Nurturing Hearts & Minds: #cultureofwellbeingDGinset

Nurturing Hearts and Minds is our mission statement at Aureus School.

I have read a lot about mission statements in the last few years and how meaningless they have become. Equally I remember going to #TMLondon a few years ago and a teacher starting her career from QK presented on the legacy of her school’s mission statement. She showed us a picture of her year group at a girls’ school, she talked us through where they all were, they were all doing servant leadership roles, from nursing to teaching, to social working to coaching. She then showed us her mission statement, which was in Latin, the translation = to serve others. This really resonated with me in how subtly powerful and compelling this values frame was for the school community.

I reflected. Could I remember the mission statement of the school I went to, of the 4 schools I have worked in? The answer was a resounding no. They were meaningless, they were purposeless, they were laminated values that were not being lived in their school communities.

I have blogged before about our collaboration with VBE and how Sue Webb has guided  my team through values scoping. Before meeting Sue and Viv through #womened, before being coached, I had never considered my values, been asked about them or been able to articulate them. With their help, I excavated them and embraced them and can now describe myself as a values-led headteacher. At Aureus we are creating a values-led culture and we are delivering a values-based education.

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Our values wheel  reflects the values of our community – they reflect our collective vision and values of our school. We talk a lot about developing the whole child.

Many of us had come from toxic school cultures, schools where wellbeing was poor, schools where the humanity was being squeezed out. Our values reflect our vision. Our values reflect the human beings we want to create at Aureus.

Aureus Values Wheel V2

So how are we doing this? What are we actually doing to nurture hearts and minds?

Values signposting – we have 12 values and 1 is explored each month. Our value of the month is signposted every day in every activity as a constant drip-fed reminder.

Mindful Mornings – every morning our students have 30 minutes of mindfulness. Our 5 activities are: mindful assemblies, mindful strategies, mindful movement, mindful art, mindful reading.

Community  Assemblies  – each of our values are explored 4 times, from a multiplicity of perspectives by all of our staff, not just our leaders. Our 2 NQTs delivered 2 brilliant assemblies in their first half-term of teaching. Each assembly has a follow up reflection task for independent exploration. Each assembly finishes with our Aureus Homily, which is our intention for our community.

Family Dining – we sit and eat together. We have the same 8 students and staff member for a half-term so they build relationships with one another.  We all eat the same meal. All of our staff have a free lunch every day.

Coaching Time – we do not have tutors, we have coaches. We are there to facilitate learning and help our students find the answers.  This term we are launching our coaching circles. Our 12 teaching staff will meet a group of 10 students once a week to coach them through problems they are experiencing, teaching them to support one another.

Global Citizenship –  we do not do drop down days for PSHE, we do not have a SMSC tick sheet nor a citizenship audit. We have a meaningful daily diet of an enriching holistic curriculum to develop global citizens.

Silence – we do not have bells, the intention was to have music that played through the system to indicate, this has not been instilled yet. We rely on staff using their watches/ clocks/whistles and when needed I have a handbell. We have removed being jarred by the bell!

Transitions  – we only teach double periods so changeover is only to or from breaks/ lunches. Our students line up and are collected by staff from the playground at the  start of each lesson. We have eradicated the stress of students being lost or late.

Personal Development Time – our extra-curricular/ enrichment time is focused on developing the whole child. We do not do homework, we do not do boosters after school. We develop the softer skills our students need for the future.

Extended Learning – we do not set homework. We have weekly spellings and encourage reading for pleasure.

Opportunity for All – we teach mixed ability for all subjects, we do not set, we follow a primary model of the 4 coaching groups having all of their lessons together.

Art Therapy – we were delighted to be able to offer The Art Room, a national charity, a room at Aureus. We benefit from having fantastic art therapy practitioners based in our community and our most vulnerable students can access their expertise.

Safe Spaces – our uniform company owed us a favour after a tricky start to term and the local builders wanted some free parking so we tapped them both up for some sponsorship! This has enabled us to resource a Sensory Room and a Thrive Room. I am excited that both are opening this term.

Rewards – we reward the value of the month each week through a range of different activities. The winners get an invitation to #HotChocFri which is my favourite time of the week! At the end of each term we select a values champion from each coaching group for each value.

Sanctions – we do not do detentions, we hold restorative conversations and we have reconciliation time where the follow up facilitates learning and reflection.

Staff wellbeing – we have regular staff sessions of mindfulness and a staff wellbeing room. Our first term was really full on. We have reviewed workload and contact time, we have revisited the staff wellbeing action plan. Our staff wellbeing survey has gone out this week so that our staff lead can share the results with the leadership team and the governing body.

