New Headship: First 100 Days

Coronations, Crowns and Curriculum – Weeks 13 to 15 In A Headteacher’s Journey at Willaston School

Join author Max Kelly on Days 60 to 72 of his expanded role with Willaston School. He’ll take you through 12days punctuated with two bank holidays, a fun and festive coronation themed day, a welly walk to raise money, and the highly anticipated return of the Rocktastic Rock Kidz. With plenty of muddy moments and rockin’ rhythms its been three weeks to remember!

Monday, April 24th (Day 60)

I start the week in Willaston School and its great to be back after a fab Easter break. My Head of School and I have a meeting to work through a list of things each of us has brought along! It’s productive, and as lunchtime looms I jump in the car and head up to Laxey School for the first of two health and safety “walkabouts” with the school governors.

I am met at Laxey with the Chair of Governors, and a group of parent, teacher and co-opted governors. We are joined by the Health and Safety Adviser for Isle of Man Government with attachment to education, and we begin a walk around the site auditing the fabric of the building and identifying issues that may need addressing. 

From Laxey, the party head on to Dhoon School to repeat the exercise there. Its a very useful activity and adds plenty to my “to do” list to keep me busy in this regard. 

Tuesday, April 25th (Day 61)

My day begins at Laxey School where I meet with Steve Draper from Rahmqvist. We enjoy a good catch up and I take the opportunity to purchase some new scooters for my reception children. 

As my meeting with Steve ends, my next one begins almost immediately on Zoom. Paul Symes from NSPCC is speaking with me about the Speak Out Stay Safe programme. We’re onboard and will look to roll this out in the Autumn Term.

My afternoon takes me to Dhoon School for the first time this term and its good to see the children and link up with my Head of School there to discuss the issues of the day. 

Wednesday, April 26th (Day 62)

The Isle of Man Cross Country Championships take place today and I have a team entered from all three schools. The weather holds, the event is a success and the children return to our schools feeling proud of their individual and collective achievements. 

Mid afternoon sees my first Governors meeting at Willaston School since picking up the headship. Its a great opportunity to talk through my term, what I’ve identified as strengths to build on (there are many!) and what I feel the priorities for development should be. The first meeting is relatively informal and we agree to schedule in a “formal” meeting next month and get motoring with the governance side of things. 

Thursday, April 27th (Day 63)

I’ve arranged to spend time in every class at Willaston this half-term and undertake some observations of teaching and learning. These aren’t “performance management” related, they’re just to give me an opportunity to assess the picture of T&L across the school and offer some ideas for development in terms of provision, practice and / or pedagogy should those moments arise. Today I have the privilege of sitting in on LKS2 lessons to see some wonderful examples of how the core subjects are covered in this phase.

After school I travel off the Island and bump into Steve Draper again, this time on the ferry. Steve is an Evertonian and a personal friend of Duncan Ferguson. It gives us a chance to view the new Everton stadium from the perspective of the ferry – and I have to say it does look mighty impressive. I sincerely hope that Everton stay in the Premier League because the city of Liverpool deserves to see top-flight football in this stadium in the next season or two. 

Friday, April 28th (Day 64)

I’ve taken a day of personal leave to be in England. We’re going through some personal stuff right now, and my daughter is in Alder Hey for an appointment. She means everything to me 💛

Tuesday, May 2nd (Day 65)

With yesterday’s Bank Holiday, today is the start of the working week – it is Tuesday but feels like a Monday! 

I begin the day at Dhoon School where we hold our annual Welly Walk to raise funds for a good cause. This year the children have selected the survivors of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria as the beneficiaries of our efforts. The weather is dry, and we are joined by a good crew of hardy mums and dads who support us on the walk. 

Dhoon School at Cashtal Yn Ard on their annual Welly Walk. The walk has been cancelled in recent years due to C19, so it is great to get this tradition back up and running!

My afternoon is spent in an SLT meeting with my Heads of School from Laxey and Dhoon. It’s one of those “hybrid” meetings with half of us together, and half of us “online.” It’s productive nonetheless and helps set the tone for the remainder of this term.  

Wednesday, May 3rd (Day 66)

My morning is spent catching up with a mountain of admin and paperwork that seems to have accumulated for my attention across all three schools. Its a great feeling to get on top of it all, though I suspect it will start to mount up again almost immediately! 

Today I have all three schools represented in the Isle of Man Swimming Gala, affectionally known as the Dolphin in honour of the dolphin shaped trophy for the winning team. I am very proud to hear of the success of the children, especially the Willaston kids who finish fourth overall – their highest ever placing! 

