, Whole Education, TES Institute, Ambition School Leadership, Oxfordshire Teaching Schools and a number of our local primary school headteachers too.

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We celebrate Arts being at the Heart of our school and have connected with lots of local artists and art organisations. We are proud to be the home of the Didcot Art Room, an art therapy space. This was an opportunity for our guests to see for themselves our stunning Art Installations from our STEAM provision. Thank you to Lorna Carmen McNeil who created our Light Up Your Life chandelier that hangs proudly in our assembly hall from the inspiration of the Didcot Mirror, held proudly here by Sue Wright from Oxfordshire Museums.

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Dr Neil Hawkes officially opened our Sensory Room sponsored by Kitbox & our Thrive Room sponsored by McCarthy Stone. He has recently published his new book called The Inner Curriculum and he acknowledged that is exactly why we have created these 2 safe spaces at Aureus to nurture our most vulnerable students to enable them to grow learn and flourish. Sue Webb, one of the VBE consultants has been instrumental in helping us to scope and frame our values-led school.

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Thank you to our fabulous catering team for a delicious afternoon tea including Aureus cupcakes. Thank you also to EagleSSL for our stunning fruit trees to symbolise our GLF mission to grow, learn & flourish.

The last 2 terms have flown by. The momentum of opening a new school is like a whirlwind of activity as each day, each week, each half-term  there is so much for us all to do. All educators and school work hard but this really had required a new level of energy, commitment and resilience! Thank you and well done to all involved with Glorious Aureus – it is a team effort that has made us a success. The STEAM dream works because of our brilliant extended team.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Our next 200 days – where will we be/ what will we have achieved by Christmas?
  • The feedback from our School Evaluation Review today
  • Our VBE audit in the summer
  • The opening of our primary school in September
  • The brilliant team we have recruited to join us in year 2 at Aureus and in the opening year of Aureus Primary

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Our fantastic team at Aureus School
  • Our support from GLF schools
  • Our STEAM collaborations
  • Our community partners

Women Leading in Education: The NPQH Launch

2 years ago I was a DHT in London. I had resigned without a job to go to. This had initiated me moving into a role at Head Office leading Professional Learning for staff across 42 schools for a year before I left. It gave me head space to work out what the next move would be. I was being coached to recalibrate and to  find my direction. I had just started my NPQH with Ambition School Leadership.

2 years on I am a Headteacher, I am an Executive Headteacher in fact as our 2nd school opens in September. I have led Aureus School for 4 terms: 1 term as an idea, 1 term as an empty building and  2 terms with a staff and student body.

2 years ago #womened was 1 year old, we are now about to turn 3 and have increased our reach to 18,000.

How things can change in a matter of time. In 2 years I have moved from frustrated and in conflict to feeling grounded and anchored. I have found my fit.

This weekend Ambition School Leadership launched their inaugural women only cohort for the NPQH in partnership with  #womened and Leading Women’s Alliance. This weekend it was me delivering an after dinner speech about my leadership journey to headship, not me listening as a participant.

 

 

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I am used to being the event organiser and host, doing the welcome and the housekeeping not the address.  I am used to delivering assemblies with a screen so delivering ‘naked’ (clothes on but slides free!) after dinner was totally out of my comfort zone. Doing keynotes is my #10%braver challenge, it is me modelling that you need to Lean In and step beyond your comfort zone. It is me living my conviction that you say yes and you work it out later. It is me showing that you make mistakes and you learn from them, the more I do them, the more confident and comfortable I will become in the public speaking space.

I only had 15 mins to share my thoughts, reflections and advice so I did not go into detail about my leadership journey, although it would have reassured many in the room that I have had my fair share of rough seas to navigate through, they can read about this on my blog.

 

 

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Instead I shared my journey to headship. I reflected on the power I have drawn from the #womened community. Both Kate and I addressed some of the barriers that women leading in education experience. The imposter syndrome, the inner critic, the fear of failure.

As well as the barriers we reflected on the crowd-sourced solutions. We both shared what could have held us back and how we pushed ourselves forward. I can remember the first time I met Kate at our inaugural #womened unconference, she spoke about the ‘taps on the shoulder’ that women need. I have been fortunate to have had peers and line managers who have tapped me, and I in turn nudge others on.

 

 

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After the speeches I joined Karen Giles and her dinner table – we reflected on women who work silently and do not promote their work. I shared with them the article I had read about the strategy the women in the White House use – the illumination technique – which they came up with to amplify the ideas and work of others to ensure that credit was attributed to the owner.

 

 

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Lack of role models and the absence of a support network can hold some women in education back. Part of my motivation for co-founding #womened was to find my tribe. My source of inspiration in giving so much of my time and energy to our gender equality movement over the last 3 years has been the contacts that I have made. I am surrounded by strong women, by brilliant role models, by inspiring women leading in education.

