Alfie Rowland (Yr08)
Rowan Hobson (Einstein)
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Choose the route you want, rather than the ‘popular’ one. Don’t go with the crowd, but what feels right for you.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference.
I have never sat on the side, the people who founded Sandymoor school have never sat on the side, the teachers who will teach you have never sat on the side. I expect each and every one of you to try your hardest, to aim to be the very best you can be and to never sit on the side.
“The real loser is never the person who crosses the finishing line last,” she wrote. “The real loser is the person who sits on the side, the person who does not even try to compete.”
'No man is an Island'
Parents/Guardians are an essential element in the success of any young person and at Sandymoor we want to work in partnership with every family.
In the term before joining Sandymoor, we like to do a home visit to the family home. One of the school tutors will arrange to visit, to discuss the specific nature of Sandymoor and answer any questions you may have, as well as start the process of building the relationship betweeen the school and home.During the school year, the students' Individual Development Plans are available, securely, online for parents to read, giving them information about their child's progress at any time through the school year. This replaces the traditional 'school report' sent home at the end of the year, often when intervention can be too late.
At regular points through the school year, there are opportunities for parents/guardians to come into the school for an 'IDP review'. Throughout an IDP review week, there are a number of opportunities for parents to book to come into school, where they will meet with teachers as appropriate to discuss progress to date.Local Community
As part of the Community Engagement lessons, strong links with local community groups are forged. Students develop the skills of project work through delivering a service to a local group, working together to ensure it is of the highest quality and then delivering the product. This could be a 'befriending' service to a local handicapped or elderly support group, or something more tangible, but it will be developed by the students, working with the group.International Community
We are living in a global village, with modern technology shrinking the world. To enable Sandymoor students to become leaders in this village, we have links with groups around the world and students mirror the project model locally on a global stage. Working with an group providing education, for example, in Africa, there is lots Sandymoor students can learn from them whilst providing support to young people the other side of the world.
The Academic Tutor is the person who the student will see each day, primarily for morning and afternoon registration, but also to ensure that work is all up to date. The academic tutor monitors the academic progress of their tutees against the baselines identified at the beginning of the year. Whenever a student falls below their progress targets, the academic tutor will investigate the reason and update the IDP with agreed actions to bring the student back on track.Personal Tutor
The Personal Tutor will have less regular contact with their tutees, but will meet them as a group a number of times a week as part of the timetabled curriculum. The Personal Tutor is responsible for monitoring the student's progress in the areas of 'skills for learning', ensuring that every student is developing the skills necessary for them to take ownership of their own learning. Again, where there are concerns, the Academic Tutor will investigate and update the IDP with agreed actions.
The personal tutor groups are arranged vertically, with students of all age groups working together. This provides opportunities for younger students to aspire to the successes of the older, and the older students to gain self esteem by supporting the younger.Business and Enterprise Mentor
This person is a successful member of the local community, whether a nurse, business leader, office worker or pilot. These are volunteers who we have recruited to work alongside us, so that every student has someone outside of school to work with in building an understanding of the modern workplace. 'Work experience' traditionally is reserved for much later in a student's school career and is often condensed into a single week, where it has limited impact. At Sandymoor, we bring the workplace into the school, and from year 7, so that the students get a real understanding of the skills required to be successful beyond school.
Pastoral support is also about helping every student see themselves more clearly and this can best be learnt by being a mentor to other people. Through strong links with local primary schools, Sandymoor students get opportunities to work with younger children, helping them with as necessary, whether in reading or writing, or spending time with someone who needs a friend.
When I commented over a month ago on how fast things were moving, I really did not appreciate just how fast paced things would get! But .....We have been blessed with some amazing people working on this project.
With just four days to go before opening, it has been a good time to reflect on where we are at and where we have come from (particularly such in torrential rain on the M56 driving home...!)
In less than 18 months, a group of local residents decided that they wanted to take charge of choice for education in the community and became the Sandymoor Free School Project Group. Completing detailed plans and jumping through countless hurdles, they have been instrumental in getting the school to the position where we open on Monday. The power of the individual to make change in the local community is still a reality & that is independent of any political leaning.But we've also had amazing people joining the project too.
The teachers and non-teaching staff we have recruited have shown excitement and dedication to the Sandymoor vision above and beyond the call of duty; they have taken on board every initiative I have introduced that makes Sandymoor unique and have contributed to the development of a curriculum and wider environment that is going to be stimulating, innovative and totally engaging to every Sandymoor student. I am honoured to be leading such a talented team.
The construction company also deserve special mention. It is refreshing to find a company that is prepared to put their actions where some would make excuses. Roan have worked tirelessly to ensure that we are ready to open on Monday and have never sought excuses, but provided solutions. I want to personally thank Matt for being so accommodating and holding himself and Roan to such high standards.
Today, the interior of the building is taking shape, with final painting and flooring being completed, electrics are being finalised and furniture has started to arrive on site. The kitchen equipment also arrived today and has started to be fitted and all the IT equipment (key to the delivery of any modern curriculum) arrives and is installed on Friday. The perimeter fencing has also been completed.
Tomorrow, the Tarmac is being laid and work will continue on the landscaping (although I understand that the turf will be laid early next week....!). Also, tomorrow and Friday the furniture will be finalised, including the kitchen, and the interior will be tidied up, ready for handover. Electrics, water and sewerage will also be connected, making the building ready for opening.
