Election Special - Principal's Blog

Exam season has been interrupted this year with the General Election.  If the stakes weren't so high for us all then many would simply ignore the anodyne figures that are paraded in front of us asking for our votes.  However we have to take an interest as it really does matter.  Ask anyone involved in education whether the coalition has led to compromise and conciliation and their answer would undoubtedly be no.  Elections matter; General Elections even more so and we need to make sure that we have a voice.

Our participation as voters should therefore be rightly championed.  We need to find politicians who not only reflect our views, but have the integrity, decency and humility to truly represent us.  This is where we as voters should ask ourselves deeper questions about the person we are voting for.  We should in essence vote for a person and not a party.  So I began to ask myself about what separates one person from another when they have broadly similar policies.  After a lot of reflection I decided that this could be summed up in one word: character.

Why do we vote for a leader? We look at their character.  Do we trust that person? Are they reliable? Are they articulate enough to represent our views? At the end of it all, its all about character.  I would like to use our own Academy election as an example.  On the 7th May, our students go to the polls too.  Not to vote in the General Election but to vote for their "Student Principal".  When I compare the candidates in our Academy election to the General Election, the comparison could not be more stark.  Among the three Year 10 candidates I find character oozing out.  There is a lot of life experience in these young people.  One candidate was educated in another country for half her life; one candidate came to us in Year 9 and has really turned his behaviour around; one candidate has interviewed two of my SLT for their jobs.  They would make excellent politicians, but I hope that they find a better path.  What is undoubted is that they will do good in this world. 

Very much like the character traits that we try to search for in politicians, we as educators want to develop in our young people. As I said in previous blog posts - we are not an exam factory here. We look to develop young people who are employable and all round decent people. We want parents to be proud of their sons and daughters as people and not simply a set of exam grades. As an Academy we have to design a curriculum that cultivates and grows character in our young people.  This year we successfully launched our inaugural arts festival, a two month festival with the theme of "Best of British". For many years our Year 7 and 8s have taken part in enrichment activities on a Friday afternoon ranging from African drumming to horse care.  In 2013 Ofsted cited our curriculum as outstanding as it exposes our young people to experiences that they would not experience elsewhere. Indeed for 2015-16, one of my key 'pledges' to you as students and parents is that enrichment will be extended to include Years 7 to 9. The Academy is open from 8am to all students and activities go on every night until 4.30pm.  It's all about building character - the sort of character that opens up young people to new experiences, that helps them to have a deeper appreciation of the arts, sciences and humanities and that ultimately makes them more interesting and employable people.

I always try to link what I am saying to our values.  Here it is slightly different.  One of our core values is equality; quite simply our students should have the same equality of opportunity that is afforded to any student in the country.  One of the wider Co-operative Group values (as well as equality) is equity.  There is a slight contradiction here.  Unfortunately not all of our students (and even less so of our students compared to others nationwide) have equality of opportunity.  Some of our students have the enriched, supportive and aspirational upbringing that I want for my own children.  Unfortunately many don't.  Here I think that the core value of equity has more of an important part to play.  Equity, in educational terms, is about creating a fairness of opportunity i.e. sometimes some people need a little bit more help and support than others.  We know that we have to work hard to create a level playing field for our students.  If you have worked here for even a short time you understand how dependent our students do become on you.  Our staff regularly go above and beyond not necessarily to give a young person an advantage but simply to ensure that the young person has an equality of opportunity with others locally and nationally. 

It is thanks to the hard work of all of us; staff, students, parents and governors that we able to do this so successfully.  

My final thought:  Good luck to all of Year 11 with their exams.  You have made us very proud this year so far and you just have the final push now.  I would certainly vote for any of you.

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