Just as I think my day is ending at Laxey School for Monster Phonics training with the staff team, I take a call which diverts me to Willaston School to help resolve a pupil related issue that has played out. I am in awe of my staff team who have handled everything brilliantly, and we agree a way forward which we all sign up to. 

Thursday, May 4th (Day 67)

Today I am at the Comis Hotel for the termly Senior Leaders Meeting of headteachers and senior teachers from across all of the Island’s schools. The focus today is the new QA Framework for the Isle of Man. It’s reaching a point now where the framework and process are falling into place with a level of consensus and clarity across the senior leaders, and the timeline is shared which seems to have the right balance between ambition and realism. Talking about QA against the backdrop of the OFSTED controversy in England is interesting, and it isn’t unnoticed in the room that our system appears to be the robust, self-sustaining, externally validated low-stakes model that colleagues in England would bite your hand off for. 

Friday, May 5th (Day 68)

King Charles III is being crowned tomorrow, so today all three of my schools enjoy a Coronation-Themed day complete with bunting, games and a tea-party. In the Isle of Man, King Charles is Head of State but has the title “Lord of Mann” rather than King. 

As it’s the first Friday of the month, I prepare our school newsletters for publication and get those out before heading home for another long weekend. 

Tuesday, May 9th (Day 69)

Yesterday was Bank Holiday in honour of King Charles’ III Coronation, but I was still up early to meet my Y6s from Laxey and Dhoon Schools at the Sea Terminal at 6.30am. We have booked this week for their off-island residential to Shropshire and I was there to check everything was OK and to wave them off on the ferry. My eternal thanks to my team of five teachers who have agreed to man this trip. 

Back to today and I head to Dhoon School to start my week there. Today the incredible Rock Kidz are joining us to deliver a day focussed on anti-bullying. Its a great day as always, and Rock Kidz deliver an important message with their usual mix of music and mayhem. It is great to welcome new member Becca to the school. 

Rock Kidz at Dhoon School

Wednesday, May 10th (Day 70)

Probably a day I will never forget. I base myself at Willaston School for the entire day. Rock Kidz are in the building to deliver a day focussed on the “Don’t Quit” message which is a massive success. The kids at Willaston love it, but more importantly I suspect the message will have a lasting impact.

Rock Kidz at Willaston School

There is an off-site issue which I attend to – its challenging stuff sometimes working in a school. Once again, I must take my hat off to the staff team for the way they respond and manage the challenges that come their way. It’s very reassuring to me as a headteacher and must be, too, for the children and parents. As I arrive back at school the Minister of Education is in the building – not expected, but a very pleasant surprise and we use the opportunity to look at the school meals and to discuss all things “Rock Kidz”. Mr John Wannenburgh MHK is here too, and I’m glad that the school has a buzz about it as I show it off. 

L>R Minister for Education Julie Edge MHK; John Wannenburgh MHK; RockKidz Jonathan; Max; RockKid Becca; and RockKidz Cam.

Just when I think things can’t get anymore exciting, a rally car turns up in the playground. A member of staff has arranged for a Porsche to pop in ahead of the Manx Rally which is being staged this weekend. What a fab opportunity for the children. 

Mark Ellison, Chief Marshall of the Manx Rally, brings a rally car into Willaston School for the children to see.

I check in with the teachers in Shropshire who report the off-island residential is going very well. I go home happy. 

Thursday, May 11th (Day 71)

I arrive at Willaston and stand outside with Mr Michael the lollypop man to welcome children and families into school. My day consists largely of lesson observations in the classrooms, continuing my work looking at teaching and learning in depth across the school. 

Friday, May 12th (Day 72)

A real highlight of the week to finish this blog on. I spend time in all three schools, beginning my day in Willaston School for their Celebration Assembly. I  jump in the car and head to Laxey School to be involved in their Celebration Assembly and its a double honour for me today as I get to see my daughter be awarded “Learning Hero.” A proud moment for sure. 

I have a meeting scheduled with my Head of School and the DESC Director of Strategic Advice for Education to discuss a placement matter which we conduct over Zoom. From here I jump in the car again and head to Dhoon School to be present at their Celebration Assembly. After a quick catch up with admin and a professional conversation with one of my teachers its back to Willaston to congratulate a candidate on being appointed to our cleaning staff. 

It has been an incredibly busy couple of weeks – no doubt some things have been missed from this blog because so much happens across the three schools every single day.

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