The end of term
The end of term is drawing to a close after what has been another incredibly busy year. With extreme heat now upon us, it seems to be a final hurdle before we can take a well-earned rest. Once more as we end the year, I cannot express how grateful I am to work with such an inspiring team of people. You continue to work wonders on a daily basis. Thank you; your continued efforts do not go unnoticed. Looking back, we have had so much to celebrate and despite the earlier COVID restrictions, we have managed to navigate our way back to a more enriched offer for the children. This has enabled us to provide after school clubs, celebrate the Queens Platinum Jubilee, hold our Sports Days, perform in community concerts, take part in sporting events and go on many successful residential trips. It is true to say that we don’t always appreciate what we have had until its gone but are really grateful that we have been able to pick up some of our long-held events and traditions.
Our schools continued to provide a great education during the pandemic and it has certainly showed in the end of year statutory tests held once again in May. While we will never be fixated on these results and certainly do not believe them to be our main goal, we recognise that they provide an indicator as to the impact of our efforts. All five Trust schools achieved very strong SATs scores and one could say all the children reached their potential and even surpassed it! Could I thank not only the Year six teachers, who did an amazing job, but also the entire KS2 staff who undeniably supported the children to reach their potential too over their key stage two lifetime. Our Trust has a combined reading, writing and mathematics average of 84%. When considering the national average dipped by 6% to 59% (most likely due to the impact of the pandemic), you can see the scale of the achievement, as our average increased by 8%. What we do and how we do it is clearly having such a positive impact on standards. Our curriculum work, they way in which we teach and the care and support we give our pupils is making a difference.
Thank you to our central team colleagues Luci, Diane and Nathan, who work so hard alongside their team of business managers. Without their continued expertise we would not develop or improve at the same rate. Likewise, our local governors and trustees continue to provide exceptional leadership and support. We appreciate the time they spend with us even more so, knowing they give it freely often after their day job finishes. Thank you to you all.
At the end of the year I wanted to take a moment to say thank you to those staff who are leaving us. From Kelsall, Jo Lapin is retiring after 10 years and Hannah Bridges is also leaving after working in the Reception class. From Manor Park, Julie Boyle and Ann McDonald are both retiring after 13 years as teaching assistants. At Bexton, Helen Boxford and Lesley Sarikaya are saying goodbye after working as teaching assistants. Phoebe Howman is also leaving to head back to university. Good luck. At Boughton Heath, we say goodbye to Alison Woods, who has worked as a teacher there for over eight years and Emma Coates who worked in year one. Thank you to you all and best wishes for the future.
Please take some time to relax, enjoy the summer holiday and hopefully (although not this hot!) the sunshine. I look forward to see you all on our annual Trust inset day on Thursday 1st September at Chester University for the opening conference alongside colleagues from Gayton and Stockbridge Village Primary schools.
Best wishes to you all,
Welcome back to 2022!
Happy new year to everyone across the Trust. I hope your Christmas holiday managed to provide you and your family some well-earned rest. Christmas always takes too long to arrive and is then gone in blink of an eye for another year.
Once again, we return to school faced with an uphill scramble to limit the impact of another variant. The government has reintroduced mitigations we had previously utilised to minimise the spread of the virus but these are minimal compared to the same time last year. However, with record breaking daily rates and obvious pressure on the NHS, it has only fuelled uncertainty across the sector with colleagues not knowing whether the term will herald better times or perhaps- but hopefully not- worse. As a consequence, I appreciate many of you may well be anxious as the children return on Wednesday. Rest assured Headteachers and I will be doing everything in our power to keep everyone safe- just as we have done over the last two years. Safety is our number one priority. It is so important we continue to work together so if you perceive any policy in place to be insufficient, please talk to your Headteacher immediately.
Senior leaders will have no doubt have provided updates on the many changes to national guidance. Importantly, I think over the last year we have become very skilful at changing our habits, policies and practice and this term may require all of those skills so please be patient and understanding with senior colleagues as they look to manage schools effectively. Maximising safety while minimising negative effects on the daily running of the school may be challenging.
