It has been a FAB-U-LOUS start to the new academic year.
Being the founding headteacher opening a new secondary school was an exciting prospect last September. Our first year at Aureus School was full on but fantastic. We established lots, we achieved lots, we learnt lots. This September we have opened our new primary school. Our sibling school Aureus Primary School. We are just as excited a year on, opening our second school, but we are calmer, as we have a reference point for lots of the newness to build on from last year.
As an English teacher, who encourages learners to interpret the pathetic fallacy in texts, it has felt appropriate that the sun has been shining on us all week.
So Monday 3rd September was a memorable day as our Aureus team grew from 25 to 70. We can no longer fit our team into the community room nor the library for training sessions and meetings. We now need to use the main hall to fit everyone in.
The scale up has been significant. Recruiting 45 new team members means that we interviewed in excess of 220 candidates last year. We have been inundated with applications for roles, when we long list we keep our talent pool interested in Year 2,3, opportunities as well as the live vacancies. When we shortlist we usually interview 4 candidates for operations and 6 for teaching roles. We have appointed a fantastic team and have still only paid for 3 adverts out of our 70 roles! All of the money saved goes into the staff professional learning budget. We take PLD very seriously, we are committed to our staff being life long learners.
So this year we have 17 team members based at Aureus Primary School and 53 team members based at Aureus School, but many of them are doing specialist operations roles across the two schools, such as Finance, Admissions, Catering and Site. Longer term we will have teaching roles across both schools too. As I shared the numbers of student and staff numbers over the next five years, as we grow from 25 staff and 120 students to 200+ staff and 1600+ children, I took a few deep breaths.
We spent out first day together reflecting on our values, discussing how they shape our culture and ethos, sharing how we can work together as a team on providing a holistic, values-based education for our 2-16 learners. The GLF Schools MAT is an extended family of schools, we celebrate our individuality but share our mission for education that enables our communities to grow, learn and flourish. Our Aureus Schools are siblings, we will share our vision and values but we will interpret and embody them in a personalised way. We are not an all-through school as we are on two sites, a 10 min walk/ 5 min drive apart, but we will come together for community events and once we have KS2 we will be able to collaborate more on the curriculum.
There has been a palpable nervous energy in both schools all week. The 45 new staff have been understandably nervous getting their heads around new roles, new systems, new faces and a new culture. The founding team, our trail blazers have also been nervous as our small bubble, our intimate team dynamic, has changed. Everyone has a lot of change to manage, so we have taken a few moments to reflect on this.
As we welcomed our 210 Year 7s (our Class of 2023) to Aureus School on Wednesday our school began to fill busy. For those of who have come from large urban secondary schools, it began to fill like a ‘proper’ school! As we welcomed our 120 Year 8s (our Class of 2022) back on Thursday, they too were feeling apprehensive: who were all of these small people invading their space? We all have a lot of adjusting to do! My welcome back assemblies invited our learners to reflect on their Hopes, their Dreams and their Fears. We acknowledged the fact that everyone is feeling a myriad of feelings and that is okay.
Whilst the secondary team adjusted to having triple the students and double the staff in the building, the primary team spent the week in training: a new assessment system, a new phonics programme, a whole school singing curriculum. The team bonded before my eyes, the school came to life as resources were unpacked and classrooms were prepared. On Thursday Sue Webb joined us from VBE to scope the teams values. As I dipped in and out of the session emotions were high and relationships were strengthened as the team met each other with their core values, their shared vision and their collective mission.
Everyone on our Aureus team is on the same bus, heading in the same direction. A values-based recruitment process has enabled us to attract and recruit a team who are passionate about a holistic, inclusive education model. As I sat in on training sessions and meetings, I heard our values reflected back to me, I heard our shared language used, unprompted. The time and energy we have invested in our culture and ethos makes the strategy easier to implement as our why and our what is clear, it is just the how that will evolve.
In September, our value of the month is Wellbeing, we will nurture the students, the staff and the parents through the stress points of the transition into a new school, a new year group and a new role. Mindfulness is a core part of the inner curriculum at both schools. At the secondary 360 students will do a carousel of activities each morning to mentally and emotionally prepare them for learning, at the primary 110 pupils will have a micro mindfulness session at the start of each learning session, settling them as the come into the classroom from break, lunch and playing outside.
Friday was our history-making, legacy-building moment at Aureus Primary School as we formally welcomed our Reception, Year 1 and 2 pupils in to their new school for the first time. As parents, carers and pupils lined up outside our stunning new school to sign in, I smiled at the pride our pupils had in our lovely school uniform, I welled up at the beaming faces radiating their joy at joining us. I think there were more tears (of joy) from our team than there were from the children and their parents! The pupils settled quickly into their new learning environment as their parents and carers settled their nerves with a cup of tea in the school hall.
More shared team training mid-week saw Ann Marie Christian joining us for a hard-hitting safeguarding session and our week ended with Mike Armiger from Pivotal Education delivering a dynamic session on our restorative culture with relentless compassion at its core. Our staff had spent their first week with us and had met our pupils so they could now reflect on how our values come to life in how we interact with our stakeholders, how we model our values and nurture hearts and minds, how we embody our high expectations and deliver our challenging curriculum in a holistic way.
Our first week as Aureus sibling schools was a whirlwind of activity – I met myself travelling between the two schools on several occasions and I left stuff at the wrong school/ on the wrong desk more than once but that is the change for me to get my head around, how I clone myself to support two teams, how I split my time and attention to nurture both schools. This year the plan is that I will be spending a half day at each school each day so that my presence is felt and I am a constant in both schools. Once we settle into the routine of our working days and weeks I will review this in discussion with my four Deputy Headteachers.
So I am feeling blessed. Blessed for the opportunity to be an Executive Headteacher, blessed to now be a primary school leader after leading in secondary schools for 14 of my 15 year career, blessed to have recruited a brilliant team, blessed to have attracted a parent body who are as passionate about a holistic, values-based STEAM education as we all are!
Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher
Currently feeling hopeful about:
- Year 2 of Aureus School and a bigger operations team to support the growing teaching team in embedding our routines and systems.
- Year 1 of Aureus Primary School and nurturing the hearts and minds of our 2 year olds who will hopefully one day become our 16 year olds and amazing Aureus Ambassadors who are values-led global citizens.
Currently reading and thinking about:
- Our new staff will be reading From the Heart by Dr Neil Hawkes this month, our trailblazing team will be reading High Challenge, Low Threat by Mary Myatt and I am going to proposed to our Aureus Leadership Team that we read Legacy by James Kerr.
Currently feeling grateful for:
- The brilliant training from Ann Marie, Sue (VBE), Jo (Voices), Natalie (GLF), Gareth (RWI) and Mike (Pivotal).
- The patience of our team as we navigate start of term issues with IT and orders!
- My fabulous PA, Zoe, who has kept the plates spinning this week, across two sites!
- Our brilliant Deputy Headteachers, Nicola, Kate, Bennie and Julie who are swans gliding through any chaos and keeping the calm at both schools.