Staff CPD – we are introducing Fierce Conversations so that we can empower all staff to be truly authentic at work. Julie is dot B trained and a MHFAider. Charlotte is a MHFA champion. Both of them are training as our Thrive Practitioners and Bennie is training in Fierce Conversations. Charlotte is also our lead on a Yoga in Schools bridging project we are collaborating on with some of our feeder schools.

Staff Exercise weeks – our PDT does not run in the first nor the last week of each half-term, staff get gained time. The PE team lead opt-in exercise activities each night.

Flexi Fridays  -we have a half day. All student leave at 1.00pm. Staff can leave then or stay and catch up, it is their choice as it is their time.

Each decision we have made to do something differently, to approach things from a new perspective, to signpost things in a different way are to ensure that we treating our young people as names and not numbers in a spreadsheet.

I am very proud of the young people we are creating who can talk with confidence about their values.

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The difference we are making to the mental health and wellbeing of our students

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Clare Erasmus for her generosity in sharing her ideas and passion for MHWB.
  • Julie Hunter for her self-investment over the last few years and the impact this is having at Aureus.
  • Charlotte James for her commitment to our staff wellbeing.
  • Charlie Waller Memorial Trust for their STELLA project funding.
  • John Catt Education for publishing our book idea: The A-Z of Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools. Out into World Mental Health Day 2018 and #helloyellow

Diverse Educators: #BAMEed #DisabilityEd #LGBTEd #WomenEd

Yesterday, was a defining moment in my career.

I am still buzzing from the inspiring and empowering group of diverse educators who came to Aureus for the day for our inaugural Diverse Educators event.

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#BAMEed met #DisabilityEd met #LGBTed met #WomenEd. 4 grassroot movements and communities came together to connect, to collaborate. The power of the collective voice.

The impact we can have working together was how I framed the event.  I opened Diverse Educators asking everyone to share their Why. We then did a popcorn sharing of our motivation for getting out of bed early and travelling on a cold Saturday morning in January.

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My why:diverse 3

We know our identities are more complex than just our gender. We all wear multiple hats, we all have multiple labels as we define and own our complex identities. What do we have in common? We are all humans. Yesterday, we brought together a group of humans who care deeply about diversity, equality and inclusion.

My proposition was that each community, each movement could challenge their systemic, structural and societal barriers for their label, or we could join forces and be a stronger voice, a stronger community to smash through these glass ceilings and these concrete ceilings together. Moreover with the support of all of the organisations who supported the event as exhibitors and contributors.

A collective mission.  A collective voice. A collective impact.

 

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Each of the grassroots movements shared an update on the progress of their community  and the impact they have made to date:

#BAMEed are a year old and held their first event last May in Birmingham, their 2nd event is soon and they are planning their 3rd for June 2nd. Co-founded by Abdul, Allana, Amjad and Penny they are growing their network and profile. Find out by following them here. An offshoot of @BAMEednetwork is @TFBAMEcommunity co-founded by Jess and Mahlon. They also have a series of events on the horizon.

#DisabilityEd is new on the block and unfortunately Lynne Wareham who is pulling volunteers together was too unwell to join us yesterday to share plans. The sessions that took place started the conversation. More to follow on this one as the community of educators with a disability come forward and join forces.

#LGBTed did a soft launch yesterday and will have a hard launch, an event in the spring.  Co-founded by Daniel and Hannah they have combined forces with David Weston and @OutTeacher. They have  Claire Birkenshaw (first know UK Headteacher to transition whilst in post) as an advisor to make schools more trans aware. Find out more here.

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#WomenEd is now nearly 3 years old! Co-founded by 7 educators, we have 5 of us as national leaders (Me, Jules, Keziah, Sameena and Vivienne) and 60+ as regional leaders in the UK and a further 10 driving the agenda internationally. We are planning our 4th national unconference for Autumn 2018, we have just reached 16,000 followers, we were nominated for a national diversity award, we were named in the TES top 10 influencers and we have a book deal with SAGE education. It has been an epic year for the #womened community! We have also just launched @WomenEd_Tech and @WomenEdBookClub Find out more here.

The schedule of the day involved 8 workshops in 4 time slots, 32 facilitated workshops and learning conversations about how we can have impact in our schools for our learners, both staff and students.

At lunchtime there was a buzz in the air as we all made human connections. Collaborations were initiated and I am excited to see how these will develop.

We closed with a panel. A diverse panel. A panel like we should see at more edu-events. It really isn’t that hard to ensure that you represent the voices of the audience and the profession at our events, whether they are grassroots or mainstream. Alison, Claire, Anna, Jonathan and Shirley represented and explored ‘How can we create a cohesive and coherent strategy to ensure a more diverse workforce?’ They reflected and shared how we can move from our why, to our how and to our what.

