CEO BLOG: Celebrating a Busy Half Term

So the first half-term is done and dusted and what a busy one it has been across our four schools. Particular highlights include St Martin’s receiving a letter from the Department of Education, congratulating the school on being in the top 3% of schools nationally for reading after achieving 100% pass rate in their phonics. Oak View has plenty to celebrate too, after being ranked in the top 5% for progress in reading and writing, and top 10 per cent in maths.

Beyond academic outcomes, working in partnership with four schools has brought countless benefits to our pupils and staff. This year we are running a NWAT Management Course, accredited by the Timpson Foundation, to help create outstanding leaders of the future. The aim for the group of teachers involved is to successfully contribute to the opening of our fifth school Ledsham Manor Academy in 2019. Our opening day task started with an ice-breaker to rival The Apprentice, when the group were given an hour to gather as many responses as possible in a vox pop of the general public to the question ‘What Makes the Perfect School?’

On day two we had the privilege of a talk from Richard Arnold, Group Managing Director of Manchester United on the power of successful branding. He provided a fascinating insight into the work that goes into establishing and protecting a corporate brand. Our aim at NWAT is to understand what makes organisations thrive and use this best practice in an educational context. We would like to encourage all schools to see the benefit of operating this way and create organisations that not only meet the needs of their communities but also share the same common values of high aspirations and excellence.

Sharing best practice is key to NWAT’s philosophy. Across three of our schools we have employed a language teacher for the past 10 months via the British Council and the ability to share this resource is hugely beneficial, seeing the children immerse themselves in Spanish and enthuse about language has been incredibly rewarding. Without working together in partnership this would never have happen.

Sport remains high on our agenda and as an ambassador for the Youth Sports Trust, what we do as a group is second to none and means children get so much more opportunity to participate in sport compared to many other schools. We are particularly focused on raising the profile and participation of girls’ sport and our end of year treat will be a trip to the ladies FA cup final next May.

I was also really pleased that Delamere has been asked to produce a case study on its swimming programme in response to a report written by the Curriculum Swimming and Water Safety Review Group on behalf of the Swim Group, which Swim England leads. Chaired by Olympic medallist Steve Parry, it was formed following the publication of the Government’s sport strategy Sporting Future.

Each school is an active part of a group, responsible for its own direction but by working together we aim to promote a positive agenda for the education of our children and to increase their access to different opportunities and experiences.

My favourite news stories from this half-term that represent this philosophy include:

Pupils learned all about what it would like to live in Anglo Saxon times and experienced first-hand how a village would have to work together for the greater good by each contributing to a lunchtime hog roast feast. Pickmere class enjoyed picking, washing, peeling, chopping and cooking apples from the apple trees in the school grounds to make a delicious apple sauce. Year 6 made a delicious leek and potato soup, Year 4 made stuffing and Year 3 made oat cookies.

Fuelled by their fabulous meal, it was time for a ‘battle of the villages’ when everyone got into fantastically fierce mode to fight it out for their homestead!”

 

That’s because one of the newest faces at the Winsford school is a Pembrokeshire Corgi – and she’s making a real difference to pupils in the classroom. The fluffy three-year-old is owned by Year 5 teacher Amy Richardson who, after a successful trial, takes her pet to work three-or-four days every week.

“There the children are lapping it up, as Georgie helps them overcome shyness, calm down when they are upset, and boosts self-esteem.

Miss Richardson explained: “There’s lots of research backing the calming nature of therapy dogs, and the good they can do. When Georgie’s in the classroom she’ll wander round and it really helps children who are struggling with work to give her a little stroke every so often.”

They’ve learnt all about the regular features of newspaper reports and spent time planning their articles and arranging interviews with staff and children from each year group.

 

Ellesmere Primary School’s youngest pupils were the winners of a sports tournament recently, where they competed against seven other schools. Pupils from Year One and Two competed in 10 sports including javelin, long jump, hurdles and relay races.

Assistant headteacher, Abi Schwarz, was delighted that their hard work has been rewarded, she said: “I think an element of competition in a wide range of disciplines gives children something to aim for. It helps teach them to try their best, work as a team and to be gracious whether winning or losing.”