Back to school…at long last!

Well, what a very strange academic year 2019-2020 was.  We had such a positive start for the first term and we were all looking forward to a Spring and Summer of exciting learning and continued excellent preparation for the exam season and welcoming our Year 6, soon to be Year 7, students when we were told to partially close.  I never imagined that we wouldn’t be returning until September and I sincerely hope that our children never have to go through such a prolonged disruption to their education such as this ever again.

The exam results fiasco created additional stress for hundreds of thousands of young people across the country and the uncertainty about the 2021 exam season continues to play on the minds of the students due to sit exams next year.  We have a lot of work to do this year supporting them to not only complete their courses but to also feel confident that they will not be disadvantaged whatever happens next summer.

Creating a suitably challenging and appropriate curriculum to meet the ever-changing needs of our young people to be taught in school is a full time task in itself, to have to now adapt that to take into consideration the months of lost learning will make it all the more tricky.  Add to that the Government’s instruction at the end of the summer term for us to prepare an equally impressive online curriculum, to include resources to the many students who don’t have access to technology at home, and you can start to see how much still needs to be done. 

Our overarching priority has been to get all of our students back into school safely and to be able to run the school day in as normal a format as possible.  Where some schools have reduced the curriculum and option choices this year in order to focus heavily on the core subjects, we have made the decision that what is best for Ernesford students is to get them back into school with a broad and balanced curriculum delivered in the safest way possible.  We will be developing our use of online learning strategies at the same time but, as I am sure you will agree, the best place for students to learn is at school.

So, as we head into a new term of uncertainty, I want to give parents and our students the certainty that we will be doing everything in our powers to provide you with the highest quality teaching and learning experience with the same high quality pastoral support that has been in place for many years. 

All of our staff are unbelievably excited to have students back in the school building and to be able to do the job they love, which is teaching students, in the classroom, back where we all belong.

Home-schooling – The job you never applied for!

With the ever-increasing technological advances in our world these days I have often wondered whether teachers could be replaced by technology. After all, a Google search is to many the ‘go-to’ strategy if we want to find out more detail about something and with the capabilities of video conferencing programs surely lessons could be taught online? Over the past few weeks however, it has become clear to me that as fantastic as all this technology is, it stops short of the most important aspect of education; relationships.

The foundation of a successful education is the relationships that are built between student and teachers, between students and their peers and between the adults who work together. Teaching is a vocation, it isn’t the type of career you opt into because of the holidays, or if it is, you will very quickly change your career path and if you don’t, you will have a very miserable time of it! For those of us who live and breathe our chosen vocation, we do so because we thrive on the social interaction. The relationships we build with our students is what makes our job the most satisfying and sometimes most infuriating, job in the world. I have spoken to so many of our teachers and support staff in the last few weeks and without doubt, each and every one of them can’t get through the conversation without talking about how much they miss our children. Our job is based on social interaction and that is why for so many of us the social distancing seems so alien and so hard to get accustomed to. We genuinely do miss every one of our young people. They are the reason we are in this job and without them in school we really are finding it tough.

I sympathise greatly with those parents for whom home-schooling is a challenge, after all, you didn’t choose to go into teaching, you haven’t had the years of training and the experience to know how and when to provide feedback, to challenge for greater depth of thinking and how to scaffold work to enable your child to access it. In a similar way I know that certainly speaking for myself and I am sure most of our staff, if we were suddenly asked to do a job that we had no prior experience, we would feel hopelessly out of our depth. The one benefit of home schooling over any other ‘new job’ is that we have all experienced going to school, whether that was a good experience or otherwise, we have some background and therefore some empathy and understanding of school. That said, having been to school doesn’t mean we want to become teachers and I know all of the staff at Ernesford are extremely grateful for your efforts in keeping your children on task with the work being provided.

Katherine from Alvis House has produced these bags for the NHS workers in her home-school textiles lessons.
William from Daimler House, hard at work in his home-school Food Technology class.

As I write this I am delighted to say that we have been allowed to start welcoming back a small percentage of Year 10 and Year 12 students to school. This has provided a genuine boost to the morale of our staff, many who won’t mind me saying, have really struggled with this new concept of teaching. We are always willing to embrace new challenges and try new ideas, however, we are all far happier when we have the children right here in the same room as us. Engaging with their learning, responding immediately to their misconceptions and most of all, further developing the respectful and fulfilling relationships we have with our students.

