“A rising tide lifts all boats”

As many of my readers know, I currently have quite a lot on my plate, being the Academic Principal of Claires Court. We have a school of 1050+ children and 350+ staff actively going about our business, and that does in itself generate ‘busy’ things to do. In addition, we have planning developments slowly and steadily making their way through the process; not just the New Campus application up by CCJB off Cannon Lane, but also short term facility management changes for our water sport of Sailing, as despite the recent rainfall, Sheephouse lake is desperately short of water. We’ve moved a lot of our kit to Bray lake for the time being, but longer term we need to recover our Sailing Club, which means both finding a way to refill from the river whilst preventing South East water from taking so much out of the natural water table that s the usual source of water for the lake. Keeping on the water theme, and as the new header to my blog illustrates, we have a new bridge over the water at Boulters Lock, linking Ray Mill Island to the old St Regis paper mill site, opening up a whole new public amenity on the Taplow Riverside development by Barclay homes. Suddenly we all have a brilliant new walking/running ring free of pedestrian traffic joining up the riverside walk from Maidenhead Bridge to Boulters Lock.
For some time we have been working with the Environment Agency and RBWM to open up above the lock towards Cliveden for our rowing and outdoor education activities. We are taking over the former Thames Water conservancy office on the island, giving us office and dry changing facilities there, and enabling us to row, scull or kayak up past the weir onto the most beautiful reach of the River Thames. There is of course still the little matter of the weir to risk assess and manage, plus infrastructures of pontoons and storage areas to create, but it’s exciting to see long term plans such as these gently move towards fruition.
Whilst the above all sounds terrific, in addition I am preparing for my restart as day-to-day head of the Senior Boys school in January 2019, on the retirement of John Rayer at Christmas. I am learning lots now of course from John and his terrific team; though I can’t emphasise strongly enough how much I am gathering from the (now) experienced headteachers Leanne Kirby (JG) and Margaret Heywood (SG) on the College site, whilst gently assisting in the induction of our new headteachers in post, Dean Richards (JB) and Stephanie Rogers (SF). What with Anne Halpin stepping up from Holiday Activity finance to become our new Holiday club manager, the onward management of our multi-faceted teacher training programme, plus further refinement activities on all of our areas of activity, it’s no surprise to feel that the tide of work is relentlessly rolling in.
And far from feeling submerged by it, there is a huge ‘bouyancy’ and ‘willingness to pitch in’ that is genuinely exciting me. It helps of course to have Justin Spanswick at our sides, getting stuck in to his new role as Executive headteacher, and also to have the incredible support of the administration team my brother Hugh leads. But it’s more than that. We’ve spent years establishing our core ‘values’ programme, and the profound depth and quality of our work to develop a ‘question-based’ curriculum over the same decade is now evidently appreciated within the profession as well as by our pupils and parents. The incredible commitment of teaching and instructing staff to ensure stretch, challenge, exercise, competition and skill development supports our plans has led to extraordinary opportunities and outcomes for all ages within the school. The way our support teams, be they within SEN, Nursing, Library, catering and/or housekeeping just keep relentless on task inspires us daily. And it must be said, that wider of network of professionals elsewhere with whom we must engage are also now giving us the genuine credit we deserve for ‘knowing our stuff’ and giving really generously with our time.
Gary Player may have coined the phrase ‘The harder I practice, the luckier I get’, but that does not quite fit this scenario, does it? I think I prefer the concept of ‘Making positive waves’, whereby with our concerted efforts we bring the tide in, and in so doing lift all the boats and enable them to sail. Since our INSET sessions in September, I have seen so many occasions where our adults working with our children have gone the extra mile, stretched the able, been less helpful yet supportive for the idle, nurturing for the vulnerable and calming for the excited. They say ‘Making waves’
means ‘Causing a disturbance’ or even ‘Upsetting the status quo’. I’ll say Amen to both those, because in what actually is quite a drear landscape of ‘never ending bad & fake news’, in and around Claires Court we have a smile on our faces and a purpose in our steps, lifting everyone to give of and be their best selves each day.

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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