Sunday, 15 July 2012

Seven weeks and counting


So much has happened since the planning permission was granted, it’s been a whirlwind of activity. On a personal note, I don’t need to split myself in half anymore, having celebrated my last week at my old school. No more half a week here, half there, although I still seem to be working 16+ hour long days … I would like to record my thanks to my employers for negotiating with Sandymoor School to release me on secondment for the time they did.


One exciting thing early on was the finalising of the tender for all the ICT requirements for Sandymoor; a lot of our fresh approach will rely on high quality ICT and we have selected from a competitive process a company to provide all our requirements. One of the things that impressed me about them was how much they appeared to understand the fact that we want to do everything differently, building processes from scratch to best support our students. Along with this, our ICT Network Manager has been able to be involved and it is also good to see that Chris has the understanding of the Sandymoor ‘way’.



Last Friday was a big day, however, as we had the first full staff and governors induction day, where everyone (apart from Lucy, our Humanities teacher, as she’s finishing off her school’s term out in Germany) met together for the first time. It was fantastic to see everyone getting on and discussing ideas together! One of the main foci of the event was to plan the school’s contribution to the Sandymoor Village Fair. It was all a bit of a worry, during our Induction event on the Friday, looking out of the windows at Daresbury Science and Innovation Centre’s boardroom as the rain came down, but Saturday came and so did the sun! What a great day that was and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. All the Sandymoor School staff who were able to be there were, in my opinion, splendid and threw themselves into the event with the passion that I saw from all of them during the interview process and since.


It was also great to see the site of the Temporary school fenced out, ready for work to commence. Just last Friday, I drove over to Wakefield to meet with the contractors tasked with getting the school ready forus and had a very productive meeting. It was great to hear the commitment from them to the school; they had done their research and read the website (and this blog) to get a feel for the project. It is really good to meet with people who care about the projects they work on and I have absolute faith in Roan’s ability to deliver the school to us. As an example of the level we’ve got to,we were discussing where we wanted carpet, as opposed to vinyl flooring, locations of student lockers, and other, sundry details about the fixtures and fittings.


As an aside, this last week, we were also down in London, attending a reception in the House of Lords for Free Schools opening in September, where Michael Gove and Rachel Wolf (from the New Schools Network) praised the hard work of all the project groups to get the schools to where they all were. A good celebration of the Free Schools project and great to be part of it.



Alongside all that, I am still visiting Sandymoor School’s prospective students in their homes and primary schools, and continue to do so. If you would like me to visit, all you have to do is drop me an email through the school’s website and we will arrange it.


And finally, we are putting the finishing touches to our next event, a joint event during the day hosted at the Daresbury Labs, onFriday, July 27th. A lot of the teachers, including myself, will be there, working with the education team at the labs, to run a cross-curricular event along the theme of Reflections. This is aimed at providing our students the chance to meet and get to know each other, but is also open to every student currently in years 6 and 7 living in the area. There are limited places, however, so booking will be essential.


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Post planning permission

So it's all systems go - the first signs of construction are on site and the specialist building are, as we speak, being built for us in Ireland. Over the next few weeks, the site will be prepared and the building will be brought over mid August. All the tables, chairs and classroom equipment is being ordered and plans are being finalised for the cutting edge IT resources to support learning in the school. Everything is coming together to ensure that the provision is excellent from day 1. Although we are well under way with plans for the main school, designed with all the most exciting educational plans and theories, the temporary school is designed to provide the best educational experience possible.

It was great to welcome people to the Sandymoor School tents during the Sandymoor Summer Fair, where we had most of the staff on hand to answer questions. The teachers had designed a number of integrated activities to show how the Sandymoor curriculum will work, with subjects working together to enhance the learning experience. Our catering manager was providing free food and answering questions about our commitment to healthy eating. And the governors & I were on hand to answer questions from everyone who visited us. It was great to see young people enjoying the activities and trying on the uniform samples we had, and I think the best testimony to the excitement about the school was the disappointment clearly visible in the faces of a group of 14 year-old girls when they realised that they couldn't join the school because we didn't yet have their year group!

