Rob Carpenter is the executive headteacher of two primary schools in south east London. In this post, he joins our #CelebrateMySchool campaign and tells us what he is most looking forward to this year (his 20th in teaching) – and why this job is so special to him. Find him on Twitter: @carpenter_rob
Summer reading completed, suntan already fading, beach shorts packed away in the bottom drawer – it must be time to return to school! The end of summer brings renewed anticipation for teachers, support staff and leaders, unique to each school: welcoming new children and staff; the smell of newly varnished halls; freshly painted classrooms; and, of course, starting the new academic year on the front foot.
It feels like there is a bit more to it this year, though. National Curriculum levels have completely gone, the new Ofsted framework places more emphasis on working with schools (we shall see how that pans out!), and collaboration between schools is increasing exponentially. This means school leaders across the country are starting the term with unparalleled autonomy for driving improvement and change in our schools. It’s a big responsibility, but I think it feels good. I want my staff to become the architects of our own destinies. It looks like system leadership is here to stay and, if we seize it, the opportunities are endless.
I’m the executive headteacher at Woodhill Primary School and Foxfield Primary School, both in south east London and each on a transformative journey to success. For us, system leadership means we can work much more closely with other schools in the borough to deliver school improvement.
And so we begin the term with the launch of our new Inspire Partnership with local schools. It will provide many opportunities for staff to learn together, deepening collaboration. We are aiming to redefine how we support teacher development, create new opportunities for sharing best practice and spread the talents of staff across our schools. This kind of local collaboration allows less experienced staff to take on leadership responsibility or work with partner schools. It will build our leadership pipeline, open up new possibilities for our staff and capitalise on individual passions and talents. We know we will gain as much as we give.
This is why I am excited for the new school year. We own the agenda for school improvement, and we write it using our own knowledge and expertise about what works best for our children. We have become the masters of change instead of servants to it. Peer-led school reviews will replace the dreaded ‘external validation’, and research teams will guarantee that the best of what happens in our schools is shared graciously.
It also means that learning for our pupils is changing. We’ve redesigned the curriculum to focus on the skills and knowledge we believe our young people need. It’s about personalised learning, and I want each of our children to have a really positive experience in school every day. This isn’t always easy when children are battling with unsettling situations at home, but it helps if they feel learning is more relevant to their lives beyond school.
Pupils’ passions inform the curriculum topics we choose, and so far, so good: the children seem more motivated about learning. Classes have their own budgets to create innovation projects – we aim to increase their social responsibility and foster an entrepreneurial spirit for the benefit of our local communities.
What might stand in our way this year? I guess the key challenge now is to connect how we improve our schools, and what about them we improve, with why we are doing it. People buy in to the ‘why’.
Really, it all has to come down to one simple belief. It is this: all children, no matter what their circumstances, are entitled to receive the very best education we can give. And they deserve no less from us. The inspiration to serve our children and surrounding communities needs no bigger incentive than this.
This year, I want to design the future based on our core values and moral purpose, with our children and their communities at the heart. And in a year’s time I hope that their futures look brighter thanks to us knowing them and their needs best. I can’t wait to start.It’s this core belief that keeps me going into school every day. It’s also why I really am thrilled at the prospect of improving our sector from within, so our schools can be more dynamic, can determine their own futures, and can improve learning and teaching using evidence and research instead of high-stake accountability frameworks.
Check our blog and @TheKeySL for posts that will hopefully re-inspire and remind everyone just how great teaching and leading a school can be. Read this post to get up to speed.