 

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I asked everyone in the room to then pledge their ‘what’. What is it we can all do differently from Monday? What is we can contribute to drive the diversity agenda?

The reason why Diverse Educators primarily came about was due to yet another poster advertising yet another event with an all white, male line up. We must continue to challenge the ‘manels’ and the ‘wanels’! We must collectively challenge the lack of representation at a lot of events, as well as on SLTs, Governing and Trust boards.  We will not change the ‘pale, male, stale’ face of pockets of our profession unless we challenge and ask for change.

I lost track of how many of these events I saw last year. Equally I was invited to speak at 10 plus events last year about diversity. I challenged each event that when I realised I was the representative. There were not diverse faces on the line up, just my straight, white face and voice championing diversity! They didn’t seem to see the irony? Moreover, on the few events where there was a smidgen of diversity, the diverse voices were marginalised to the small stage and pigeonholed by their topic.

So, it only seemed right for Bennie, one of my fabulous DHTs to close the event for us.  Bennie wears all of the hats.

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She explored each of the labels she wears. Her speech was passionate, personal and reflective as she shared her dismay at realising that she had a disability – as if it wasn’t hard enough to be a woman, an Asian women and an Asian bisexual woman. Did she really now have to deal with being a disabled Asian bisexual woman. How many labels can one person cope with? How many glass ceilings can one educational leader smash through? Her upbeat voice and pragmatic approach gave hope to the audience that it is possible, if you find the right school, if you stay true to your values. Moreover if you lean in and embrace your authentic self and bring your whole self to school.

 

Before everyone left I played them a song. They wondered where I was taking them when Hugh Jackman appeared on the screen. But a song from his new film: This is Me, made all of the hairs stand up on my arms, my foot tap in and my heart beat. I will be using it in an assembly this half-term as the lyrics are so emotive and powerful.  The Power Pose is a source of strength for #womened, this song could be a source of strength, an anthem for our diverse educational community. Most importantly, our grassroots events are amazingly positive and uplifting, but the trolling has already started. I hope that everyone who joined us yesterday, physically and virtually, ignore the haters, take the lonely negative voices with a pinch of salt and tap into the support and positivity of the Diverse Educators community:

“Reach for the sun… Burst through the barriers… Don’t let them break you down to dust… This is me… I make no apologies… Look out here I come!”

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The impact this event will have on combining the communities and excited to already be thinking about Diverse Educators II in Jan 2019 – we are thinking 12/1/19 and moving it back a week so more can come
  • The impact that Diverse Leaders will have on our 2nd cohort of delegates – you can register here for our free #BAMEed leadership development programme: https://goo.gl/forms/pQN8cn7Iw3zOPf5I2
  • Supporting the launch of #LGBTed
  • Advocating the developments of #BAMEed and @TFBAMEcommunity
  • What #WomenEd will achieve in our 4th year

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Everyone who came to Aureus yesterday – all of the speakers who volunteered their time for free, all of the exhibitors who provided resources, refreshments (Veema), gave out books (Leadership Matters) and discounted CPD (TES Institute) to our audience
  • Pen who captured the opening discussions and reflections brilliantly.
  • Claire Birkenshaw for educating me and making me more trans aware over pizza and wine!

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#OneWord2018: Thrive

Picking one word to signpost and frame your year ahead is an interesting process. I have done it for a few years now, along with the annual Nurture blogs to review & reflect.

#oneword15 – Courage

I made some big decisions. I resigned. I paused. I took stock. I decompressed. I dug deep to prepare to make a big leap.

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#oneword16 – Connect

I leant in to my preference for outward-facing leadership. I connected with interesting people. I initiated some interesting collaborations. I was coached. I coached others. I explored my values. I recalibrate. I secured a big new role.

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#oneword17 – Change

I made a leap of faith. I leant in. I moved areas, trusts and roles. I began a new chapter.

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#oneword18

The shortlist:

Consolidate – I need to embed & consolidate the changes I have introduced in both my personal & professional life.

Nurture – I need to enable the ideas I have planted to grow and develop. Nurturing hearts and minds is our mantra at Aureus – looking forward to working towards Nurturing Schools status this year.

Values – I need to continue to live them, not laminate them, allowing them to both steer and also anchor me. Values frame what we do and why we do it at Aureus – looking forward to our values audit in the summer.

Zest – I need to bring some spontaneity, joy & joi de vie back to my highly diarised life.

Flourish – I need to enable myself and others to reach new heights. Grow, Learn, Flourish is our Trust’s vision and mission.

Thrive – I need to empower myself & others to grow, to develop & to be successful. I am also looking forward to us launching the thrive programme and opening our thrive room at Aureus.

