New terms, new children, new schools – and old chairs!

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.



End of Year Report

For this, my final, blog of 2017/18 I would like to do two things: update readers about the progress we’ve made as a Trust this academic year, and share with you my thoughts as we move into the summer break.

This year has seen the Trust grow, both in terms of its breath and its depth. We have seen four primary schools join the Trust this academic year: Rykneld Primary (in November 2017), Shobnall Primary (June 2018), Winshill Village Primary and The Mosley Academy (both July 2018). In addition, we’ve seen the development of John Taylor Free School from a shell of a site at the start of the academic year into an over-subscribed, fully-staffed school with a character and ethos that belies its youthful status.

2018/19 promises further growth – with three local primaries set to join us before the end of the calendar year, and the development of a further free school, this time a primary school with a nursery, at Fradley Park.

But beyond breadth, our Trust grows deeper – as collaborations and networks develop. We’ve seen our safeguarding leads meet regularly, our business managers, our clerks to governing bodies, our SENCOs. I’m privileged to chair our Executive Group of Heads and other senior colleagues, and was so proud to see over 70 governor colleagues attend our annual governance conference only last week.

Our Trust is built on quality, and generosity. In times when resources can be in scarce supply, knowing that there are great teachers, leaders, support and administrative staff, governors and Trust directors, who work hard, work well, and work together – within and across our schools – is hugely rewarding and deeply humbling. As we move into the summer break, I want to thank them all for their support. It is they who move our Trust ever-closer to our vision of providing the absolute best for the children, families and communities we serve.

My final note is to those children. I was stirred during the recent World Cup, amidst all the excitement and enthusiasm, by this image:


The photograph (above) is of Kylian Mbappe, one of the great stars of the cup-winning French team and winner of the award for the best young player of the tournament, aged 14 in his bedroom. As you can see, it is adorned with posters of his idol – Cristiano Ronaldo.

Five years later, Mbappe is a World Cup winner, and the first teenager to score a goal in a World Cup Final since Pele (see below).


Back in his home district of Bondy, just 10km from the Stade de France, but a world away in terms of its levels of disadvantage, Mbappe has donated his World Cup winnings to a charity that develops sporting opportunities for young and disabled people in the area. There is a French mountaineering expression (that I hadn’t heard until recently) of the “premiers de cordee” – the one in front of us who brings us all to the top. This is a role that Mbappe has seen fit to undertake – much to his credit.

It’s a great message to close the year on for our children: First, dreams really can come true for those with the talent, ability to learn, attitude and support. Second, that our responsibility to help others achieve their dreams should come as an unquestionable consequence of the fulfilment of our own. It chimes with our own vision: “We believe in the power of education to improve lives – and the world.”

Have a great summer.

Thank you for reading.



John Taylor MAT Successful in Further Free School Application

A new primary free school planned for Lichfield will become part of the John Taylor Multi-Academy Trust (JTMAT), the Department for Education has announced.

The school will be built at Fradley Park, and will eventually accommodate 210 pupils plus a nursery at a cost of around £4 million.It is being built in response to increased demand for school places in the area.

JTMAT were announced as the successful sponsor after a competitive application process, appraised by a panel that included representatives from Staffordshire County Council, the Department for Education, and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

The John Taylor Multi Academy Trust already runs a number of successful primary and secondary schools in Staffordshire.

CEO of the Trust, Mike Donoghue expressed his delight upon receiving the confirmation of the Trust’s success:

“We are naturally excited and extremely proud to have been given the responsibility to lead the new school at Fradley Park.  With a growing Trust that currently comprises many local good and outstanding primary schools, and a track record of successfully delivering a Free School collaboratively with Staffordshire County Council, we felt that we were well-placed to offer an exciting, high quality, and innovative offer to the children and families in the area.  I’m delighted that, after a rigorous application and interview process, the selection panel agreed.”

“Now the work begins in earnest to fulfil our vision to create the best school we possibly can.  The application was very much a team effort, and so will be our work to deliver the school to the community. We look forward to working alongside our partner organisations to make all this happen.  We couldn’t be more thrilled.”

Chair of John Taylor MAT, Gareth Moss added:

This is a landmark achievement for the Trust, and a validation of our current position as a leading provider in the area.  I would like to thank the project team for their work to date, and Staffordshire County Council – officers and councillors – for their continued support.  We have every intention of exceeding their expectations!

County Councillor Philip White, Cabinet Member for Learning and Skills at Staffordshire County Council said:

“John Taylor Multi Academy Trust has a proven track record in delivering results and an understanding of the challenges that can be faced in developing a brand new school.”

“We are really pleased that a sponsor has been appointed that understands both the primary and secondary school ethos, who can work with the local community and above all are excited and passionate about an excellent education for every child.”

The new primary school is due to open to nursery and reception pupils in September 2020.

The Trust welcomes enquires about the Fradley Park Primary Free School.  Please e-mail to express interest in admissions or employment opportunities.

For further information contact

Mike Donoghue, CEO John Taylor MAT