Week 25 – Education, Excellence, Everywhere…

dee caffari

It’s been a fascinating week in the education world. The budget announcements around education and the White Paper – Education Excellence Everywhere (hence the title of this blog post) yesterday have caused much discussion amongst colleagues and on social media. I’ll talk about the implications for Cams Hill a little later in this post and in future posts to come I’m sure!

The week started for us at Cams Hill this week with an incredible opportunity for year 11 pupils. They were lucky enough to have Dee Caffari, MBE come and talk to them about aspirations, goals, and determination in the face of adversity. Dee set a world record by becoming the first woman to complete a circumnavigation of the globe against the prevailing winds and currents in 2006 and most recently, has headed up a group of celebrities on the #hellonhighseas sport relief challenge to sail from Belfast to London. An ex-PE teacher (she’s amongst great company there) she talked with amazing clarity about her life, her achievements and specifically to year 11 pupils about choices they are making that will influence the rest of their lives. Pictured above is Dee with our senior prefect team and assistant key stage manager Mrs Ferrier (she persuaded Dee to come in and talk to the year 11’s having spotted her at the local gym that they both go to!) Thank you Dee for coming in to speak with our pupils and sharing your inspiring stories. @deecaffari

This time of year is increasingly more pressured and stress filled for year 11 pupils than ever. The pressure towards final exams mounting, teachers requesting more and more contribution, determination and commitment from them with regard to revision, re cap and recall and anxious parents keen to be supportive of their son/daughter achieving to their potential by actively encouraging revision at home. To listen to someone who talked with such inspiration about shaping your own future, being the leader of your own destiny and following your heart was a real ‘tonic’ for year 11’s. Pupils were fascinated by her decision to stop teaching and start sailing full time. I was in the assembly and associated very strongly with the sense that if someone believed she couldn’t do something, then she would prove that she could! This sense of challenge led her to become the first (and only to date) woman to sail round the world ‘the wrong way’ against the winds and tides…

Sometimes, being a Headteacher feels like you are sailing the wrong way around the world. Not this week I hasten to add, but in the past few weeks there have been a few times when I completely understood what Dee was describing about her various challenges as a solo yachtswoman. I enjoyed the assembly very much as did year 11’s. When she talked about her most recent experience with the celebrities, she described to me inexperienced sailors taking 40 minutes simply to put all the wet weather gear on before they even made it onto ‘watch’ which really made me laugh. She also talked about those who were really ‘up’ for the challenge and those who surprised her somewhat in really not putting themselves forward when times became challenging or tough.

Again this made me think how perfect the timing was of her coming in to talk to year 11’s. Times are going to get harder before they get easier for our 15 nearly 16 year olds in their last few months at Cams Hill. But we have to give them the confidence to rise to the challenges ahead and the skills to develop the resilience to bounce back when times are hard. Although I’ve only known them for just over 6 months, they are an incredible year group who I know have been so well supported by the school and parents/carers. We just have the last few months to get them through now to enable them to achieve success and embrace life beyond Cams Hill along with the amazing opportunities that it will bring. Challenging, hard times ahead but oh so exciting…

And this sums up exactly how I feel about all the announcements surrounding education and schools in the media this week. Challenging but oh so exciting. Academies being given the autonomy to decision make and shape the future of teaching…brilliant. A focus on collaboration and partnership work to improve the quality of education and ultimately outcomes for all young people across a range of schools…brilliant. A recognition of the teacher recruitment crisis…brilliant. (not so far in depth information regarding the strategies to resolve it but recognition is at least a start!) A school led system…brilliant. My reflections are not political; I am as a school leader, extremely excited about the times ahead. For us at Cams Hill, we are well placed to embrace many of the suggestions that have been detailed this week from central Government with potential positive impact on quality of provision, teaching and learning and most importantly, outcomes for pupils. I’ve pasted a few links below that relate to good articles if you are interested in finding out more about some of the announcements this week and the changes ahead for the schools system.)

It’s a long weekend for all of you and a 4 day week for us all with Good Friday ahead. The  Spring Term finishes as usual with a non uniform day for pupils and staff along with a slightly earlier finish. The sun hasn’t shone as much today but I’m hopeful it will be shining for the weekend! It’s felt so spring like this week its been lovely.

Talking of ‘shining’ and trying to incorporate a little update for you with regard to my work life balance…When my son got home from nursery last Friday, I found him clutching a small laminated certificate and sporting the most enormous grin you could begin to imagine. He was so happy he almost couldn’t speak. He thrust the certificate towards me and bounced on the spot as he announced that he got awarded ‘star of the week’! Having been on the superstar sunshine for most of the week itself, we were blown away by the affect that being awarded star of the week for his ‘class’ had on our just three year old. He was awarded it for being helpful and so kind to his peers….we were both so proud! We had a weekend of exemplary behaviour with frequent and overt references from him(with a somewhat slightly puffed chest motion) to ‘I star of da week mama’ (still can’t do his F’s or TH’s) followed always by a gigantic smile and mostly by a request for a treat of some sort. 3 year olds huh…they know how to work you already! Our just 2 year old was slightly perplexed by the rewards she was receiving for what appeared to be her brothers good behaviour but not perplexed enough to question any of them mind. She also chanced her arm with the well practiced ‘more?’ request with a cute smile and a questioning face on a number of occasions…This weekend we have very little planned. We have however only just realised that this is the first year that ‘the Easter bunny’ requires explanation so have begun to work out how to justify the current lack of chocolate in anticipation of the Easter bunny’s imminent arrival.

One thing is for sure, in a week where there is so much to read and learn about the future of our school systems in this country and potential major changes ahead….having young children gives you the instant ‘switch off’ from the world of work… which is oh so important. Let’s be honest, they don’t really want to know my views about a school led system just yet…

Some light reading if you are interested in finding out more about current developments.


The Implications of GCSE Changes on School Accountability




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