There will be no greater requirement for flexibility and understanding than when our colleagues are required to isolate after contracting the virus. It is likely routines and timetables will need to be changed at short notice so I thank you in advance for your commitment and resilience when asked to step up and help. The scale of staff absence has been (just) manageable in all of our schools but I recognise it has been a juggling act and will be asking Headteachers to provide me with regular updates to understand the scale of absence and its impact.
One of the most powerful ways we can support each other is by ensuring our collaborative practice continues, even in light of the many challenges we now face. Our schools continue to be the most amazing and inspiring places to work and learn. I am confident 2022 will be another stellar year for our Trust. Most remarkably, we have achieved so much in the last two years with many of our teams working remotely as we have navigated the uncertainty of the pandemic. This experience has taught us a great deal about efficient, remote collaboration but has certainly reminded us of the irreplaceable value of in person collaboration. This is something we will continue to be mindful of as we traverse the next two terms but the power of collaboration is at the heart of our purpose, so I will be asking Headteachers, where possible in light of any absence, to continue to offer opportunities for staff to meet with other colleagues (virtually or face to face). Now more than ever is a time to share and help each other.
Good luck and best wishes to you all for 2022!
Welcome back to a new school year!
Welcome back! This new academic year will hopefully bring back pre-pandemic normality for children which is something I know we would all welcome with open arms. While I have no doubt there may be hiccups along the way, I have every faith we will continue to rise to the challenges presented. The autumn term is always a long one so please pace yourselves mentally and physically.
This focus of this first letter is simply related to one thing. Our revised Trust vision and purpose. Over the last nine months, alongside Trustees, Headteachers and senior leaders we have worked together to redefine our core purpose, asking ourselves why do we do what we do? This is such an important question. To understand our ‘why’, our purpose, means we can understand how we want our Trust to operate like in the future. After months of work, discussions and feedback, I am proud to share with you our purpose, how we achieve that purpose and what we will be focussing on as a Trust.
The redefined purpose of Cheshire Academies Trust is to inspire hearts and minds through care, collaboration and creativity. We believe coming to work in our schools should be a joy, where staff find real job satisfaction and make a genuine difference. It is incumbent upon governors and leaders across our Trust to create the conditions for success so that children receive a great education, as a consequence of providing teachers and leaders the environment they require.
Our schools are unique. Leaders indicated that they still believed we could work collaboratively but remain different and unique. This is because what is right for one community will not be the same for another. We pride ourselves on our focus on equality seeking to build unity because we appreciate teamwork drives effective collaboration, which in turn promotes creativity and innovation.
Our Trust believes in people and not metrics. An important focus for us continues to be the health and mental wellbeing of our staff and that should impact on all of our decision making. I am proud of the way we tried to manage workloads throughout the pandemic so that you could continue to come to work with the energy to inspire.
This year the Trust will be sending our staff surveys on a termly basis. We want to hear from you! Feedback is always a gift and I want to make sure there are active channels for communication between schools, between staff and to the Trust.
Leaders will continue be empowered to do what they believe is best for their schools, teachers and communities. Teachers will continue to be offered the best training and knowledge so they may thrive within their classrooms. Fundamentally we believe that being part of a family of schools has afforded our staff opportunities across a wide spectrum of areas that has a real world positive impact on the learning experiences children receive.
So through care, collaboration and creativity we believe in seven key ideals.
We value uniqueness
Each school in our Trust is unique. They serve unique communities and should retain their individual identity. The school’s curriculum should continue to bespoke as it should be constructed to reflect the location and needs of the community. We acknowledge and celebrate the role everyone has in our communities and promote tolerance, understanding and engagement, in order to learn and be inclusive to all.
We provide a great education
The schools within our Trust provide a truly wonderful education for pupils. We recognise they deserve the best and in order to do that we provide the tools teachers need to thrive in the classroom.
Our goal is for every pupil in our Trust to be taught by an expert teacher, with strong pedagogical content knowledge and understanding of how children learn, who belongs to a profession that continually builds its collective expertise. This requires schools to be effective learning organisations for the people who work in them – nurturing, valuing and rewarding ongoing development of knowledge and pedagogy through regular constructive feedback, professional discussion of practice, observation of others, and opportunity to engage with research evidence.
