I’m sitting in a pub waiting for another meeting, it’s Friday evening and I have not been this tired in a long time! But I’m still smiling inside and out over this amazing opportunity to lead a brand new school.
Last Thursday, I turned up at the DfE offices in Runcorn, to attend the interview for this post. I’d done all my preparation; the research on the school background, what Free Schools were all about, who the people were who would be interviewing me. But still not sure what the day would feel like. The first thing was getting into the building, with a gated car park, I was informed that there was no on-site parking and had to park in the public car park the other side of the dual carriageway. . .
Interviews are stressful and tiring events in any circumstances and this one was different, for obvious reasons, and so more stressful than most. But everyone was eager to put us at our ease. With coffee and friendly conversations, we started the day by being driven to the site. An empty field, but Richard and Jon talked so passionately about the process of getting this far, it was impossible to not see the finished school standing there on what is currently grass and footpaths for dog walkers. Looking back, it was at this point that any doubts I had about wanting the job vanished. I knew I could do the job and knew I would enjoy working with this team of people.
A lot of the interview process is already becoming vague in my mind, but one piece that stands out was the final exercise before the last interview; Prepare a talk to prospective parents, to last ten minutes, and by the way, if you are successful, you will be doing this next week. . . In the end, I talked for precisely seven minutes.
Thursday evening was then a rollercoaster of emotions, waiting for a phone call, but when Richard rang to offer me the job, I was in shock. I’d got it! What had I done, though? I knew that Sandymoor was already a passion and I would be throwing myself into it fully to make it the outstanding school I know it will be.
Sunday, then, and our first meeting as a group of six, rather than five and I begin to really understand what lies in front of me. We go through all the processes to date, I get briefings on finance, building plans, infrastructure and ICT. Oh, and drink lots of coffee and eat lovely biscuits…. We also start to plan for the next public event, ‘Meet the Head’, at the Sandymoor Community Centre that Wednesday. The words of the interview exercise come back loud and clear in my mind.
The hard work has now begun; Sunday, Monday, Tuesday night, return from work, turn the computer on and put myself back into Sandymoor mode, logging off after midnight each night. When I applied for the post, I talked it through with my partner, and we agreed that if I got it, it would be incredibly hard work, but she was completely supportive of me (and still is). I said that if I got it, I’d see her again in September. Her reply: Which one?
Wednesday evening and I’m driving back to Sandymoor for the information evening. No-one has any idea how many people will turn out or how the event will shape out, and I was nervous about doing the school proud. In the end, we had between sixty and seventy people turn up and I find myself speaking and answering questions for the two hours non stop. There was definitely an amazing feeling in the room, with the announcement that the site had been secured, along with the parents being able to see the new head, and hear him (me) talk with passion about the school. There were those who challenged, and rightly so, but the vast majority of people there were so behind the school.
And today? Earlier I found myself standing back on the school site, being photographed and interviewed by the local press and now I’m sitting waiting for the local MP to meet him and discuss the progress of the school. It never stops, but as the saying goes, if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
Plans for next week, so far? Well, buildings meetings over the weekend, but my priority will be to make contact with the schools around, both Primary and Secondary. I need to ensure that we always keep our eyes and minds on the important issue, which is that the young people we’re providing a school for deserve nothing but the best we can give.