Maya Angelou is one of my favourite writers & this is one of my favourite quotes:

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I have passion for what I do, I have compassion for those I work with, I don’t take myself too seriously & I have my own style in how I do things, however, in my first official term as a Headteacher & in our first term as a school the staff were definitely in survival mode.

We are committed to enabling our students to grow, learn & flourish, we are passionate about nurturing hearts & minds.

This term I need to focus on ensuring that my team thrive within and beyond their roles.

This year I need to ensure that I continue to thrive too as the role, the team & the community grow.

We need to review the conditions needed to not just to grow but to flourish & thrive. For me Thriving is becoming the best version of yourself.

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Tips for embedding Thriving as a daily practice in 2018:

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Reading to reflect on Thriving in 2018:

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Sustaining the good habit of weekly choir.
  • Reintroducing the habit of weekly yoga and/ or dancing.
  • Developing my mindful practice.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am actually reading some crappy chick lit – I used to consume books back to back – but now read more for professional learning than for pleasure or escapism. I need to get back in the habit of losing myself in a good book regularly.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The EduTwitter connections I was discussing #oneword2018 with earlier today as we did our selections – Thanks Carol, Christalla, Lisa, Mal, Michelle & Susan

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.

lrtt tanzania

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.

Calling All Flamingos: Join Our Aureus Family

I am a people person and I thrive through connecting with others. Networking is a key part of being an educator in my opinion. I therefore love recruitment and get a real buzz from meeting the candidates.

In last year’s teacher recruitment for Aureus School I met some amazing people, learnt lots from them in the process and created a brilliant team with appointments made for Year 2 too as the teaching/ leading talent pool was so strong.  I reflected on our values-led process here.

Our process was focused on finding the right people to get on the bus, to go on this journey with us. Our tasks were designed around candidates demonstrating their values. We were not trying to catch anyone out, we were trying to allow them all to shine.

Yes, experience and skill set are key, but for me it was the values and qualities that framed competence that made individuals stand out. We did all of our interviews in one week and didn’t appoint anyone until we had met all shortlisted candidates. We then did that X-Factor table shuffling task of working out who would work well and complement who. Each time we moved a person in to the team we had to remove someone else as we had a limited start up budget.

Who we appointed for Year 1 (started Sept ’17):

DHTs: Bennie Kara (Curriculum & Assessment) and Julie Hunter (Culture and Wellbeing). AHTs: Amjad Ali (Inclusion & T&L) and Chris Hunt (STEAM specialism, CIAG and Personal Development). LPs Charlotte James (PE and wellbeing), Laura Bainbrigge (Art and creativity) and Paul Wright (Computing and innovation). Teachers: Anna Daubney (Maths Mastery), Lannah Thatcher (Spanish) and Chris Atkins (PE).

Who we appointed for Year 2 (starting Sept ’18):

AHT: Drew Morris (Performing Arts and transition) and LP: Marianne Brunier (History and Literacy).

I found our founding team in weird and wonderful places – on twitter, on linkedin, in a library at an Ark event, at Oxford uni at a NQT event, through #womened and #bameed, even in Tanzania volunteering! We saved a fortune by recruiting in an unconventional way, and these savings all went in to the professional learning budget to increase CPD entitlement for our staff.

My team know that being outward-facing and networking is part of who we are at Aureus. Our students love meeting new people and we encourage the community to come in, for speakers to run assemblies and for #STEAM careers to be shared with them. I am hopeful that through their connections our team will grow organically over the coming years.

This year we are expanding the Aureus team and building the Aureus Primary team. I say family in my title because that is what we have become. Working at Aureus is more than just a job, we have bonded as a team, we care about each other and are really looking out for each other. Our Year 2 appointments are already part of our team. Our children  talk passionately at Aureus about our family values and what they mean to them.

So who are we looking for?

One of my favourite #womened quotes is below – “be defined by your soul, not your role”. Who do we want/ need to join us and then what can they bring is my focus in this recruitment window.

soul in role

The ‘souls’:

We are a values-led school. Our shared vision and values bond us. If our values wheel resonates…. if you want to work in a school that is committed to developing the whole child… if you are looking for a team who are passionate about mental health and wellbeing, who strive to look after each other…. then you are likely to fit right in.

Aureus Values Wheel V2

The ‘roles’:

For Aureus School we need for September 2018:

LPs for DT, English, Maths and Science and teachers for English, Maths and Science as the core subjects will double in size when we move from 120 Year 7s to 360 Year 7s and 8s.

The DT role is really exciting as this is the jigsaw piece missing from our #STEAM provision, they will join a dynamic team with a strategic plan of opportunities to showcase our specialism to open doors for future employment. There are 5 fully-kitted our classrooms and workshops awaiting someone to come and open up this area of our curriculum.