We share the same values
We are a values driven Trust. We believe in integrity and lead by example. It is our responsibility to make decisions with sensitivity and thoughtfulness based on the best interests of our teachers, pupils and communities. We value collaboration and our staff will have access to learn from each other. Respect, hard work and dedication have enabled everyone to flourish through the pandemic and we must continue to uphold those values. Our pupils and staff must continue to work within an environment where they can be healthy and happy; one where success means making mistakes and challenging each other.
We build unity and autonomy
We are not a team because we work together. We are a team because we trust, respect and care for each other. No school should see itself as an island within our Trust and by working together across CAT and networks more broadly in a structured way, our teachers and schools can improve faster and more sustainably. Our Trust recommends that schools benefit from looking beyond local and regional boundaries to ensure they remain outward-looking and open to new ideas. There is clear value in finding out more about other schools that serve a similar or a contrasting demographic but who achieve different outcomes.
We believe in empowering leaders to make local decisions with flexibility and agility. They know best for their schools and we believe in giving them high degrees of autonomy. We trust our leaders and are there to support them when required.
We empower communication
Our Trust believes in transparency because we recognise that through clear and consistent communication leaders will be better able to drive improvements within their schools. Local Governing Bodies have open communication to the Trust board through link Trustees, Chairs Meetings and our bespoke quality assurance documentation. The scheme of delegation has been drafted to delegate almost all of the responsibility to local levels so that the operational management of the school can be retained by Headteachers and local governors. Our IT infrastructure allows for efficient communication to staff across the Trust, whether that be video calling or the use of shared online spaces. It ensures deep collaboration can continue in the absence of face to face communication; although that is always our preference.
We invest in people
We believe in the power of people. We imagine a world in which the vast majority of our staff wake up every day inspired, feel safe wherever they are and end the day fulfilled by the work they do in our schools. We appreciate that being alone in any position is hard so we know being together as a team is simply better. Our staff support each other, work together and learn together. As a trust we look after our staff who in turn look after our pupils.
We create the conditions for success
Our Trust aims to provide the financial and operational conditions for success for each of schools. We ask ourselves what can we do to help a school succeed? What does it need to fulfil its vision? The central team provide a wide range of services that help schools and leaders to focus on the important work of teaching and learning without distraction.
Over the first part of this term colleagues from the Trust will join me in visiting schools and sharing our new purpose and vision. Ensuring all staff understand what it means for them now and in the future is so important. We want to continue building a successful Trust together.
Thank you for the work you have already completed over the summer holidays to prepare for the new term- I am sure it will make all the difference when the children return. Please reach out and get in touch if I can help in anyway.
Good luck and best wishes.
July 2021- The end of a long year
As the end of term draws closer, I am not sure where to start this letter. What a year this has been! The pandemic has not abated and if anything continues to worry us all, as numbers towards the end of this term have sky rocketed again. That said, with our vaccine programme continuing at pace, there may be light at the end of the tunnel but it has done nothing to alleviate any of the workload or reduce the pressure as the term ends. This year has seen you all adapt at pace as changes to mitigations and teaching practice have been forced upon us. Remote learning has no doubt increased workload and pressure on teachers but rest assured, looking at the end of year outcomes, it has provided a great education to children and has certainly minimised the impact of lockdowns and isolation periods on learning. Principals have told me that families continue to send their thanks to you all for your hard work and resolve and this should offer a pronounced sense of appreciation. Through everyone’s the talent and determined efforts we have made such a positive difference.
Thank you. Thank you for everything you have done since September. It has not been easy. But we have done it and in just over a week the summer holidays will begin and they will last nearly seven weeks. That is time I urge all of you to switch off and spend time with your families. I also hope that you manage to go on holiday- wherever that maybe (optimistically abroad and somewhere hot!).
Working together as a team who trusts, cares and respects each other is such an advantage for our family of schools. As other schools have receded into their silos and reduced contact with others, our schools have remained open and continued to collaborate on a range of priorities. What is most pleasing is that collaboration has occurred organically between schools. For example, colleagues have supported each other with phonics, nursery set up, early years and more. It is lovely to hear anecdotes about how peer support has really helped and lightened the load.
I wish to thank Luci and Diane who work so hard alongside their team of business managers. Without their continued expertise we would not develop or improve at the same rate. Ensuring the financial and operational health of our schools is so important as every penny we spend must be put to good use. Likewise, our local governors and trustees continue to provide exceptional leadership and support. We appreciate the time they spend with us even more so, knowing they give it freely often after their day job finishes. Thank you to you all.
