New Headship: First 100 Days

Making headway: Weeks 3 and 4 In A Headteacher’s Journey at Willaston School

As I complete my third and fourth weeks as Executive Headteacher at Willaston School, I reflect on the incredible journey so far. The past 20 days have been filled with so many challenges and opportunities. From budget meetings and farewells to staff, to IQM assessments and funding reviews, these two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Despite the busy schedule, I have been able to connect with parents, lead staff meetings, and start to make some important changes to the school environment. I've also spent more time at my other schools too, and I'm starting to settle into the rhythms of working across three separate sites...

Monday, January 23rd (Day 11)

• Budget meeting with Head of School and Administrator
• Meeting with DESC Officer
I kicked off the week with a budget meeting with the Head of School and Administrator. And let me tell you, it was music to my ears when I heard that we had some unallocated funds as we approach the end of the financial year! This means we can start working on some of the projects and improvements I’ve earmarked, specifically those that revolve around improving our school environment. Starting now is earlier than anticipated and I’m excited that we can get the wheels in motion soon. In the afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting with an officer from DESC. It was a great chance to catch up on a few pressing issues and take a stroll around the school site with a knowledgeable colleague. We had a productive chat and it was time well spent.

Tuesday, January 24th (Day 12)

• Farewell to two trainee teachers
• Meetings at Dhoon School and Willaston School
It was a proud day for me as I bid farewell to two trainee teachers who have been with us at Laxey School since November for their 2nd year placement. I presented their final report and we had a closing meeting with their college tutor. It was a bittersweet moment as both trainees had a fantastic placement and I was proud to have been their mentor. They’ll stay until the end of the week, but with my diary spread across three schools, I said my goodbyes today in case I didn’t see them again properly before the week was out. After the meeting, I made my way to Dhoon School to catch up with the Head of School and tend to some Dhoon-related business. I ended my day at Willaston School where I led the staff meeting and continued to focus on the learning environment and health & safety. I also dialled into the NAHT Cymru’s online rally to speak about my experiences with industrial action in the Isle of Man. I was honored to be invited and I hope my words offered a level of reassurance to my Welsh colleagues ahead of their ASOS which starts next week.

I attended the NAHT Cymru Online Rally on Tuesday evening.

Wednesday, January 25th (Day 13)

• Laxey School’s annual IQM assessment
• Visit to Willaston School
Laxey School is a National Centre of Excellence for Inclusion through IQM, and today it was being visited by an external assessor from the UK for its annual assessment. The visit included a tour of the school, meetings with senior staff and teachers, observations of lessons, playtimes, and routines, and conversations with pupils and parents. I have a great feeling about the outcome, but for now it’s just a matter of waiting for the judgment and report! In between all of that, I snuck out for a couple of hours to visit Willaston School and check in with the Head of School.

Thursday, January 26th (Day 14)

• Dhoon School’s IQM assessment
• Meeting with Isle of Man Government funding review team
Today it was Dhoon School’s turn to shine as they were being visited by the external assessor for their IQM assessment. Just like Laxey, the assessment appeared to go smoothly, and I can’t wait to share the results of the report. At lunch, I met with the team appointed by the Isle of Man Government to conduct a funding review of the Department of Education. We explored a wide range of topics, including the financials connected to SEN, staffing, school budgeting, regulations, capital projects, and Human Resources. I was pleased to be able to offer my insights and I’m eagerly awaiting the results of the review which are due to be published later this year.

Friday, January 27th (Day 15)

• Meetings at Willaston School, Laxey School, and Dhoon School
• Meeting with designers and suppliers for revamp of main entrance area
I started my day at Willaston School where I met with a parent who had made an appointment to see me. It’s always great to connect with parents face-to-face. I then took the opportunity to walk around all the classes before heading up to Laxey School for their weekly Celebration Assembly, followed by a visit to Dhoon School for their weekly High Five Assembly and a catch up with the school administrator. I finished my day back at Willaston School where I had a meeting with a designer and supplier who is quoting for a revamp of our main entrance area. With that, the week came to an end, and a well-deserved beer awaited me at home!

Monday, January 30th (Day 16)

• Met with Chair of Governors for Dhoon School and Laxey School
• Discussed residential complaints about Laxey School’s car park barrier

I had the pleasure of meeting with the Chair of Governors for Dhoon School and Laxey School today. We met at the Chair’s lovely home in the heart of Douglas, surrounded by beautiful grounds that provided a peaceful setting for our discussions. During our meeting, we talked about a small number of residential complainants who have raised concerns about Laxey School’s car park barrier. We weighed the views of the community against the need to safeguard over 200 children and came up with a set of compromises that we can offer the community. However, these will need to be approved by the school governors in their the next meeting.