For Aureus Primary School we need for September 2018: 

A DHT and an AHT will be our first appointments for the primary. One of these roles needs to be an EYFS expert as we are opening with Nursery, Reception and Year 1 and 2. Ideally one will be an experienced Inclusion Leader and another will have safeguarding experience – but we will invest in the training of whoever is the right fit for our vision and values.

We have  additional funding from the LEA for a SEND Base which we are hoping will have a SEMH specialism. This team including a SENDco will be appointed by Aureus as we will be the host school – more to follow on these opportunities once the funding meeting has taken place in January.

The Aureus primary leadership roles are live now and we will be shortlisting and interviewing in the new year:

DHT 

AHT

We also need a Nursery Teacher, Reception Teachers and Year 1 and 2 teachers. We are keen to embed our mindfulness in our primary sibling  – you do not need to have experience of this as we will invest in training.

All of our roles have the potential to be flexible so please do apply and let us know the type of contract you are looking for. Part time/ job shares/ talent partnerships are an option. Return to teaching candidates will be supported. With Diversity and Equality as our core values we would welcome applications from diverse backgrounds and experiences too!

You can find out more about Trust: GLF Schools and our Teaching School: GLFTSA via the live links and by searching #growlearnflourish as this hashtag captures who we are.

If you are a flamingo, in a flock of pigeons, who wants to join a forward-thinking team who are making bold decisions to change school culture, then we would love to hear from you!

 

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You can contact me for an informal conversation via twitter @TheHopefulHT or email me: wilsonh@glfschools.org

Our open recruitment event details for all 2018 roles are live here:

Secondary roles – Jan 27th AM

Primary roles – Jan 27th PM

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

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Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Who might apply and who will join our growing team!

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Malala’s Magic Pencil – a present from one of my team!

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The lovely Christmas gifts and cards I received from students, staff and parents showing their appreciation of our hard work.

 

#Nurture1718: Seeds of Hope

Keziah encourages us each year to review our year & reflect on our achievements before setting our intentions for the next year. This is my 3rd nurture blog.

2015/16 – was all about seeking change as I had just resigned from my DHT role. I was re-evaluating & seeking my next steps. I needed to decompress to re-calibrate.

2016/17 – was all about seeing that change through, reestablishing myself & re-framing. Re-discovering my authentic self & being guided by my values. When I sit down and think  about it, it has been a mega year, a pivotal one for my career in fact. I did a TED talk!! It has been a big year for #womened too – we were nominated for Best Network in the National Diversity Awards!

2017/18 – will be a year of embedding, letting all of the changes in my professional & personal life settle & for equilibrium to be restored. I am excited to see  more of my intentions become actions.

Metaphorically, I feel like I was an established plant that was violently pulled out of the ground. I was re-potted, pruned and nourished. I have now been re-planted in a new environment, with the correct conditions & environment to grow & flourish. I have dispersed my seeds of hope, and they are now growing.  🌱

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2016/17 Reflections:

New opportunities:

I am now officially the founding Headteacher of a brand new start up secondary school and have just completed our first term!

New locations:

We have a beautiful new school building and site. I now teach/ lead in Didcot and live in Abingdon-on-the-Thames. I no longer live in London, and am close to where I was born in Henley.  It is weird how life sometimes takes you full circle!

New perspectives:

I have now been at GLF Schools for a year and am adapting to a new culture and ethos.  I have laid the foundations for our vision at Aureus, and our team have contributed to the values. We are all working together, we are on the same page, we are on the same bus, heading in the same direction.

New freedoms:

We have flipped the school day and start every morning mindfully. We have framed our curriculum through a values-based education. We have created a rewards-based culture and a coaching ethos.

New travels:

I started the year in Northern Ireland, I have been to Canada, Spain, Italy, Croatia and Dubai this year. I work hard and my holidays keep me going, but the international #womened opportunities also really excite me!

Other things this year I am proud of – I was nominated for a Women in the City Rising Stars Award, I led 3 DfE Diversity Grants, I was on a #womened panel in Banff with Pasi Sahlberg, I did a TED talk, I have been asked to write a monthly piece for Teach Secondary.

2017 has been an epic professional year!

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2017/18 Intentions:

New opportunities:

I have been made Executive Headteacher & will be opening our primary school & SEND base. I am on the Mental Health in Schools Award steering group lead the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust’s regional funding stream. I am leading the 2nd year of our Diversity Grant. #WomenEd are writing a book, we are also curating a whole channel at The Times Educational Festival at Wellington College in June.

