Not Just an Exam Factory

This job has a habit of continually surprising and humbling you in equal measure.

At our Open Evening in September one parent came over to congratulate me on the positive attitude of our staff and students. He talked about the 'golden thread' that clearly runs through everything we do, that we clearly focus on the students as individuals and not simply focus on grades. He even picked up on a phrase that I used in my presentation to future parents that 'we are not just an exam factory'.

Although this is not new to us, sometimes it is nice to receive this sort of praise but it is more rewarding when we see this in action.

At the Awards Evening for the Year 11 leavers on November 13th, I had a special moment that crystallised why we do the job we do and what makes this Academy so special. The evening was a special one as it was so well attended from a high achieving year group. We were able to celebrate individual success stories and inspiring stories of high achievement. Our key note speaker Dan Canavan from PM Training gave an entrepreneurial history of his own career and he was joined by former students who had all successfully finished university and were about to head out into their own exciting careers.

A special round of applause was reserved for the parents of Duncan Strowger, our amazing science teacher who we tragically lost in August.

And then it happened.

At the end of the ceremony, without any prompting our Year 11 leavers gathered one by one in single file to pay their respects to Duncan's parents. Slowly our former students exchanged kind words and memories of Duncan. There were hugs.  There were smiles.  There were tears.

I felt so humbled to have been part of the lives of a fantastic group of young people. I felt proud to have taught many of them.  And at that moment I felt even more honoured to be the Principal of the Cooperative Academy of Stoke-on-Trent.

I reflected that the future parent was right. We are not just an exam factory. We are far more than that. We cultivate young people here.  Young people who have the moral fibre to be successful in the world.  Young people who live our values of respect, responsibility and equality.  It is these qualities that will ultimately decide whether someone is successful in the world and we as educators have a duty to help these qualities flourish.

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