 

 

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The power I have drawn from the #womened community, together with the skills and experience  I gained from my NPQH with ASL, enabled me to be empowered in finding the right headship for me to be my authentic self. Following many years of school improvement in turn around schools, a start up school was a new challenge. The blank page gave us the opportunity to co-create a forward-thinking school.

The combination of all of these experience and opportunities over the last 2 years led to me being involved in initiating and steering the women’s only NPQH pathway. Had I not have been outward-facing, I would not have met these amazing women.

My motivation for contributing to and supporting this bespoke programme is the opportunity to create a ‘safe space’.  There was a sense of urgency in the room that we need to change the system. There was a sense of agency in the room that these women would be the changemakers to #pressforprogress.

My final plea to them all was that when they secured their 1st headship that they would negotiate, that they would challenge the pay gap and ask for what they need, that they would hold on to their power and not give it away before they had even started.

 

 

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What I did not have time to share was my recommended reading, so here it is:

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This weekend there was a palpable energy in the room. Magic was being created before our eyes by the wise women sculpting the residential – facilitators Carol Jones and Karen Giles, superbly supported by ASL programme leaders Deb Fisher and Abi Brown. Thank you for being Wonder Women.

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I am really excited to see what the future holds for all of the participants.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • 31 future female Headteachers  who will be leading our schools in the future including our 2 DHTs at Aureus School Julie Hunter and Bennie Kara

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • We are all starting Leadership Matters as our summer read for the team at Aureus

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Ambition School Leadership for curating the women’s only cohort launch – especially Deb Fish and Abi Brown
  • Melanie Renowden and Kate Chhatwal for initiating the bid for a women’s only cohort for NPQH
  • The partnership between Ambition School Leadership, Leading Women’s Alliance and WomenEd
  • Carol Jones and Karen Giles for facilitating the inaugural residential for this very special launch cohort of the women only NPQH

Global Mindset, Global Community: Global Citizenship

To celebrate #IWD18 and to help our Year 7 students understand why we need to #pressforprogress,  we held a Global Citizenship Day this week to develop awareness and deepen understanding of our values of Diversity and Equality.

Being an outward-facing school we have been overwhelmed by the number of invitations we have received to connect and collaborate with so many brilliant organisations who can bring value to our school community and who can help us give our Year 7 students a global perspective to contrast their life experience in Didcot, Oxfordshire.

The UN Global Goals for sustainable development inform our weekly Global Citizenship programme of activity that Julie Hunter our DHT curates superbly. At Aureus we do not do PSHE days, SMSC audits, Citizenship lessons – we have one integrated programme that integrates all of this key learning into one cohesive and coherent delivery.

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We used this day as an opportunity to develop some partnerships through a carousel of thought-provoking workshops. It was a fantastic opportunity to expose our students to external voices and experiences whilst exploring the rights of girls. Our values of respect and responsibility  were developed as our students’ understanding grew.

LyftaEd

Serdar the founder of LyftaEd flew in from Finland to work with Amjad our AHT on a series of immersive storytelling workshops using the virtual technology platform his team have built. As an English and Media Studies teacher, as someone who travels a lot this resource is brilliant in exploring identity and representation. In the 15 minutes I was in the room we were in a Finnish family’s kitchen meeting a female weight lifter and we met a male ballerina in the Czech Republic in an opera house. The power of technology to transport our young people to places around the globe to create human connections and understanding of ourselves as global citizens is remarkable.

You can find out more about this brilliant platform here.

Oxfordshire Museums

Kelly Smith who works at Pitts Museum, initiate a project with us and a local artist to explore the history of Didcot and how this frames our identity as a school. Her colleague Sue Wright joined us to work with Lorna, a local artist and Laura our Art Lead Practitioner Designate. Using The Didcot Mirror as inspiration, each student has designed a piece to contribute to our art installation for our official opening ceremony in a few weeks’ time. Linking our Roman history with our future as a values-led school through our identity will create a sense of belonging for our students. The art installation entitled ‘Light up our Lives’ will hang above our heads in our weekly assembly.

Pictures to follow when it is installed next week!

Youth For Change 

Shamil and the team from Youth For Change delivered an interactive session on gender equality. The students were very informed about the cultural stereotypes for boys and girls, the social constructs they are defined and confined by. This was a segway to the rights of girls/ women and the challenges they face through the cultural practices of  FGM, ECM and HBV.

You can find out more about their #traintoprotect outreach here.

Sexplain

Amelia is a force to be reckoned with. Delivering brilliant SRE sessions she used play dough as a resource to start a dialogue about sex education. With the prevalence of the #MeToo campaign the dialogue around consent and behaviours/ attitudes to sex and relationships is of vital importance to our students.

Find out more here.