Over the weekend, all the staff and governors will be on site, finalising the building - over the last couple of weeks, all the equipment, stationary and resources has been arriving in Sandymoor and will come out of the garages of the governors, where it all is currently stored, and brought into the building. The teachers will be working on making the classrooms welcoming environments and the governors will be tidying up other loose ends (including installing the CCTV system for added security).
I will be on site Friday, Saturday and Sunday and will only go home Sunday when I am happy that Sandymoor is ready to open on Monday morning, 8:45, to welcome our outstanding students and provide the education they deserve!
What a journey it has already been and what an exciting journey we have ahead of us!
"We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep"
Prospero: The Tempest, act 4, scene 1
In the modern world, knowledge and the acquisition of knowledge is no longer king. The traditional view, of the teacher knowing the answer and the student having to guess, the teacher being the gate-keeper of knowledge, is no longer valid. With modern technology, anyone can find out any information at the click of a mouse of tap of a screen. At Sandymoor, we embrace this.Skills for Learning
It is no longer enough to just learn a lot of facts - with the Internet, there will always be more facts unknown. Instead, in today's world, it is also important to be able to synthesis knowledge into new theories, take on new ideas and adapt them. In other words, it is important for students to specifically develop the skills to be independent learners. At Sandymoor, the essential skills are woven into the curriculum and explicitly taught alongside the more traditional knowledge content.
Traditional homework is flawed. Recent research suggests that any educational benefit gained from it is marginal, at best, and actually potentially damaging. It follows the work covered on class and if the student understands the work, the homework is a waste of time and if the student didn't understand it, homework can be demoralising and damage self-esteem.
Sandymoor homework, by comparison, uses modern technology to break this cycle. Homework is delivered to the student using the school's cutting edge Virtual Learning Environment and is available before the lesson. The activities provide opportunities for students to explore the topic and gain an understanding of the material before the lesson. The teacher will be able to view the work submitted by the students and thereby adapt the lesson to suit the needs of the individuals.
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.
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.
In under 10 weeks, we open! Now that's an exciting thought. . . So much has happened and everything is shaping up nicely. Since my last post, we've now finalised all the staff and now have a full compliment of teaching and non teaching staff on board. There was a small hiccup with one appointment, but all that is to be expected. Do look on the school's website for details of the teaching staff. (I'll be getting the non-teaching staff on the site as soon as possible too.)
In the background, there's been a lot of meetings going on to get everything sorted; we're meeting to finalise the IT provider, who will be responsible for ensuring we have all the best equipment and software to support the provision, we've had our 'Readiness to Open Meeting' with the DfE and they are happy with everything we've done. And our pre-opening Ofsted inspection is booked. I am actually looking forward to showing them everything we have in place & showing off Sandymoor. (And as a teacher, I never thought I'd hear myself say that I'm looking forward to seeing Ofsted .....!)
Last weekend, I was down in the South of England at the Sunday Times Festival of Education, taking part in a weekend of exciting and stimulating talks. Lord Adonis, confirming what the shadow education minister said on the television, that a Labour government would not shut down successful free schools, in fact, going further and confirming that the idea was, actually, a rebranding of a Labour idea in the first place. It was also good to hear Rachel Wolf (founder of New Schools Network) taking part in a discussion about the changing needs of education and how free schools fit into that agenda by having the freedom to innovate and provide different experiences.
And talking of NSN, it was good to meet Rachel again last Wednesday, in Manchester and help NSN in showing how free schools provide opportunities for local businesses to get more involved in education. Sandymoor's Business and Enterprise Mentoring scheme attracted a lot of attention.
Then,this week, I've also met with most of the teachers, where we were planning exciting activities to put on as part of Sandymoor School's contribution to the summer fair - do come along and meet us all, this Saturday in the heart of Sandymoor!
So lots going on and very exciting things happening. Everything is nicely on track for opening this September and I am getting so excited now about meeting our students and making Sandymoor School the reality the founders envisaged when they wrote their proposal.
We are still receiving requests to enroll students into both our year 7 & year 8 groups; if you would be interested in finding out more about this, do please get in touch visit the website!
The planning committee chose to defer making a decision on planning permission due to concerns expressed by elected members about the traffic safety around the site. This was despite a complete recommendation by the council officials and a verbal report that directly addressed the concerns - the committee members wanted a full written report. We completely support and appreciate the committee's concern for the safety and welfare of our students and are grateful that they take their job seriously; it is reassuring to see the concern that the elected members have for our students. We look forward to submitting the reports they have asked in ample time for the next meeting on July 2nd. It is encouraging that they did state their support for schools and they did not question any aspect of the educational provision the site will provide. There was a question raised about the ability of temporary accommodation to provide a full experience to the students, but the replies about the quality of temporary accommodation being excellent and the fact that there is a new build that will replace the temporary site (which will, of course, go through it's own planning process) answered their concern. Whilst disappointed that permission was not granted, it is encouraging that it was not refused and the issues raised were not related to the core purpose of the building, which is to provide outstanding education for the students of Sandymoor and the wider East Runcorn area.
I personally take this to be tacit agreement with the aims of Sandymoor. At present, with deferral to the 2nd July, we are still on schedule to open in time on 3rd September.