100 days back at the helm, and no turning back.

Lent Term 2019 has whistled through the first 100 days of my return to Headship. I’ve had some key priorities, not least to establish my credentials anew as Head of Senior Boys to parents, pupils and above all staff, as being a school leader who knows how to ensure important priorities do not get displaced by the urgencies of daily emergencies. So many things have gone well, at both the individual and group level; we’ve had some spectacular successes at the academic level, from very strong Maths GCSE results to engagement with subject challenges at department level.

Unlike most new headteachers, it is not as though I was entering anew into unfamiliar territory, far from it. As Academic Principal, it’s been my responsibility to forge consensus amongst my fellow heads as to our academic policy and priorities, so I’ve always been very aware of the limitations of same when confronting the practicalities of daily life and pragmatism of actually what’s possible. What a headteacher does so much more obviously than Principal or Proprietor, is set the daily tone and temperature of the school, and I have thoroughly enjoyed re-establishing in the minds of so many that they are capable of achievements beyond the stretch of their imaginations.

In part I have done this by 2 separate photo-galleries up our main staircases, one being a changing mix of former pupils found doing their favourite things, the other being an evolving series of photographs of current pupils reaching new heights of achievement. In academic terms, we’ve learned a lot about dual coding in recent years, for example mixing text with images for more effective revision. But schools rarely use the same technique to draw adults and children out of a generic ‘fed-upness’ with school, and yet successful motivational speakers use this technique all the time. A great illustration of this was shown by Mr Wespieser of World Book day, when he combined the key thoughts on the importance of reading for adolescent boys with their singing of the ‘Library card’ song –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuLZKsFho5A . OK, it may not have been musical, but to all present on the day, we had clearly and successfully regressed senior boys back to a love of reading!

I’ve sat in on homework coaching on Wednesday evenings and run some Saturday morning detentions too, and it’s clear to me that all of the boys do value the opportunities on offer at Claires Court, though on occasion need the additional support that they have ‘volunteered’ for, so they can make amends and set their record straight. Sport, the co-curricular trips and after school activities also assist in broadening out the demands of skill development for educational success, whether that be in meeting the physical demands of Rowing’s Sheepdog trials, or creative challenge of writing poetry for a national audience. The end of Lent term Commemoration service was the most powerful exhibition yet of the school’s artistic strength, perhaps best exemplified by the dance routine developed by Joe and Caitlin Freeman’s evocation of the recruitment of a young soldier to arms and his subsequent death on the front line (http://schl.cc/4D).

I conclude this blog as the 2nd week of the Summer term comes to a close. As with many of my staff, over Easter and beyond, work has continued apace, and we’ve had loads of extended trips out, to ski, for netball, for watersports and under canvas for those completing expedition sections of the DofE. Holiday activities have busily rattled on at school too, providing relief for working parents who don’t have the right to break for school holidays as perhaps they might wish. I have my fingers crossed for the next few weeks, in part because we await the new local government to come into post after RBWM elections as a result of this Thursday 4 May elections. That new set of councillors will be charged with determining our planning application for our new campus, and we really can’t hold our breath for much longer! I wish Mr Simon Dudley and the new team at the Town Hall the very best of luck. By the look of the close run election victory won, the’ll need it.

About jameswilding

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