New locations:

I have really enjoyed working with the #WomenEd teams in the West Mids and the East Mids this year. Also, the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Women Leading in Education Network. Both have kept me busy helped me settle out of London after 12 years in the city. Our sibling school Aureus Primary is being built & will open in September so we will have another new site!

New perspectives:

I am halfway through my coaching programme with Electric Woman which is encouraging us to dig deep to lean into our vulnerabilities. I am excited about hosting Diverse Educators in January to bring together #womened #bameed #lgbted and #disabilityed. We have become a partner school for Whole Education & will become a hub school for TES Learn, SSAT & Challenge Partners this year.

New freedoms:

I have joined a choir. It is half of my #wellbeing pledge to myself. I have attended every week for a term and have even performed in public!! This has been my #10%braver this year. My other half of the pledge – weekly yoga classes – has not gone as well but I will strive to fulfill this from January. 1 thing at a time!

New travels:

I am seeing the end of the year out and the start of the new year in, in Helsinki. I am of to the Dominican Republic for a friend’s wedding in Feb half-term. Next summer I am excited to be traveling to Mozambique on a women leading in education charity project with Action Aid to build a library. A once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. I have also been asked to speak at a Girls’ Leadership Conference in Adelaide…

The last 2 years have been a whirlwind of activity & change, this year I am looking forward to some calm and to some clear, blue skies!

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I would like 2018 to be an epic personal year!!

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

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Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The successful first term we have had at Aureus.
  • The growing momentum of #womened.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The DFE’s papers on flexible teaching and mental health.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The fabulous team at Aureus.
  • The wonderful #womened regional leaders I work with.

Currently feeling inspired by:

  • Stories of courage & resilience from fellow educators who are values-led and determined to be hopeful, optimistic & driven to change our profession.

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Our First 100 Days: Growing, Learning and Flourishing Together

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.

Aureus Values Wheel

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:

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.

 

Mental Health: Supporting Vulnerable Learners

On Friday, we hosted the #VulnerableLearners conference for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, funded by the STELLA project to support Mental Health provision in schools. This event totally supports our vision and values at Aureus School  – we have made wellbeing one of our 12 values and have spent a lot of time talking to our staff and students about staying healthy and happy, but equally what to do when we do experience negative emotions and difficult times. Our school’s vision is to ‘Nurture Hearts & Minds’ by holistically educating the whole child. Our trust’s vision is to enable all learners to grow, learn & flourish. We are committed to creating the conditions for thriving not just surviving!

 

The funding from this amazing charity and the support from the charity’s team enabled us to bring together 150+ teachers, leaders, governors, researchers, professionals and organisations who want to connect and collaborate on a strategic approach to mental health in schools. The expertise & experience in the room blew me away.

Mindful Mornings  – we started the day by offering a tour of our flipped day. Charlotte James, our PE LPD/staff wellbeing lead, and I showed 20 guests around to see: Mindful Art, Mindful Movement, Mindful Strategies and Mindful Reading. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive about what our guests saw and the impact it is already having on our culture and ethos at Aureus. The verbal validation of the palpable values being embodied in our bold choices at Aureus make me really proud.

Professor Sonia Blandford:

Our 1st opening keynote shared her research on deprivation, disadvantage and social mobility. Taking us through the steps of  I can, I do, I have, I am she encouraged us to not just identify but to remove the barriers holding our vulnerable learners back. She framed her data with core strength and mindset being integral to elevating independent learning and personal success.

Nina Jackson:

Our 2nd opening keynote shared her story. A story of a harrowing childhood, where she was abandoned and unloved, where school via music became her haven. Nina always makes me cry, but smile through my tears, as she is so authentic and raw. She is a true survivor and her story is powerful about the emotional  baggage she still carries from her childhood and family experience. She reminds us why we do what we do.

Clare Erasmus:

Our 1st case study was from the indefatigable MH Director from the Magna Carta School who is many years in to establishing a MHWB provision that is now embedded in the fabric of the school. She made us think and challenged us about the vulnerable learners we care for during termtime and what they need from us out of school hours.

Liz Robson Kelly:

I have met Liz a few times through #womened events and she has worked closely with some schools I know in the Midlands.   Her positive psychology research around resilience and the programmes she offers around self-worth are high impact and I am hoping we can launch some of her projects from Aureus to develop these skills in our learners. We need our young people to be resilient, to have bounce back & to have self-worth (she doesn’t call it self-esteem).

Julie Hunter:

Our DHT shared our why for our culture and ethos at Aureus, our how for what we have embedded in our 1st 100 days, and visualised what it will look like as we grow and establish. We owe Julie a lot of thanks at Aureus for the amazing provision she has curated. It is her brainchild and she enthuses our mindful mornings and coaching/ global citizenship afternoons.

