Principal’s Round-up – 22nd November 2019

I greatly enjoyed the Tavistock Street Pastors’ 10th anniversary event on Monday evening this week. It was inspirational to hear stories of their work, and I was moved by their humility and graciousness during the celebration. I was able to thank the School Pastors (and Prayer Pastors) on your behalf for the wonderful work that they do in school. The School Pastors, led by Roger Bird, have always been there for us at times of trouble. It seems that they appear in the right place at exactly the right time. Students value their patience, their kindness and non-judgemental approach in the support that is given when they are in difficulty. I have always felt that there are at least four pastors in school on the day they visit, and I am always surprised when there are only two! Such is their influence. The pastors have spent a great deal of time in school, providing guidance, when we have needed them. They were the first through the door when we lost Abi Smith, Ashley Tossell and Hannah Bragg. They listened, were empathetic and helped us cope. For that, I will always be grateful.

The School Pastors are just a few of the volunteers we rely upon to keep us successful. We are supported by many community groups, each with their own passion, to help us shape young lives. Most recently we have been visited by local councillors as part of Political Speed Dating, local business people as part of Careers Speed Dating and we are now seeking support to keep our library alive by recruiting a volunteer librarian. I know that this will be a successful project because of the kind of town Tavistock is. It is not right that funding in education should be so reduced that we have to rely so blatantly on the voluntary sector, but we are lucky to be part of such a committed community.

Last week, I attended two days training for school leaders in Bristol. The days were both very intensive and I have plenty of homework to complete over the next few weeks. Whilst driving home, I found myself reflecting upon the event, and how much has been afforded to us as a school since we became part of the Dartmoor Multi-Academy Trust. It is easy in all professional relationships to focus upon and remember incidences that we are dissatisfied with. This is normal. In the DMAT, however, we have a tangible voice to effect change. This is real, not nuanced. It is certainly not typical of the other MATs and federations that I worked with on Thursday and Friday. We are lucky to be led by a strong CEO and board of Trustees who make decisions based on ethical values where the interests of staff and students are considered to be of paramount importance. In our MAT we have great agency to solve our own problems. We are given encouragement to do so. We have agency to make mistakes, and to be picked up and supported by our peer colleagues. Networks are strong, and CPD is at the centre of our work. Whilst funds are limited across our family of schools we have received financial backing for middle leader training from a local NLE; we have emerging subject networks; we have access to expert health and safety, financial and safeguarding guidance; we have full backing for our ambitious plans to partially rebuild the school site. It is reassuring to be standing side by side with like-minded colleagues whilst fighting that particular battle. In short, to work in an ethical organisation that pays attention to the needs of its staff, parents and students is a privilege these days. We have ethical leadership espousing a clear vision. We should be proud to be part of this organisation.

Notwithstanding all I have said above, sometimes the pressure upon us still feels relentless. It just keeps coming at us in waves. In fact, for most people working in education life is quite exhausting. The morbid obesity of change thrown at schools in the shape of a changing Ofsted framework, examination expectations and key performance indicators can weigh us down. I’ve started to dream in statistics and marinate my waking moments in data and policy writing! In this world we need to work hard at positive thinking, and not give into ideas and conversations that are mood hoovers. We must not become people who see problems in every suggestion of a solution. Therein lies the path to negativity. Focus on how you feel on days when you think you can take on the world. Think about all the good feelings you have on those days. Energy, positivity and passion. Could this become a habit? We all have bad days, and we need to learn to notice those in others, learn how to best help ourselves and pick up others after a knock . That’s what makes life what it is – fun exciting and challenging. However tempting, try not to count the days to the holidays. You never really know how many days you have. Enjoy them all.

Have a restful weekend