Challenging times

As I am writing this afternoon I do so in a state of uncertainty.  Covid-19 is upon us as a country and with that brings far more questions than answers.

As a Head Teacher I have a huge amount of empathy for our Government and Boris Johnson as they seek to make the best choices for each and every one of the citizens of the United Kingdom.  This, I would say is something of an impossible dilemma. It appears that the entire World’s media have somehow become experts in epidemiology and social media is awash with opinions that go against the advice the UK Government is providing us.  It is amazing how people can suddenly become ‘experts’ in a discipline they have never heard of before, let alone gained qualifications and a life-time of experience working in working in the discipline.

Still, we continue to see a rise in deaths of our most vulnerable citizens who, with already weakened immune systems, have succumbed to the grip of Covid-19.  From a school perspective we are just as in the dark about this pandemic as the rest of the country.  Our daily Department of Education emails simply reiterate the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ strategy, as well as linking us to the various articles.

With so many of the World’s schools closing amid mass self-isolation strategies it seems that is only a matter of time before UK schools suffer the same fate.  It is this that I am finding to be the biggest challenge.  Education is such a driving force in determining a young person’s future and the thought that we will be entrusting learning to online resources and independent study at such a critical time for many is a worry.

My assemblies this week will focus on self-discipline: when it comes to Covid-19, our children need to make the right choices to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus, so regular hand-washing and avoiding being in close proximity to their friends.  The other area where self-discipline will be significant is with their own education.  If we are forced to close then there will be a huge responsibility on the children to access their learning for themselves, to have the self-discipline required to complete their work to the best possible standard and to seek help through the online channels when they don’t quite understand. 

This is a unique situation, one we would never choose to face but one we are dealing with nonetheless.  I always look for the opportunity in every situation and in this one I see a huge opportunity for our young people to step up to the plate, to take ownership of their future and to commit to their own learning so they can develop the  independent learning habits that will see them succeed in life.

The power of belief

As I reflect on an exciting first half-term of the academic year I can’t help but hope our Year 11 students who have their external exams this year have been heeding the advice given to them to use their time wisely and start revising now rather than leave it to the last minute next summer.

Over the last few years it has become apparent that many of our students lack belief in their own capabilities and whilst as a staff we have been doing our best to persuade the students to believe in themselves, it hasn’t always had the impact we would have wished for.

This year we have decided to do something a little bit different, after all, as the famous Albert Einstein is quoted as saying ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’.  So we have started the year being explicit about our belief in the students, talking to them about the power of truly believing and the dangers of not believing.

I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for young people today, for the pressures they face and the unfair criticism they so frequently have aimed at them.  It is this that drives our staff to want our pupils to achieve the very best for themselves, to give them the determination and develop the resilience to overcome any challenges they face.  To build resilience however, we have to overcome setbacks and be strong enough to not let that impact on our self-belief. 

I am a firm believer in developing strong relationships amongst staff and students at school, after all, we spend almost as much time together as we do with our own families.  It is because of this that I like to give the students something of an insight into my life and interests outside of work, I suppose my thought process is that if they can see how I have struggled against the odds to achieve something then maybe they can do the same.  I spoke to the students in a recent assembly about the power of belief and my regrets about not believing in my own capabilities this summer whilst representing Great Britain in a cycling competition in Poland.

I had made it to the finals and was up against some ex-professionals as well as some of the best amateur road cyclists in the world.  For me to have qualified for the Finals was an achievement in itself and my primary goal was to make it through the race without crashing or getting left behind!  And that was my big mistake.  Rather than feel that I had earned my place in that final and believe that I could actually win, I was just grateful to be on the starting line. As I crossed the line after 93 miles of racing 5 seconds behind the World Champion I stopped and thought to myself ‘I could have won that, if only I had believed I was capable’ acheter viagra en ligne.  And that became my message to the Year 11 students, don’t let next summer be your ‘5 seconds’.  Belief can be a tremendous power and too often it is a power we simply don’t ignite.

Of course many of you will have seen in the local press the far more exciting and motivational message of belief that was delivered by some far more influential people than me.  A huge thanks to Mr Hudson and Miss Bennett who went above and beyond to inspire our students with a few messages from some of their celebrity friends.  Now let’s hope our students get the message and truly start believing in themselves.

