CEO’s Blog: “Miles didn’t hear it as a mistake… He heard it as something that just happened: an event.”

Regular readers of my blog will know that I borrow mercilessly and shamelessly from several of my passions: notably sport, literature, and music. For me, all three provide wonderful examples of human endeavour, creativity, innovation and triumph over adversity.  When we look for lessons in life, we can tap into rich seams of experience beyond our own in these amplifications of our humanity. 

For this blog, I want to relay a story that is well-known amongst afficionados of jazz music.  I don’t claim to be amongst their number but, as with fine art, and literature “I know what I like”. 

I recently saw via YouTube an old interview (I’d guess from the 1990s from the fashions and picture quality) with the renowned pianist and keyboard player Herbie Hancock.  Quite why the algorithms at YouTube suggested this for me is a mystery but, as they would have intended and hoped, I clicked on the link. 

Hancock referred to a concert in Stuttgart from 1963, where he was a young pianist (about 21 years old), accompanying the legendary trumpeter Miles Davis in his band (and for any actual jazz afficionados who happen to be reading, Tony Williams was on drums!).  He sets the scene of a really amazing concert, where the music was “hot”, and all players were at the heights of their improvisational powers.  Then…calamity!  Hancock, mid-way through Miles Davis’ solo, plays “the wrong chord”.  Not a little wrong.  But very, very wrong.  Davis pauses, looks up, and then plays notes that engage the chord in a new direction and “make the notes right.” As Hancock states, and a fitting title for this blog, “Miles didn’t hear it [the chord] as a mistake…He heard it as something that just happened: an event.”

Pictured above: the precise moment when the wrong chord was played.  Tony Williams on drums looks to his right, as does Davis!

Aside from the musicianship required to turn the situation around, the strength of character – in the face of a live performance – is equally admirable.

Hancock concludes that the experience taught him a lesson about life.  “We can look for the world as we would like it to be as individuals.  ‘Make it easy for me’, that idea. But I think the important thing is that we grow.  And the only way that we are able to grow is to have a mind that is open enough to be able to accept situations, and to be able to experience situations as they are and turn them into medicine.  Turn poison into medicine and make something constructive happen.  That’s what I learned.”

I’ve written before about the resilience and tenacity shown by our children, our staff, and our communities in the face of challenges and turbulence.  They use these experiences as a means of growth.  It is far from easy, and far from painless – but it is positive, and sometimes the only way to move forward. 

To conclude, I want to share with you a quotation from the stoic and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.  In ‘Meditations’, he wrote “If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it.  And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.” May we all look upon misfortunes and mistakes as “events” with the resolve and skills to “make the notes right.”

Thanks for reading. 


Fradley Park Consultation Report

Section 10 Consultation Report

Executive Summary

Fradley Park Primary and Nursery School is a non-selective, non-denominational primary school in the pre- opening phase with a planned opening date of September 2022. The school will be part of the John Taylor MAT, a multi-academy trust that operates John Taylor High School, John Taylor Free School, Paulet High School and Kingsmead School (secondaries), together with Thomas Russell Infants Schools, Yoxall St. Peter’s CE Primary School, Rykneld Primary School, The Mosley Academy, Shobnall Primary School, Walton on Trent CE Primary School, Winshill Village Primary and Nursery School, Needwood CE Primary and All Saints’ Rangemore CE Primary, and Church Gresley Infant and Nursery School (primaries).

This report details the initial engagement with our stakeholders, as well as the formal Section 10 consultation.

Fradley Park Primary and Nursery School will offer a broad, balanced, high quality curriculum, underpinned by exceptional support, care and guidance to equip its children with the knowledge, experiences, skills and attributes to enable success into the next phase of their formal education. The school will be a learning hub for the wider community, seeking to contribute to cohesion in an area of new housing development with limited alternative local amenities.

John Taylor MAT has engaged with a wide range of stakeholders including prospective parents, local residents, and members of the local and educational community since the pre-opening phase of the proposed free school and has continued to consult with these stakeholders regularly and in a variety of ways. The initial engagement period with stakeholders commenced in Autumn 2018 when we submitted our initial application to the local authority. The S10 statutory consultation ran from 10th March 2021 to 21st April 2021, during which time formal feedback was sought. Due to national restrictions on gatherings and travel as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, this engagement was primarily via e-mail, web link, ‘Zoom’ live streamed remote online presentation and other mechanisms that ensured the compliance and safety of the public and JTMAT’s free school team. Inevitably, this has compromised some engagement, and we will look to rectify this when restrictions are lifted.

All stakeholders have responded very positively throughout this period. We would like to thank all those who have taken the time to give feedback.

CEO’s Blog: “You blow in one end, and move your fingers up and down the outside.”

It was wonderful to see our schools full again earlier this month when, in accordance with the national ‘roadmap’ all children were enabled to return – re-joining their classmates, vulnerable and key worker children, who had remained in our schools throughout. 

This return, like so many of our activities in schools, was only possible as a result of meticulous planning and attention to detail.  This included revised risk assessments, clear communications, and the introduction of new procedures – not least lateral flow testing.  I want to thank all my colleagues who have helped make the return of the full complement of our school populations such a positive experience, and thank our parents and children for just how brilliant they have been in their re-engagement with the expectations and requirements of the traditional school day. 

Such attention to detail extends through to all our staff, irrespective of their roles.  Our teachers and pupil support staff have been tailoring their planning to accommodate the learning needs of children who will have had a diversity of experiences of home learning and in-school provision.  Our site teams and administrative colleagues have been making adjustments to sites, managing matters such as financial changes, reprographics, first aid requirements, letters home and calendar changes.  Everyone has been examining their own responsibilities, and those of colleagues around them, to ensure nothing is missed. 

Like the clichéd swan on the lake, we see only the serenity above the surface and not the effort underneath.  This effort is supplemented, of course, by vast amounts expertise and experience – again which goes largely unseen. 

In a pastiche of children television from the era, the Monty Python comedy team performed a sketch, their own “take” on BBC’s Blue Peter, entitled “How to do it”, in which the presenters share incredibly superficial help for children to achieve amazing feats such as how to secure global peace, how to construct box girder bridges and – infamously…

“How to play the flute:  Well, you blow in one end, and move your fingers up and down the outside!” 

“Great, Alan.  And next week….”

Simply because we don’t always see the detail, or have it explained to us, does not mean that something is without complexity.  We all see things in our lives “from afar” and sometimes when a task is executed with real skill we may even note that the individual to be admired “makes it look easy”.  We know in reality that it is not.  Playing the flute requires mastery of facial muscles, a detailed understanding of musical notation, empathy with the composition and perfect timing – together with the lung capacity (‘blow in one end’) and manual dexterity (‘move your fingers up and down’) alluded to by “Alan” in “How to do it.”  So it is with our schools and those who work within them.  They too may make it look easy – and I hope they do – but I can confirm that it is anything but!

Thanks for reading.