The first week of the new academic year is always an exciting time, as we welcome new children and staff to our schools and look forward to the implementation of the plans and strategies that we have committed to in order to see further improvement to, and within, our schools.

2018/19 has been particularly special, as it has seen the opening of a brand-new school within the Trust (John Taylor Free School) and the re-location of myself and my team to the new building.  The excitement amongst staff and children at the new school was palpable – and contagious.  Looking smart, behaving impeccably, and embracing exciting opportunities to learn and play together, the children left on Friday tired but exhilarated. I know this scene was replicated across all our schools.

Welcoming new staff, and welcoming back existing ones, is always a pleasure.  Last week, I spent some time with our trainee teachers in the Teaching School Training Centre, and also visited colleagues at five of our schools.  On Monday (10th September), the Trust is hosting an informal get-together for staff new to JTMAT, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know some of our new colleagues a little better.

For this month’s blog, I wanted to share with you one of the messages that I delivered to school staff last week.  I recently read “Thinking for a Change” by John C Maxwell, and one of the analogies he used I felt was particularly resonant at the start of the school year.

Maxwell refers to the “old chair” that we all have in our thinking.  Once it was new, maybe even innovative.  Over the years, it has become more and more comfortable – a fixture and fitting of our lives – as it becomes moulded to our individual shape.  It’s cosy, familiar, and something we’re very fond of.  But to outside eyes, it may look shabby, and appear antiquated. Moreover, it will have lost the support and upholstery that it once had. In short, continuing to enjoy and experience it may be quite bad for us.


The challenge of such “old chairs” is that they can be hard to get rid of – or even think to re-upholster – because of the familiarity and even affection with which we hold them. But the longer we do nothing, the more our posture will suffer.

Working with amazing staff in great schools with excellent outcomes is a privilege and a joy.  But we all need to think about the “old chairs” in our mentalities, ensuring that our hunger for growth, creativity, innovation, and excellence compels us to look with fresh eyes at our practice – and regularly. Even colleagues new to teaching have their “old chairs” – and I certainly have mine.  We all do.  Recognising this reality is the first step towards ensuring we don’t slump into them!

Thanks for reading.