Click on the image below to see the video.

The Impossible Dream

The impossible dream

Those of you who have read any of my previous blog posts will have established that I am a lifelong Manchester United fan (and no, of course I am not from Manchester!).  Many of you will also know that one of Manchester United’s arch rivals are Liverpool Football Club, who famously have a sign above the tunnel through which the players run out onto the pitch declaring ‘This is Anfield’

In Liverpool’s greatest period of success during the 1970s and 1980s (before Sir Alex Ferguson’s mighty reds knocked them off their perch), the players would run out onto the pitch and each one in turn would touch the ‘This is Anfield’ sign as a demonstration of their pride and loyalty to the club.  Interestingly Jurgen Klopp, the current manager, has banned his players from touching the sign as they have not yet earned the right to touch the sign that the Liverpool legends before them had done.  I find it hard to admit, but I have always been impressed by this show of allegiance to the club.  So impressed that in recent months we have developed something of a copycat tagline at school ‘This is Ernesford…be proud’.

In our darkest days, during the early months of Special Measures, it was hard to be proud of our school, in fact many students and parents were anything but proud and social media and the local press seemed to be popular avenues to express the less than favourable views of our school.  Those were tough times, where to many, turning our school around seemed like an unattainable goal.  For some people the challenge of impossible is the main driver, the motivation that is needed to defy the odds and in true Sir Alex Ferguson style, we at Ernesford set about achieving the impossible dream.

On Wednesday 1st May 2019 we achieved that impossible dream.  OFSTED confirmed our school had transformed from Special Measures to Good.  I had talked to the students repeatedly about our cup final, the months of preparation, teachers improving their skills, students improving their levels of effort, embedding the core values, everyone committing to the Ernesford dream of achieving excellence for all of our young people.  During the two days of the inspection nothing changed, our school ran as it has done every day for the last few months, no show, nothing out of the ordinary, just typical days at Ernesford Grange.  There were no nerves, no moments of self-doubt, no fear that we were being inspected, instead there was an air of total confidence, of pride in our school and delight in the opportunity to show our 4 guests just what a fabulous educational institution we have here. 

The impossible dream made possible.

Is it a case of job done?  Absolutely not, we have ambitions for our young people, we want them to be legends of Ernesford and earn the right to touch that sign.  This is Ernesford…be proud.

What would an astronaut do?

At a recent staff INSET day we had a visit from a guest speaker, Sir John Jones, an educationalist who has researched the best education systems throughout the world. As a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) we are always seeking expertise to make the experience for all the children in the MAT schools the best it can be.  One of the stories Sir John Jones spoke of seemed to resonate with me more than the others and so I used it with our Year 11 students in a recent assembly.

The tale was of an astronaut who had gone into a school to inspire the students.  After he had finished telling them about the incredible experience he had as an astronaut one child asked him ‘how old were you when you became an astronaut’.  Without hesitation the astronaut replied ‘I was six years old’.  The children were aghast and couldn’t quite believe a six year old could be an astronaut, but he went on to explain that at the age of six he had decided that his goal in life was to become an astronaut and from that point on every time he had a decision to make he would say to himself ‘what would an astronaut do?’  He would then do whatever it was that he thought the astronaut would do.

Now, I can’t imagine that many of our students want a career as an astronaut, but the principle of the story can be applied by all of us no matter what we want to do.  For our Year 11 students we now encourage them to ask the question ‘what would the successful me do?’ for every decision they make in the run up to their exams, they need to consider what the successful version of themselves would do. So, when it comes to making a decision about revision or playing on their X-box, by asking the question ‘what would the successful me do’ we hope that they will commit to their revision first, knowing that by revising they will be preparing themselves for success in the summer.

As a parent/carer, you can support your child by reminding them of this when they are making questionable choices.

As we await our next OFSTED inspection at some stage before the end of this academic year, I am making sure I model what I am asking the students to do by constantly asking myself and our staff ‘what would excellence at Ernesford look like?’.  I may not want to be an astronaut, but it is certainly my driving ambition to  be the Head Teacher of an excellent school and it is our students at Ernesford Grange for whom we are all striving for excellence.

Is being a Parent/Carer the toughest job of all?

