Welcome to the New Year, and to a new blog.
It was almost ten years ago to the day that I began my association with John Taylor, by taking up the headship at John Taylor High School. My most vivid memory of 4th January 2010, which succeeded a somewhat sleepless night, was to be greeted at the snow-covered entrance to the school by a member of our admin staff, who enquired with an outstretched arm and an upturned palm, “So, are we opening today, boss?” Welcome to headship!
Joining a school in January was something I’d never done, and it was akin to jumping onto a moving treadmill. Everyone was up to speed, cracking on, getting busy, while I was hastily trying to remember who was who, who did what, and where I needed to be at any given time. Having an amazingly supportive team of staff made such a difference, as did working with fantastic young people, their parents, and within the wider community of schools.
Fast-forward ten years, and the landscape is very different. There was no snow on the ground when I returned to work on Monday, now as CEO of JTMAT and based in a different building). But more significant than meteorology has been the change in the system within which I work. In January 2010, John Taylor High was a maintained, local authority school, and it was a Specialist School for science and leadership. Now, as an academy within a Multi-Academy Trust, with a Teaching School and more recently a Research School, it is markedly different. The differences extend to the site itself, with two new blocks, new facilities and spaces developed over the last decade.
Looking beyond the school itself, the system has experienced more change in the last ten years than arguably at any other point in our history of formal, state-funded education for all. In the last decade, we have fallen under the responsibility of six Secretaries of State for Education, had five individuals to whom the school as an academy is held to account (two Schools Ministers and then subsequently three Regional Schools Commissioners), witnessed four General Elections with their competing manifesto pledges for education, and seen three Chief Inspectors of schools (HMCIs) come and go.
I could continue, but this is a blog – not a book!
What remains a constant is the imperative for our children and communities to be provided with the best quality schools that we possibly can, together with the commitment, passion, resilience and enthusiasm for staff in schools, supported by governors and now trustees, to “make it work” for our children and their families – whatever “it” is! The willingness and ability of my colleagues to adapt and thrive in a turbulent system, through holding fast to moral purpose and their core values, is a source of daily inspiration.
Ten years ago, as the snow fell, a senior colleague encouraged me to consider a new technology: the wholesale texting of alerts to parents and staff. Ten years on, that seems old hat as I write this blog – which itself in a world of Vlogs and other new technologies is hardly cutting edge! But, as with systems and buildings, technology comes and goes. Children – their learning and their wellbeing – remain an ever-present in our work, and I’m certain that in ten years’ time that will still be the case.
Finally, as I’m sure many readers will have identified, the title of this blog is a line from the Pink Floyd classic “Time”. I remember a senior teacher playing this song to us as teenagers sat in a school assembly. Whilst there was some foot tapping as he played the song to us, there was also the sneers and eye-rolling of his self-declared immortal audience. Now, that line about “And then one day you find, ten years have got behind you” rings very true. Whilst John Taylor has consumed a huge part of my professional life, that first day in the snow feels like it was yesterday.
Thanks for reading.