In the afternoon, I spent time with the Heads of School of Laxey and Dhoon, planning a twilight training session for the staff on the Cornerstones Curriculum. We mapped out the progression and coverage of the training session, which is scheduled for Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 31st (Day 17)

• Visited Willaston School in the morning
• Dealt with rising number of complaints about the barrier at Laxey School in the afternoon

Today started with a visit to Willaston School where I had the opportunity to meet and greet the parents by standing with Mr. Michael, the lollypop man. In the afternoon, I was called out to Laxey School to deal with a rising number of complaints about the barrier. While the number of complaints was very low, it is clear some people are coordinating their actions. Hopefully the compromises we will put to the governors for approval will also resolve the complaints satisfactorily.

This photograph taken on Tuesday shows Laxey School carpark at over capacity. There were 23 cars squeezed in, and we had to open up part of the children’s playground to accommodate vehicles. A recently installed barrier helps us make sure vehicles coming in have specific school business, but it appears to have met with resistance from a small number of local residents who are opposed to having their access restricted. The SLT and Governors are working on a balanced solution.

Wednesday, February 1st (Day 18)

• Partnership visit with Education Advisory Service (EAS) partner at Dhoon School
• Twilight training session for staff at Laxey and Dhoon Schools

This morning, I had a partnership visit with my Education Advisory Service (EAS) partner at Dhoon School. It was a good opportunity to touch base on wider DESC issues, IOM Government direction, and school-specific issues. In the afternoon, I spent some time catching up on administrative tasks and paperwork at Laxey School.

In the evening, I was at the twilight training session for staff at Laxey and Dhoon Schools. We went over the Cornerstones Curriculum, mapping out the progression and coverage. The senior leadership team will be picking up the outcomes from this next week.

Thursday, February 2nd (Day 19)

• Visit from Sir John Lorimer, Lt. Governor for the Isle of Man
• Afternoon visit to Willaston School

Today was a special day as we had a visit from Sir John Lorimer, Lt. Governor for the Isle of Man. He visited both Laxey School and Dhoon Schools, where he participated in an assembly, took a tour of the schools, met with the pupil councils, and enjoyed refreshments with the staff. Sir John was impressed with both schools and it was a delightful day.

Sir John Lorimer, Lt. Governor of the Isle of Man pictured with Max Kelly and the Laxey School Pupil Council.

In the afternoon, I based myself at Willaston School where on arrival it was clear we had some unsettled children. However, the fantastic staff handled the situation expertly, and I was in awe of their professionalism.

Friday, February 3rd (Day 20)

• Celebration assemblies at Laxey and Dhoon Schools
• Farewell to trainee teacher at Willaston School

Today was a day of celebrations as I attended the celebration assemblies at both Laxey and Dhoon Schools. It was great to see the children being recognized for their hard work and achievements.
I also had a chance to visit Willaston School for the final time this week. I said goodbye to a trainee teacher who had become an integral part of the school during her placement. I have no doubt she’ll have a brilliant career ahead of her.

Addressing the Laxey School Celebration Assembly.

The day concluded with the publication of the three school newsletters for February.

As I reflect on the first 20 days of my journey as the Headteacher of Willaston School, alongside my continued leadership at Laxey and Dhoon, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities and experiences I have had so far. I have been truly humbled by the positive impact I have been able to make, and the supportive and welcoming community I have encountered.

Some of the early milestones from the first 20 days:

  • Holding a budget meeting with the Head of School and Administrator, which resulted in the allocation of funds towards improving our school environment.
  • Mentoring two trainee teachers and being a part of their growth and development, both professionally and personally.
  • The successful IQM assessments at Laxey and Dhoon Schools, which resulted in recognition as National Centres of Excellence for Inclusion.
  • Participating in a funding review conducted by the Isle of Man Government and offering my insights on a range of topics, including financials connected to special educational needs, staffing, school budgeting, regulations, capital projects, and Human Resources.
  • Connecting with parents, teachers, and staff across all three schools and being a part of their successes and challenges.
  • Working towards improving the learning environment and health & safety at Willaston School and leading staff meetings around this key theme.
  • Updating and refreshing the online presence of Willaston School with a facelift for the website.

As I look back on the past 20 days, I feel grateful for the trust and support of my colleagues, and the opportunities I have had to make a positive impact. I am eager to see what the future holds, and I am confident that together my staff and I will continue to make a difference in the lives of the students,
teachers, and staff in the Isle of Man.

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