Finally, as the year finishes and my time as the Principal of Boughton Heath Academy ends after eleven years, I want to especially thank the staff, governors and wider team at BHA. It has been an honour to serve and be the Principal. I feel so fortunate to hand over the reins to a strong team led by Jon Lenton, who I know will provide strong leadership and management. Happily, I will continue to be there to assist in my role as CEO, but also recognise the wider team will provide Jon a helping hand whenever he needs it. That is the power of our family of schools.
I look forward to seeing everyone in the new academic year and will continue to ensure we keep delivering a great education for the children and communities we serve.
Best wishes to you all,
Christmas Message 2020
I wanted to take some time at the end of the term to express my personal thanks for everything you have done for your pupils, as a team and for your communities. The words in this letter can never articulate just how grateful I am to work with such professional and dedicated colleagues.
Nobody outside of the teaching profession can really understand the increased responsibility we have all felt. A greater responsibility to ensure children learn, especially after a long summer absence. An amplified responsibility to keep the children safe; a weight heavy on our shoulders. I appreciate how draining mentally teaching can be while at the same time you are listening for a cough here or there. That additional strain has increased the pressure on you all tenfold. The changes to our routines have been stark; hand washing, additional cleaning, face masks and social distancing are to name but a few. Nevertheless, throughout all of the many changes to our risk assessments and updated government guidance that has landed for Principals to enact late on a Friday evening, you have remained resolute and optimistic. All of these challenges have been faced at your work place and no doubt many of you have been affected by COVID-19 at home or had to isolate because a member of your family or you yourself may have contracted the virus. These are very challenging times but I believe being part of our Trust, working together and supporting each other, has helped, even in some small way.
Christmas is just around the corner. Please take the time to relax; this must be a priority for you all. I know many of leaders will find that difficult but I for one will not be looking at emails during the Christmas holiday. Please try to do the same- you deserve a rest and the opportunity to switch off and be present with your family.
On the 1st January 2021, I am delighted to announce that Manor Park Primary School will officially convert to an academy and join our Trust. Simon and his team have been working with us for some time but I want to formally welcome them to Cheshire Academies Trust. Manor Park is a wonderful school with a talented and committed staff. I am really looking forward to working with them in the future.
Over the last term I want to highlight some of the many positive steps and opportunities we have realised as a consequence of the COVID-19 situation. Firstly, our IT infrastructure across all of our school has been radically improved. It has enabled collaboration across our Trust to continue with minimal disruption. Microsoft Teams is an excellent platform which we must continue to learn more about in order to maximise its potential to support our progress and communication. Our remote learning plans across each Trust school are leading the way with live lessons and real time feedback. I appreciate twelve months ago, a live lesson may have filled people with dread, but given the situation now, everyone has stepped up to the challenge and children are receiving the best possible education even when they are in isolation. Out of adversity comes strength and creativity.
Luci, Diane and our new School Business Managers have been extremely busy completing the external audit work and having listened to outcome with our Trust Board and Members, there are only two low level actions required. This is a superb testament to their diligent work and the attention to detail of all of our office teams. Without great financial management, Principals and staff would not have the resources they need to teach or be able to fulfil their long term vision. In particular, thank you to Luci and Diane who continue to make such a difference to the running of our Trust.
I also would like to point to the fantastic support our local governing bodies have provided. Perhaps unseen to some of you but they have been working quietly and effectively to ensure our schools continue to be great places to work and learn. This includes our fantastic clerks, Debbie and Georgina who provide minutes with exceptional clarity. Likewise, the Trust board have provided strategic oversight and challenge. Together our governors and Trustees, working in unison, provide a strong foundation for our Trust to flourish. Thank you also to Janet Myers, our Chair of Trust Board, who has continued to steer our board superbly well and I for one appreciate her pragmatism and support.
In January I will be working for the Trust as your CEO for three days per week and two as Principal of Boughton Heath Academy. This is a slight change but provides a transitional period of two terms until September where I will leave my Principal role, having been appointed by the board as the fulltime CEO. It is my continuing honour to represent the Trust we have built together and I will continue to support our unique schools, their leaders and staff, as we strive to provide the best education possible for our pupils and their families.