Is being a Parent/Carer the toughest job of all?

The Chief Inspector of OFSTED will this week make a statement claiming that ‘schools are not there to do parents work’ referring to preventing childhood obesity, tackling knife crim and gang related violence.


We are of course responsible for teaching students about the importance of healthy eating, staying safe and reporting any concerns to the relevant people but all too often it seems that society is quick to blame teachers for failing to educate children in all aspects of social responsibility.  Yet we understand that the job of a Parent/Carer is a demanding one and children often spend more time in school with their teachers than at home with their Parents.


I am not a parent myself, though have 2 nieces who mean the world to me, yet I often think about how hard it must be to have children in this age of social media and apparent mobile phone/gaming addiction.  I have seen it myself when trying to engage my nieces in a conversation about school when they have been more interested in the instant messages that keep pinging to their phones than my attempts to get them talking.

Me: How was school today?

Niece 1: Fine.

Me: So, what did you get up to?

Niece 2: Nothing much.

Trying to engage a child in conversation about their day at school can be like getting blood from a stone.  As a parent however, it is so important to let your child know that you care about their education. A recent study by the Royal institute of Science found that ‘it is parents who have the greatest influence on whether or not pupils perform well and stay in school. Pupils whose parents take only a limited interest in their learning are far more likely than their peers to perform badly academically and to drop out of school’.


So how can you show your child you care?  Well the first thing is to demonstrate resilience and determination in getting them to tell you about their day.  Rather than asking them the generic ‘how was your day’ try asking one or more of the suggestions below:

  • Tell me about a lesson that really challenged you today
  • Tell me about something you have done today that made you feel proud
  • Is there anything you are worried or anxious about?
  • Was there any moment today where you felt excited about something you were learning?
  • Can you think of a time in a lesson where you wanted to find out more about what you were learning about?
  • Is there anything you would like to talk about that I can help you understand better?
  • What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

By asking more specific questions and doing this regularly your child is more likely to start talking to you about their school experience and by you persisting with the regular questioning it will soon become routine helping you to find out more about how they are getting on at school and helping them to see how much you care.


Finally, no matter what your own experience of school was, it is important to make sure this remains removed from your conversations about your own child’s school days.  Unfortunately many adults did not have a positive experience of school and if your child detects that you didn’t value your own school experience they may feel that they in turn have no need to value their own schooling.


I hope this has been of some use to you and over time you can feel far more involved in your child’s school life.  Please also remember that at Ernesford we are always more than happy to have parental contact so please don’t hesitate to call or email your child’s House Head to arrange a meeting.

Ernesford Pride

October blog
Ernesford Pride
I have written before about the importance of assemblies and the messages I try to give to our students and also our staff when I have the privilege of an audience with them for 20 minutes. In my latest assembly I began with the question ‘what have you done so far in your life that has made you feel proud?’ I assured students that I wouldn’t ask them to explain themselves, I simply wanted to give them an opportunity to reflect on the things they have done that they were proud of. After a minute or so of thinking time I asked them to raise their hand if they could think of something and without exception in each of the 5 House assemblies less than 10 students raised their hand. Surprised? Well I actually wasn’t, it seems that in this day and age our young people don’t always recognise when they have done something that they can feel a sense of achievement for. I then asked them to look at the slide below for a little inspiration.

In a time where our students are becoming more and more proud of their school community, I want them to become more and more proud of the influence they are having on the improvements at Ernesford Grange.  Yes, the quality of teaching and learning is going from strength to strength, yes, the behaviour around the school and in lessons is unrecognisable from 2 years ago and the students can see this and will talk about this, yet they don’t seem to recognise their role in these positive improvements.  Ernesford Grange is becoming excellent because of them, the students, the reason we are all here.


It seems there is something of a stigma around admitting you are proud of your achievements, it is almost seen as arrogance or un-cool to be proud and I want to eradicate that.  I want every one of our young people to be proud of what they are achieving both within and outside of school, I want them to see the significance of a simple of act of kindness for example or for a show of determination where they have really struggled with a piece of homework but haven’t given up and instead made mistakes and learnt from them viagra generika schweiz rezeptfrei.


