WEEK 37 - Friday 8 July 2022
This week I have spent even more time than normal in the company of my fellow Headteachers in The Consortium Academy Trust (TCAT). School academisation is a topic that most people outside of schools probably give little time to thinking about but, within the sector, it is of huge significance. The governance of a school has a major bearing not only on how the school is run but also its capacity for improvement. Before I go any further, a potted history might be in order.
Under the previous Headteacher, Sarah Young, Hessle High School formed together with Penshurst Primary School to create a 3-19 through-school (The Hessle Academy). There are only 170 of these in the country and even less than that have both a nursery and a Sixth Form like we do. Indeed, as I write this, my train is pulling into Newcastle station on my way to a conference of through schools to be held at a local school. In 2016, as the forces of academisation swept through the sector most schools like ours began to look for partners with whom we could form our own Academy Trust chains. At the time, there existed a handful of huge Trusts that were quickly swallowing up individual schools and imposing their educational ethos on them. That can work for some schools, but I firmly agreed with Sarah Young that The Hessle Academy needed greater control over its own destiny and so, soon after, an agreement was reached with the Headteachers of Cottingham and Wolfreton Schools to form a Trust. It didn't take long for other schools to recognise that the ethos was right for them and soon, Howden School, Winifred Holtby and Holderness Academy joined up. Along the way, Croxby and Keyingham Primary Schools also joined us.
Being a part of a medium sized Trust such as ours is a terrific opportunity for every member of staff to collaborate to really good effect. Geographically our schools are close to one another (which helps) and our contexts are also quite similar. Collaboration is not without its problems at times and there are occasions when we have to make a change for the greater good but the bigger picture is that we are much stronger together.
A couple of examples spring to mind. Firstly, during Covid, the network of Headteachers was invaluable and, along with other senior colleagues, the ability to share ideas and concerns with peers in other schools kept us on track, and probably kept us sane. Secondly, the collaboration between Hessle, Cottingham and Wolfreton over our Sixth Form Partnership continues to thrive. In recent months, we have also added Holderness Academy to the partnership and a significant re-branding is about to be launched which will see the partnership grow even further. The value of this cannot be overstated to Hessle students who consider the Sixth Form as an option. Currently, we teach 18 different A Levels and Post-16 courses on our site; but, with the partnership, students can actually choose from over 30 different courses by splitting their week between the schools and making use of the free transport available. It is a unique opportunity and a great deal for students who relish the opportunity both to stay at Hessle where they know the staff but also to visit different campuses and meet new students - a perfect preparation for life at University!
It also has the benefit of retaining some of our very best staff who we know continue to stay at Hessle because of the reward they gain from teaching A Level classes. This benefits all students in the school, regardless of year group and regardless of whether they intend to stay in the Sixth Form. Without the partnership, it is possible that our Sixth Form College might cease to exist and so it has been a real pleasure to spend time with Trust colleagues planning the next stages of our joint development this week.
This week, we have welcomed parents of Year 10 students to school for an Information Evening. This set out the plans we have in store for students as they make the transition into Year 11 from September. This is the first of two evenings where this message will be explained and, if you missed the first, please try to make the next one in September.
The coming week also sees our Year 6 pupils visit the school for Transition Week and I really look forward to meeting them and, hopefully, if you are one of their parents, seeing you on Wednesday afternoon when I give a talk about our school. It is always a pleasure to welcome visitors to our school and Wednesday will be no exception.
Before anyone asks about my trip to Newcastle, this is not a roundabout way of making sure I am in town for the rugby league Magic Weekend. I will be back in Hull on Friday night and in front of my TV on Sunday night for the rugby league derby. I am not optimistic given the injuries and suspensions that Hull FC have at the moment but anything can happen in a derby. But, if I look unusually grumpy on the gate on Monday morning, now you know why!
Have a lovely weekend and thank you as ever for your support.