As the weeks go on, everything just gets more and more hectic, but in a good way!
Last Friday, I continued to make contact with the local primary school heads. Carolyn Roberts, the head at Daresbury Primary School & I had a lovely meeting, where she kindly took time to talk through how we could work together once the school was up and running and then gave me a tour of her amazing school.
Then there was another ‘Meet the Head’, this time at Moore Primary school. The head, Jan, has been so welcoming and it was lovely to see a large turnout of parents to hear about where we are at. I will be looking to hold more of these in the next few weeks as they are the best way to discuss the amazing opportunity Sandymoor School will offer the young people.
I have also met Joy, the head at Windmill Hill primary school, with a tour of her establishment. All the primary schools I have visited have been so amazing places, with the clear focus on the young pupils in their care; it has been a privilege to meet them and share the vision. At Windmill Hill, I was particularly excited by the outdoor classroom they have and make such use of.
I have also been meeting with businesses in the local area, both on the Daresbury Park and outside, talking to them about the Business and Enterprise Mentoring Scheme and have firm offers of support from so many. A particular highlight was the tour of the Thermo Fisher Scientific factory; with a Medical Physics background, it was fascinating to see how they work with both chemists and assembly floor technicians to create the tools so essential in today’s medical industry.
The Business and Enterprise mentors will work alongside the school and interact with the academic & pastoral tutors every student will have. They will be in school, on average, every couple of weeks to help the young people develop the ‘soft’ skills so essential to help them in the outside world.
Alongside this, there’s been a couple of major milestones as far as the project goes; we had confirmation that all the funding we require to get the school ready to open (called our lead in funding) was agreed and then shortly after that, we received confirmation that our budget plans for the next seven years have been approved as realistic and workable by the DfE and the organisation that will be funding the school (The EFE – Education Funding Agency; this organisation funds all free schools and academies across the country). Also, something I thought I would, as a teacher, never say, but I was delighted to receive notification from OfSted that they are ready to conduct their pre-opening inspection!
Every Free School has to pass this, where OfSted will inspect our policies and procedures, meet with myself and discuss the buildings to ensure that everything is in place to provide the education they expect. The date for this is the week of 11th June, but all our paperwork for this is already ready and has been sent off to the DfE to enable us to receive our school reference number. Following this initial inspection, we will continue to have monitoring inspections by OfSted, and will remain part of the school cycle of inspections by OfSted as every other state school is.
For me, though, the real highlight was the setting up and publication of our teaching job adverts in the Times Educational Supplement (TES). All the jobs are on the website and I was able to secure a half page advert on the front page of one of the ‘jobs’ sections. These positions are the real top location, as everyone sees these adverts as they are opening up the packaging when the TES arrives. I felt a real thrill when I opened up my copy of the TES & saw the Sandymoor School advert sitting there!
And then the fun began; all day Friday I was dealing with a string of emails and telephone calls from people interested in hearing more about these opportunities. The phone starting ringing shortly after 9:00am. One email in particular that made an impact came in from someone who currently would not apply for any of our positions because they are in a different subject area, but still felt they had to make contact, but still rang up to see if they could help; to quote from their email:
It was a pleasure to talk to you this morning about your inspiring school and I have had a chance to take a look at your excellent school website.” …
“Please let me know if at any time there would be anything available and I would be delighted to be given the chance to talk to you about any opportunities.”
In terms of the non-teaching posts, we’re also getting a lot of interest for all of these; I have sent out a good number of packs of information for the posts of our Business and Finance Manager, Catering Manager and my Personal Assistant, even though adverts for these posts have still not been placed; The Business and Finance Manager post will be handled by a firm of head hunters we are about to employ and the PA and Catering Manager adverts will be going into the local papers in the next couple of weeks. The IT Network Manager post is already in appropriate media, with adverts on the IT forum ‘Edugeek’ & in the industry standard magazine, Computer Weekly.
The most important thing for me to do now, which I will be planning over this weekend, is to meet every student currently signed up for Sandymoor. My plan here is to arrange to meet the child in his/her primary school, taking time to see them in action with their friends and in class, and take time to talk to their class teacher. However, I also want to meet the parents / guardians as well and will be writing to every family to ask if I could make a home visit, so that I can see the whole picture. In education, it is often said that there’s a triangle of connections, between the school, student and parents/guardians, but the link between the school and parents/guardians is often the weakest link and I am determined that Sandymoor School builds these relationships from the beginning.