I went on to talk to them about the slide below, which are many of the things I am proud of.  My parents of whom I am immensely proud, who have instilled within me respect for all, determination to achieve whatever I set my mind to and who have always believed in me no matter what.  The staff of Ernesford Grange who work tirelessly to continually improve their own practice to ensure we are giving our students the very best education.  The students, of whom I am incredibly proud every time I walk into a classroom and see them working or simply socialising with maturity at break or lunch.  I want all of these people to be genuinely proud of what they have already achieved and what they will go on to achieve in the future.

My take-away message was this; take time to reflect on what you have achieved, where you have come from, the struggles you have had and the resilience you have shown.  A sense of pride leads to a sense of belief and if you can’t believe in yourself how can you expect anyone else to believe in you?

One of our job as educators is to not only believe in every young person but perhaps more importantly, to make sure that every young person knows that we believe in them, only then can we expect them to start believing in themselves and be prepared to become the leaders of the future.


Raising The Bar

Raising the bar

Having an HMI inspection in the last week of the summer term is not an event many Head Teacher’s would embrace! In fact there are many who would argue an inspection at the end of the school year when staff and students are shattered, the weather is hot and trips and rewards are in full swing is simply unfair. However, for myself and the staff at Ernesford, we welcomed our latest inspection as we were confident that the sustained progress we had been making over the course of the year would be recognised. Indeed, the feedback that we received left us able to go into our summer holidays full of belief in what we have been striving towards, that it had been recognised that we ‘have developed a positive and aspirational culture across the school’ and full of the energy and enthusiasm needed to keep on raising our expectations of what we can achieve for our young people upon our return in September.

And so it has begun again. A new year, a new opportunity to raise the bar of expectation once more not only for our students but for our committed staff. We welcomed a magnificent cohort of Year 7 ‘Elite’ students last week. The largest Year 7 cohort the school has had in many years. The community is hearing good things about Ernesford Grange Community Academy, parents want to send their children to our school in the knowledge that we are providing a good quality education, challenging their child to achieve the very best by expecting excellence from every member of staff and student who walks through our doors. The atmosphere around our school is purposeful and as HMI reported in their July inspection ‘there is a clear focus on learning’

It is an absolute privilege for me to walk into classrooms and feel the love of learning being developed, to see students and staff enjoying their lessons, to observe children actively demonstrating their growing resilience and teachers now courageous enough to step back and allow the struggle time that learners require to gain confidence and independence without fearing the disengagement that may have historically occurred. This is a new era, one of excellence, one of Ernesford Excellence and I could not be more proud of our students and staff and how far they have progressed.

Why would anyone want to teach?

It seems that these days not a day goes by without an article in the news talking about teacher stress due to workload, the pressure of OFSTED, declining student behaviour and the current national teacher recruitment crisis.  Not only are fewer people training to become teachers but more existing teachers are choosing to leave the profession in search of a job that will allow them to regain a work-life balance.

Here at Ernesford we are very fortunate that despite the relentless drive to improve standards, all our teachers are as excited as I am about the journey of progress we are on.  With only half a term left before the end of another academic year it seems fitting to recognise the wonderful, committed teachers and support staff that we have in our Ernesford community kaufen viagra in deutschland.  As I write this blog it is the Friday of the half-term holiday and though I am not at school I know that several of our enthusiastic teachers are in work today.  They are giving up their holiday time to support our super students in preparation for their exams.

This is not an expectation this is simply teachers wanting to do everything they can to help the students who are also giving up their holiday time, to achieve the best results possible.  You see, what we have here is a team ethos where we are all equally determined to work together towards the same goal which is the success of every young person who wants to do well in their education.  What’s more, we are also just as determined to gain success for those students who might not yet recognise the importance of a good education.

So, we have workload stress, expectations of a Headteacher who wants the absolute best for every child, frequent HMI inspections, working long hours planning lessons, providing feedback to guide students to improve their work further, holidays that involve coming into school…the list could go on so, let’s return to my original question, why would anyone want to teach?

The most straightforward response would be ‘to make a difference to the life chances of young people’ noble indeed, yet the video below provides a slightly more developed response about the difference that teachers make.  I played this to our staff in morning briefing at the beginning of term because I wanted them to reflect on what a difference they make to the lives of our Ernesford students and to inspire them to continue to raise their expectations of what our young people can achieve.  I hope after viewing this, you too can reflect on what difference a teacher can make.


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