Mental Health Teachmeet:

Opened by 2 of our Year 7 students, my heart burst with pride as Oli and Maddie reflected on what mindfulness means to them and shared what we have been doing to raise awareness of MHWB since we opened.  They were followed by Alice a teacher, Caro a house mistress, Charlotte a staff wellbeing lead, Dan from EduKit, John from Resilience Doughtnut and Lisa from Clear Sky. Each micro presentation added to the wider conversations about schools needing to have a  strategic vision for their MHWB provision, focused on preemptive, proactive and preventative activity for all rather than reactive intervention for some.

 

Workshops:

20 different workshops took part in the break out rooms after lunch – ranging from values to self-compassion, from play therapy to adaptive sports. Thank you to everyone who delivered a session, developed the dialogue and initiated further thinking.

Dick Moore:

A father who lost one of his four sons to suicide and a former Headteacher, Dick’s story speaks to your heart about the impact on a family when someone takes their life. He also reminded the room that our own children are as important as the vulnerable learners we look out for. I am glad that we had AV issues as if he had played the 12 songs that Barney had left on his I-Pod for this funeral I think I would have dissolved into bits! Dick is pragmatic about life and death, he shared his painful journey and the purpose it has now given him to raise awareness about mental health, depression & suicide.

Exhibitors:

A big thank you to all of the organisations and partnerships who attended the event to connect and network in this important space and the growing community of professionals committed to improving mental health provision in schools to support out vulnerable learners.

Takeaways:

  • We need to learn how to Dance in the Rain and teach our students to do it too
  • We need to work with our parents and carers more so that the dialogue continues at home
  • We need to support one another in our commitment to the cause and check in on our own mental health too

 

My Pledge:

  • With the STELLA project funding we have already launched a MH & WB network so my first pledge is to sustain momentum through these half-termly meet ups.
  • A half-day follow up from this event is planned for March and I am keen to get some of the delegates to come back and share the impact of our first event so I pledge to stay connected with the wider network.
  • We discussed yesterday how to work closer with parents, carers and the wider community so I have pledged to curate some Mental Health Masterclasses on our Wellbeing Wednesdays to help raise awareness.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The 150 people who came to this event and the 25 who came to our MHWB network launch – a passionate and purposeful group of people who to connect and collaborate with.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The talks that hit a nerve with me yesterday were the ones on suicide ideation and self-harm, I need to do some more reading and thinking around these safeguarding topics.

Currently feeling grateful for: 

  • Charlie Waller Memorial Trust for funding the MH conference and MHWB network via the STELLA project.
  • Nina, Alice and Dick for sharing their very  personal stories about mental health, self-harm and suicide.
  • All of the contributors, the speakers/ exhibitors who all shared their time, experience and expertise for free.
  • My amazing team for enabling the event to take place, they were running around behind the scenes all day ensuring operations were smooth.
  • Julie, Charlotte, Maddie & Oli, our Aureus Ambassadors, for truly emobodying everything we stand for at Aureus.

 

Reflections: Our First Half-term as a School

We have been a school for 6 weeks. What a whirlwind of activity it has been. It is a surreal experience being appointed to lead a school that is an idea, spending 18 months thinking about the school you would like to lead, then taking it from the abstract to the concrete.

Since starting in January I have hit the ground running, attending project meetings to consult on the build, fixtures and fittings, snagging the finish, and snagging the snagging!  Relocating in the spring made this easier as the time and energy of the travel to and from Oxfordshire was draining.

Since March it has been all about relationships – building the team by appointing leaders, teachers, the site team and the operations team. The relationships formed early on have made the team a really dynamic one to work in.

Since July it became about our students and their families when we met them all together for the first time. It was a special moment having all of the staff, students and parents/ carers in the same room at the same time. It was the first time I felt like a ‘proper’ headteacher rather than an imposter.

Here is a thunk for you: Is a Headteacher a Headteacher when they have no building, no students and no staff?

Early September was staff and then student induction. We had a lot to discuss, plan & deliver to have a smooth start to term for all. We tried to balance the strategic vision planning with the operational provision planning. We are all new, everything is new, we are on the journey of discovery together.

Since September we have focused on establishing and embedding our routines and systems. We are consciously doing things differently, questioning why we have always done things in a particular way and rethinking processes.  We have drafted flow charts and protocols for each routine and system to pilot, reflect on and review.

We are also all teaching a lot and leading multiple personal development opportunities after school each night – we are a small team with a small first cohort, but we pledged to the parents who made the bold leap of faith with us that their child would not be disadvantaged by being in our first cohort. I am a teaching Headteacher. I teach all of the Year 7s Drama each week, the equivalent of 4 double lessons – we have studied A Midsummer Night’s Dream this half-term as we are performing in the Shakespeare Schools’ Festival in November. So my after school commitment has been drama rehearsals and a photography club.