One of the most common questions I had on the day was about the PE provision we are going to provide, so to summarise this:

One aspect of the Sandymoor curriculum that sill make it stand out is the fact that the whole curriculum will be grounded in links to the wider world and this applies to the PE as well as everything else. So, the PE curriculum will endeavour to provide experiences of the sort of sporting and more general physical activities that they are likely to experience when they leave school. There will be a number of modular units to expose the students to different experiences. Modules will include things like Zumba, Martial Arts, Golf and Mountain Biking, to name a few. We will also be using local professional and semi-professional teams to provide exposure to team sports and will provide further options for involvement in team sports through the after school activities.

Dates for the diary:

Friday, 27th July - Sandymoor School & Daresbury Labs joint event. The teachers & members of the Labs education team will lay on a day of activities in the Labs.

Monday, 3rd September - Sandymoor School first day of term.

Thursday, 20th September - Sandymoor Open Evening. Come and see the school in action. Hear about enrollment for 2013/14

Saturday, 29th September - Sandymoor Open Day. For those who couldn't make the evening, or want to hear more about the unique experience that is Sandymoor School.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Planning permission - revisited!

We now have planning permission for the temporary school & plans are in place to ensure the school is ready in plenty of time for September! Below is the presentation I gave to the committee in support of our case:

Good evening, Chair, members of the committee and thank you for this opportunity to talk about Sandymoor School.

20 years ago, when I started teaching, in inner-city comprehensive schools, I developed a passion for young people that has never left me and when the opportunity to be part of a project to develop a brand new school here came up, I knew I had to be part of it.

The vision for Sandymoor is to add to the provision in Halton, working in partnership with the other schools and local community to ensure that every child in the area has the best possible opportunities. And that is what Sandymoor school is about. A local school for local children, in the Sandymoor & Windmill Hill areas. There are too many young people who are educated out of area, with the lack of community cohesion that brings, and the Sandymoor area of Halton is in need of a heart, something to stop the young families moving away.

With over 3,000 new homes planned as part of the core strategy in East Runcorn, and 10,000 new jobs planned in the Daresbury Science and Innovation Centre, Sandymoor School is ideally placed to help maintain and build on the excellent reputation of Halton as a Beacon Council! With the Shadow Education Minister promising to support successful free schools and Lord Adonis supporting them as a Labour initiative originally, there is national support from all elements of government.

In terms of safety & security of the pupils, as Principal, I take that aspect most seriously:- it is a legal truth that the parents of Sandymoor School's pupils place them into my care, in loco parentis, and I have promised them that I will do my utmost to ensure their safety. Both the temporary site and the main build have been planned with security in mind and that extends to the issues of transport. Either myself or my colleagues will be outside the school in the morning and after school to ensure the students are safe around the roads, to assist in students crossing the road and asking cars to move on.

It is worth stressing that this is all around otterburn lane, not the Wharford lane extension, that I understand is in planning from HCA, and has nothing to do to do with the school's application.

In the community centre next door to the temporary site, there is a nursery and pre-school. Every day, over 40 children are delivered there and collected later in the day, almost entirely by car, using the same roads that our pupils and parents will use. The drop-off & collection times are completely different so there will never be children being dropped off or collected at both venues concurrently. In the first year, we will have no more than 45 students, and a number of those will walk or cycle to school, so the traffic impact will, in fact, be less than for the pre-school.

Sandymoor School will do nothing but add to the whole area, from jobs - there are already 9 of us (myself included) who have livelihoods that depend on Sandymoor, and that will only grow - I have requests weekly from all sorts of people looking to work in the school, from secretarial staff, through caretakers and through to teachers wanting to be part of the school's vision. We had over 100 teachers apply to join the school.

And we are committed to being a community school; from the beginning, we will be providing evening classes to the local community, from Spanish Conversation and Digital Photography skills through to basic literacy & numeracy lessons to those who need it.

Once again, thank you.