Please feel free to contact me anytime should you wish to get in touch. I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Rest, switch off and I look forward to seeing you all in 2021.
Very best wishes to you all,
Pre Reopening Message to parents 05 June 2020
Dear parents, 05 June 2020
I do hope you have remained safe and well and I wanted to offer a Trust update in conjunction to the letters I am sure you have received from individual Principals. Since hearing from central government about plans to reopen schools more widely, leaders have worked together to formulate recovery plans that I have no doubt been shared with you by now. In the middle of writing those procedures, Local Authorities distributed their own guidance which has ultimately superseded the DfE’s overall aim for reopening on 1st June. Each school has decided to work with the recommendations and timescales from their own Local Authorities and that additional time did give us all time to consider, consult and adapt the intricate policies and procedures staff had so carefully crafted.
Since that government announcement, Principals and senior leaders across each of our academies have worked tirelessly to produce risk assessments that allow for a safe reopening. Every detail of those have been shared and consulted upon. I feel proud and confident those plans are robust and that they provide measures to keep staff and children safe. Make no mistake, the plans that have been created took hours of work and although it is absolutely right that they are rigorous, Principals and leaders should be congratulated for their efforts and attention to detail. Those plans were shared with Local Governing Boards and I would like to thank each governor who provided specific and balanced feedback. I know leaders appreciated their forensic analysis. Finally, Trustees have also had the opportunity to read recovery plans and offer their feedback as well. There was an overwhelming sense of pride from all of our governors and Trustees regarding the work leaders have undertaken thus far. They felt confident that academies could reopen to those specific year groups and that leaders could provide environments that were as safe as possible.
Apart from a phased return, we are reopening all of our academies to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils in line with DfE guidance. There is, however, a great degree of variability across the country and Cheshire in particular. Nevertheless, leaders and governors feel confident academies can fulfil the government’s ambition to reopen safely. Last week, once all of the planning was complete, Principals, Chair of Local Governing Boards and Trustees held an extraordinary meeting to discuss whether they felt it was safe to reopen. There were open discussions about whether reopening was actually the right thing to do. All parties unanimously agreed that it was safe to do so as well as the correct time to reopen.
Across the all of our academies, we have had a great uptake from parents who have decided that it is indeed safe for their children to return. Many of them have written to Principals with clear endorsements. It is wonderful to feel we have your backing and trust. There have been considerable discussions about how schools might support your children’s mental health once they return. This is the longest period of time children will have gone without formal education; it is certainly longer than a summer holiday! They will have a lot to think about prior to any return. No doubt many of them have had lots of cuddles and affection since school closed and will be returning to a school where touching and holding hands may not be allowed in the short term; it is an extremely confusing time for children. No doubt it will be a big challenge for each of them. However, that said, I have every confidence our experienced teams of teachers and support staff in each academy will be able to carefully support their transition back into school and make it a success.
I want to thank parents for their support so far and would reiterate the fact that all the staff at each school are determined to reopen safely with all of the necessary precautions in place. Your children’s safety is clearly so important to us all. There may well be new rules and policies and I would ask that all parents follow these to the letter because it will enable all of our teams to continue to be safe during the remaining part of the term. We all need to do our part and be responsible in following the various school and government regulations.
Whether you have decided to allow your child/ren to return or taken the decision to keep them at home, I wish you all well in the coming weeks and months. The Trust has been there to support each school in making their plans so that staff and children can remain safe. Please be generous and patient with all our teams as they refine practices. They have worked incredibly hard to reopen.
CEO- Cheshire Academies Trust
This is quite possibly the best time of the year! The final week before Christmas. I know you are all rather tired but you have made such a difference the children in our Trust. The anticipation of finishing is always lovely, so savour it as I know you will have spent many hours going above and beyond for the pupils in your care. At this time of year relish the joy on pupil’s faces as they perform in their carol concerts, finish the sewing on their Victorian sampler or act in the nativity play. Christmas is a special time of the year for pupils. Let’s make the last week a time to remember.