Teaching every single student in the school is a unique situation to be in. The Class of 2022 will know us & be known to a different depth than I have ever experiehced. Our challenge longterm is how we can sustain the quality of the relationships we will have with them with larger cohorts as the school fills up.

Highlights of our first half-term include:

Values – we have established our 12 core values and we explored Wellbeing in September and Diversity in October. Our students have been actively reflecting and discussing pur values continuously to consider what they mean and how we can embody them. We are delighted to be working with Sue Webb, Dr Neil Hawkes & VBE Zone.

Hot Chocolate Friday – we launched this and it has gone down a storm with 8 students each week being awarded. The training from Pivotal Education has been brilliant to establish our restorative conversations culture.

Mindfulness – our mindful mornings are wonderful – the feedback from students, staff and parents has been really positive. Julie our DHT has done a brilliant job planning our flipped day.

Assemblies – our values-led delivery has resulted in some of the most thought-provoking and impactful assemblies I have had a privilege of experiencing. Our 2 NQTs were magnificent!

World Mental Health Day – all of our staff and students raised awareness by wearing yellow to school for #helloyellow. We have also launched a regional MH & WB network which had a brilliant turn out for our launch meet up.

Open Events –   we have been quite overwhelmed with interest for next year’s cohort with 850 coming to our Year 6 Open Evening and another 350 coming to our Open Mornings. We are very hopeful re our numbers for next year.

Art Room Opening –  Sir John Dunford joined us for our opening of our Art Therapy Room and commented on the ‘forward-thinking nature’ of our school and the ‘magic’ he could feel in the building!

International Day of the Girl – our #womened #leadmeet was really inspiring & connected some brilliant regional partners like Feminism for Dads. Our DHT Bennie did a cracking presentation on our vision for our girls at Aureus.

Masaai Warriors – we ended the half-term with a visit from a touring group of Masaai warriors who performed and interacted with our Year 7s and some local primary schools.

If you are reading this and thinking about being a teacher, a leader or considering becoming a Headteacher, please do not listen to the negative rhetoric about our profession  – come and visit us and see that there is a different way!

We are working extremely hard, we are tired and constantly  juggling lots of different balls in the air. However, there is a real sense of collective ownership of our shared vision & values: we are committed to our mission of growing, learning and flourishing together and nurturing the hearts and minds of our community. Many of my team, including me have nearly left the profession; Aureus gives me hope that there is a different way to deliver a high quality provision to meet our bold vision.

be bold for change

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

Our 2nd half-term, the official opening of Aureus School including the opening of our Thrive Room and our Sensory Room.

Currently reading and thinking about:

Inner Story – Dr Tim O’Brien then When the Adult Changes  – Paul Dix

Currently feeling grateful for:

Our fabulous team – very lucky and privileged to be working alongside them.

Nurturing Hearts and Minds: ‘Wonder’

As an English teacher I think in words, as a Media Studies teacher I think in images. I knew instinctively what I wanted to do to hook my audience in my first staff briefing. I wanted to play them a song that lift my spirits and a music video that is a piece of art.

‘Wonder’ by Emili Sandi depicts a woman going on a journey in an unknown land, she heads for the door to another world. The video is an explosion of different colours, a sensory overload.

Behind her, her tribe forms, following her as she leads, the gap between them closing as they join her on the journey. As the mists separate, the door becomes more prominent.

Powerful,  imagistic  storytelling with  a rhythmic tribal beat lifted by her soulful voice.

This video embodies the journey I have been on, that I am on and that I continue on. I am full of wonder for the possibilities of the place we are creating. Our team are united in the opportunity to flip the system and demonstrate there is another way.

Our pledge to nurture hearts and minds has started this week with my first assembly launching our community values, framing September with our wellbeing focus, listening to one of our DHTs launch our mental health and mindfulness programme.

Our family dining experience has created an opportunity each day for us all to not only nourish ourselves but also to nurture those around them.

Today I taught my first lesson for over a year. My last lesson was in Tanzania, a FGM and ECM class to a group of young girls living in a culture were both are accepted. A lesson where I realised how inspiring and empowering and #nakedteaching is to remind us of the awe and wonder of teaching. Today I taught my first lesson in our new school, starting each new week with double Drama with our year 7s will ensure that our why stays strong and central to our decisions and actions.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

The brilliant team I have recruited who are all aligned, living their values and sharing our vision.

Currently reading and thinking about:

I am reviewing The Mindful Teacher for Schools’ Week.

Currently feeling grateful for:

The overwhelming support I have received this week – texts, facebook messages, emails, cards and flowers have all made me appreciate by #PLN.