I was really very proud of our students on our inaugural Global Citizenship Day – the feedback we received from our visitors on their sense of self, their understanding  of how they belong, their desire to be changemakers in their community/ our world and their articulation of their values was very touching. Through our VBE frame we focus on the ethical vocabulary that our children have and how they communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The opportunity to shape global citizens who understand their identity, who have a sense of belonging, and who will contribute positively to the world.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am prepping Aureus for the VBE schools accreditation process whilst Julie Hunter our DHT is prepping us for our Rights Respecting School accreditation process. External validation of the work we are doing through our values-based education will help us to educate our prospective parents and carers about our work.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The teams at LyftaEd, Oxford Museums, Sexplain and Youth for Change who made this day possible for our staff and our students.

Action Aid Project: Mozambique 2018

If we are honest with ourselves – a lot of us go into teaching for the promise of the 12 weeks holidays. I trained thinking it would be a mobile career I could take anywhere in the world.  I thought I would end up being based abroad, teaching English.

The dream – we plan to fill up our passports with exotic destinations and utilise all of that time, energy and money we have in abundance as a teacher!

The reality – we drag ourselves over the finish line each term and collapse in a heap. We regroup and decompress, fight the flu, clean the house, do our ironing and enjoy just being and having a normal routine or just hanging out with friends and families.

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Summer 2016 I found myself at a lose end, so I signed up last minute to volunteer with LRTT.

I literally signed up mid-July and found myself on a plane a few weeks later heading away for the whole of August. My reflections on my experiences volunteering to teach and train teachers in rural Tanzania are captured in my blogs here:

Last year, I agreed with Action Aid that OWLIE (Oxfordshire Women Leading in Education) would collaborate on a women in education charity project in Mozambique. The idea was that a group of women leading in education in Oxfordshire would pledge to fundraise together, then travel over to participate in a community development project.

Context:

  • My initial blog is here
  • Our Eventbrite page is here
  • My school website page is here 

What is my ‘Why’ for volunteering during my summer holidays?

  • Lots of my friends and family may think I am bonkers that I work hard all year and then choose to ‘work’ in my holidays, but I don’t see volunteering as work but as giving back  and paying it forward
  • It is escapism from the daily grind but it is also very grounding and humbling – it is easy to get sucked into the issues and politics affecting our school/ our system but it reminds how lucky we are in so many ways
  • As an English teacher, as a Headteacher, as the co-founder of #WomenEd I have so many reasons for why this project resonates with me
  • Moreover, this year the #IWD18 theme is #PressforProgress and the UN have outlined the following sustainable development goals, it speaks to closing the gap 4 and 5

UN-SDGs

How will we be helping the community?

  • We will live in the community and work alongside the locals
  • We will contribute to the standard of living  – we will be building a library in Paleira village. There is no library in the entire district, which means that 1,500 school children lack vital resources – books and learning materials to aid their studies.
  • We will contribute to the standard of education for women and girls locally – 48% of women are married by their 18th birthday and nearly half of women are illiterate, and many are unaware of their rights to basic services such as healthcare.
  • We will remove barriers to education – children must travel over 100km to the nearest overcrowded library in Maputo to source books, which is expensive for parents to pay for the travel and time-consuming for the students when they should be focussing on their studies.
  • We will support children staying in school for longer and achieving better outcomes –  many families can’t afford the cost of their children travelling to Maputo, so children achieve poor grades in exams and in some cases, are forced to drop out of school.
  • We will impact the  local economy – despite being one of the fastest growing economies, 60% of the population live below the poverty line of $US1.25 a day.
  • We will help to break the poverty cycle by removing barriers – these challenges hamper pupils’ development, further exacerbating the cycle of poverty.

 What will our project legacy be?

  • We will develop relationships with local partners and hopefully help to make the project sustainable
  • We will continue to work with the community  when we return – I am still in touch remotely with many of the teachers I worked with in Njombe, TZ
  • We may  return to the project in the future or support phase 2 participants to do so, to build on our foundations
  • We can fund raise for books from national publishers/ from schools changing their class readers due to the curriculum reform
  • We can set up pen pals and school twinning partnerships – perhaps even an exchange?

So, what are you going to do next summer to make a difference?

We still have a few places left if you want to join us. Come and join Kathryn, Rosanna, Natasha, Carys, Natalie, Sam, Karen, Jenny, Kara, Kate. Tracy and Anoara who are just some of the #OWLIE #womened team to be joining me on this adventure!

Or if this is not possible due to other commitments, please do spread the word with people you know who may wish to join us on this community project.

If you cannot join us but would like to support us then perhaps you will sponsor us and help us to fund raise for the project?

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • That everyone I know will sponsor us £1 towards the project here.
  • That we might be able to get some book donations too.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Literacy levels, libraries and gender equality in Mozambique.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The fact we have public libraries in this country and I have books on my shelves at home.
  • I love reading and would not have become an English teaching if it was not for my love of reading.