Firstly, I want to share the news that Kate Doyle was appointed as the permanent Principal at Mill View. She has undertaken the role since Easter on secondment from Kelsall Primary School. The interview panel were extremely impressed with Kate’s vision for the school. She has worked so hard to make positive improvements to a great many aspects of the school; I know the staff have appreciated her support, leadership and positivity. Congratulations to Kate- we know she will continue to drive the school onwards and upwards.
A number of things have been happening across the Trust since October half term. The external audit has been completed and I am, once again, thankful to Luci Jones and Diane Walley for their continued tremendous work. All year groups moderated together with Mike Thompson to standardise our writing judgements. Feedback from teachers was again resoundingly positive. I am pleased that Manor Park staff also joined in as well and they continue to work closely with our Trust. SENCo’s, English subject leaders and assessment teams have found the time to work closely together. The impact in the classroom to our wonderful pupils focusses our discussions and hones our decision making.
Over the past term our new Cheshire Academies Trust website has been polished and updated to link to our CAT brand. There is still much to put on but it is a great start.
I have also been talking to a number of other schools who are interested in being a part of our Trust. While in their infancy, it shows that our values resonate with their own and without these commonalities possible collaboration would no doubt falter before it began. It is privilege to share some of the outcomes and collaborative events we are holding because they are so impressive. One such event at the end of January is the third annual public speaking event at Storyhouse in Chester. This supports our No Outsiders work and is integral to our value of inclusion.
At board level we have held our member’s AGM. There they heard about the financial performance of our Trust through the annual external audit. There have been standards and resources subcommittee meetings as well as two Trustee meetings. I am also pleased to announce that Peter Woodhouse has been appointed the Trust board. He was previously the chair of governors at Bexton Primary School. His experience in strategic planning will be valuable and we very much look forward to working with him.
At our half termly senior leadership team meeting, Principals and Vice Principals mapped out key Trust responsibilities. These can be seen below. We want to build leadership at all levels of our organisation and that also means providing opportunities for Principals and Vice Principals as well. I am holding one to one meetings with them all and creating succession and talent plans across the Trust so that we can identify, retain and promote capable and skilled professionals to support our ongoing development as we grow.
Finally, if you are not on Twitter, I would strongly recommend you sign up. There is a wealth of educational ideas and information. I can be found championing our Trust schools (@steveellis06) and generally commenting on good practice. There is so much to learn from looking outwards. Each teacher within the Trust has a personal target on their appraisal and I believe it is so important to challenge ourselves. To be self-aware are about our areas for improvement and to be able to think critically about our actions. We must continuously endeavour to improve. It is something we have drafted into the appraisal plan so that teachers constantly challenge themselves to be the best and make the biggest difference.
Our values are what bind us together. Together we are stronger. Together we achieve more. I very much look forward to working with you all and I wish you a very merry Christmas and happy new year. Please get in contact with me should have a great idea or simply want to share some of the wonderful work that has been going on in your classroom or school. I would be delighted to hear from you.
Thank you once again for your dedication and resolute determination to make a difference to the children in our care.
End of half term Message
As we draw to the end of half term, I wanted to provide an update on all of the wonderful things going on across our Trust. Since September, I have been so pleased with how our (relatively) new colleagues at Bexton have been warmly welcomed as partners into our Trust. Thank you to all of our staff who have actively gone out of their way to ensure the transition has been smooth. I know there are a number of WhatsApp groups where information has been shared, relationships built and connections made. As we grow, we will meet many new colleagues but our ethos of open and deep collaboration will always be there to drive improvement and offer support.
Across the half term, we have held a significant amount of collaborative meetings. It is important to me that staff understand and acknowledge the great work being undertaken to keep our schools one step ahead. We do that by sharing - openly. Our teams give information, support and knowledge cooperatively without the thought of receiving anything back. Selflessness should be the basis of every team’s relationship.
Since September, there have been meetings involving Senior Leadership Team, Early Years, SENCo, English leaders and more. All of these have impacted positively on individuals, systems and entire schools. As a Trust we have a clear strategic plan as well as three collaborative priorities that revolve around reading, assessment and curriculum. As we continue throughout the year, I recognise the commitment that staff are making to attending meetings face to face and while I would always prefer that, I am also mindful that we should consider the use of our IT infrastructure with Office365 to support online meetings where possible and convenient in order to maximise our time and minimise our costs.
