As a teacher, I am used to things ‘stopping’ during the holidays. Of course, we will often end up doing some work at home, but we return to school and find it pretty much as we left it. Not so with this project. I returned from the autumn break to once again be hugely impressed at how many people are working so hard to ensure success. Most importantly, we will soon be in a position to advertise posts to join the Senior Leadership Team, which will allow us to make big moves forward in terms of finalising a curriculum structure, transition arrangements and so on.
It was a genuine pleasure to meet with parents for the first of our engagement sessions. Our theme was ‘Our school’s purpose’, and there were some great responses on the question of what makes a good school, such as:
- Excellence is not just about the academic side but about what is best for each pupil
- A focus on a curriculum that is enjoyable and appeals to young people
- The opportunity to build strong relationships with both peers and staff
The second session, ‘Our school community’ will be hosted by Wallyford Primary, from 5pm-6pm on the 7th November. Parents and carers of future Wallyford Learning Campus pupils can email firstname.lastname@example.org if they would like to book a space.
We are also now on Twitter. Please follow @WallyfordLC for official updates on the school’s development.
It was great to be able to join the Parent Council at Pinkie St. Peter’s Primary School earlier this week, and to do a brief introduction. I also enjoyed finding out about the many ways in which parents currently support the school with a whole range of activities.
There has been a big focus on ICT, because long lead in times mean that we are already having to make some of the big decisions around how the campus can best support the East Lothian Digital Learning Strategy and the ambition we all share: to make the best use of digital devices to support equity through the inclusion, engagement, and wellbeing of our young people. We are looking carefully at what we can learn from other new build schools, both in our own local authority and beyond. This meant that architect Sam Williams and I had to get our hard hats on once again and start a very important shopping list to ensure the construction team can get everything in place for the right IT infrastructure.
I have also been finding out more about the needs and aspirations of young people in the community, with members of the community team and a visit to the Bridges project in Musselburgh. It has been hugely encouraging to find so many people who adhere to the maxim ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, and their knowledge and skills are very much valued. I will continue to take time to meet with valuable partners throughout the rest of this term.
On Monday, it was my pleasure to host colleagues from Moray House at the University of Edinburgh. Rosemary Grady and Kevin Brack are involved in a number of programmes related to Leadership and Learning, and have supported me through various stages of studying for my Masters in Education.
My focus this year is on growing professional learning, and how we ensure that we have the highly skilled staff that young people deserve.
I introduced myself to Wallyford Primary School Parent Council members at their meeting this week, and enjoyed listening to the rich discussion around plans in place to continue to support attainment for all. I offered an introductory presentation which explored where I have come from and what themes are important to me as a leader. The presentation is included here to give a flavour of the themes that were discussed with families.
I really appreciated the opportunity to be part of the review team at Musselburgh Grammar school. It has been a genuine pleasure to engage with staff, pupils and parents in a busy and vibrant school community. It also gave me the chance to work with a number of school leaders from across East Lothian Council, all of whom collaborated effectively to build a clear picture of Musselburgh’s strengths and next steps.
This morning has been a real mixture, which perfectly illustrates very different demands of this job. I began with the second of two Pupil Voice groups I’ve convened this week, beginning with a look at the plans from the architect and interior designer. The most common exclamation was, ‘Wow!’ and they had lots of really thoughtful questions.
I then moved on to begin to develop a staffing structure that will support the sort of curriculum I want to deliver at Wallyford- one which includes all learners and which appreciates the learning that goes on outside as well as within formal classroom structures. Getting the right staff in place takes time to get right, so we’ll be getting started on the first steps of recruitment processes in the coming weeks.
I really valued a session held this week for all secondary head teachers, which was facilitated by Dr Dee Torrance, of the University of Glasgow. This gave space and time for all of us to think deeply about how we can best support our young people in navigating the challenging world in which they currently find themselves. There is no doubt that we all continue to see and to feel the impact of the pandemic, both in positive ways and in new challenges. All of us were in agreement as to our desire to lead schools in which young people’s wellbeing is a constant focus of the conversation.
I also caught up with Bruce Murray, the head teacher of Letham Primary. It was great to be able to benefit from his experience on building a school community from scratch, and to learn more about the key questions to ask contractors involved with the build! The school itself is very impressive, and I really appreciated its focus on ensuring safety and security.
The week ended on a high when I was able to get my hard hat on and visit site for the first time. Huge thanks are due to Graeme Lang, the Morisson construction site manager, who took time out to show (service manager) Neil Craik-Collins and I the story so far. It’s impossible to be anything other than inspired by the scope and ambition of the build. Hopefully seeing it without all of its walls and doors will actually help me to find my way around!
Welcome to the first in a series of head teacher weekly updates.
This week I moved from Midlothian to East Lothian, and have received the warmest of welcomes from colleagues and young people.
As anyone who has moved from one large organisation to another will know, there is a lot to take in. This week has been full of new people, new places, and new things to learn about. I have found it helpful to compare it to times I have been on holiday to other English speaking countries; we have a shared language with which we communicate effectively, but we use varying terminology and there are small cultural differences that you just need to learn!
It’s heartening, however, to see just how much expertise has gone into getting the Wallyford Learning Campus this far. There are many highly skilled individuals and teams with an important role to play in making the strategic vision an operational reality. We are already at a crucial decision making stage when it comes e.g. finalising interior plans, and ensuring that the building has the right IT provided. My key focus has been on asking the question: will that work for our young people? It was great to speak with the architect and to begin to get a feel for how the space can be used most effectively.
One of my week one priorities was to meet with the chairs of the Parent Councils at Wallyford Primary School and Pinkie St. Peter’s. We had an informal and wide ranging discussion around school identity, the wider community, and how we can work together to ensure a positive transition experience. I look forward to also engaging with parents from Musselburgh Grammar school too. Their children may have already made the key move to secondary school, but they will now have all the challenges and opportunities of a second transition. I am currently working on a plan for a number of parental engagement throughout the year, to ensure that we are able to work positively together from the earliest stage.