An incredible amount of work, as always at this time of the year, has been undertaken in the school offices. Luci Jones and her teams have been extremely busy completing all manner of financial returns and gathering information for our annual audit. This work, to most of the teaching staff, goes unnoticed but it is so significant to the smooth running of our Trust. Thank you to all of our office teams and to Luci and Diane in particular.
There has been a significant decision taken at board level this term since September. Harry Ziman has taken the decision to step down as a Trustee at the end of this term and begin a well-earned retirement. Many of you, particularly at Kelsall, will know Harry and the incredible work and time he has so generously given to our Trust. He was one of the riving forces behind its inception and without him CAT wouldn’t be in the great position it now finds itself. On behalf of all of the board, schools, LGBs and communities – thank you Harry.
Finally, I hope you take time over the half term to relax, be with your families and friends and recharge your batteries ready for what will no doubt be another long term before the festive period. My daughter tells me I am not allow to say the C word yet as its only October.
Thank you for your continued dedication and commitment.
Welcome back to the new school year. I do hope your first day back with the children was a relaxed and productive one. As we start the new term I wanted to provide some updates on the work that has been going on behind the scenes and to also tell you about some of the many collaborative partnerships and meetings that we have planned.
As I discussed on the first INSET day, one of the most important aspects of my work is to ensure all of our many teams are looked after and that your wellbeing is high up on leader’s agendas. With that in mind, I will be sending out a survey which allows you to comment on the specific activities that teachers and staff complete which take up the most time. Hopefully that will be teaching and learning, planning and assessment (which is as it should be) but getting the right balance is difficult and ensuring the correct work life balance for teachers especially is imperative. I appreciate that teaching is a difficult job, but I know you would all agree that it is very rewarding and staff wellbeing is certainly something leader should be focussing on.
Over the summer the holiday we have been busy writing the Trust development plan and I shared this with you during our day together at Bexton. The six key areas breakdown the overall two-year strategy for our Trust. We are aiming to be more than eight schools working and collaborating together within two years. Growth is important for us for two main reasons. Firstly, it gives us the opportunity collaborate with other great teachers and schools. I am privileged to be able to work with a number of schools across Cheshire East and West and they provide some fabulous experiences for their children. We can and should be learning from them, assimilating their skills and knowledge to share across our Trust. Together we should be an outward facing Trust looking for the best practice. While we are all doing a superb job, there are other schools doing amazing things as well and we must find them and learn from them. Secondly, as we grow this provides us the strength and stability required over the longer term future. As governments come and go and politicians change their focus from one initiative to the next, we will continue to keep a consistent vision and our values will determine our policies. While I appreciate they do bend towards government initiatives, hopefully we can adapt them to suit our collective vision. The pupils, staff and communities of this Trust, I know, will demand consistency and a focus on what is best for them over the long term.
I will be visiting schools constantly throughout the year to work with leaders, teachers and staff to support them to improve. We can all improve and we all make mistakes- that’s how we learn. Be kind to yourselves as you make those mistakes because I know we all work so hard, over many hours and Sunday nights we prepare meticulously for the lessons we teach or the staff meetings we prepare. My initial visits this year will be to look at safeguarding procedures and the single central record (a spreadsheet of all the different checks that must be carried out on anyone who works in regulated activity with children). Keeping children safe is all of our concern and our first priority. After that my visits will focus on a variety of aspects of the school’s work including school improvement plans, quality of teaching and pupils’ thoughts. We must listen to pupil’s thoughts and ideas about our schools regularly, as more often than not they are wonderfully insightful. I look forward to chatting to everyone- getting to know everyone and seeing the many wonderful activities going on throughout the year. If you have something amazing for me to see, please get in touch and invite me to come and see.
Over the course of the year we have meetings planned for many of you to get together and share. SENCOs, year groups, pupil premium leads, senior leaders, catering teams, finance teams and many more. These are so important as collaborative practice drives school improvement. Leaders have the dates of these meetings but they are also on a Trust calendar for you all to see.
Finally, I wish you well for the rest of the year and hope you all have a wonderful time, collaborating, teaching, counselling, sharing, creating together and all the other amazing jobs you all do on a daily basis. I will be here to help as will Luci Jones, our superb Director of Operations, alongside her team to support with any financial, HR or premises related issues.
Best wishes to you all,