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    Teaching is a People Business - update from RET CEO and Executive Headteacher, Rachael Warwick

    Posted on: 13/12/2021

    I interviewed a teacher once whose response to our ubiquitous question about how they demonstrate resilience was a story about jellyfish. On holiday, swimming in the sea, she came across a huge swarm of jellyfish and realising there was no other way out of the situation, took a deep breath and picked her way through and around the jellyfish until she exited the other side of the swarm. As someone who has a particular fear of jellyfish this story has stayed with me. We appointed the member of staff in question who has proceeded to display huge resilience.

    Teaching is a people business. Systems and structures are important, they help to create coherence and deliver consistency, but it’s people who are at the heart of great schools. In what is nearly thirty years working in education, I’ve learnt that appointing people on character as much as talent is what builds great teams and great teams build great schools. Of course, people need to be technically expert in their field of specialism, but they also need to demonstrate resilience and positivity, bring solutions to their own problems and, fundamentally, love working with children and young people. The RET values of integrity, respect and leading for legacy are at the heart of our work together. 

    Our Trust serves 2,700 children and young people. Much of my working life is spent in using my unique perspective across our three schools, St Birinus School, Sutton Courtenay (CofE) Primary School and Didcot Girls’ School, to bring together what is best about each for the benefit of all children and young people. I appreciate this may not always be immediately obvious to parents. What benefit is there to my child of their school being a part of Ridgeway Education Trust? This is a really good question - and the answer is invariably about people:

    Sutton Courtenay (CofE) Primary School

    Didcot Girls’ School’s Miss Slater teaches PE and Miss Melidis teaches Music to KS2 children at the primary school every week. Miss King and Mrs Wickham work closely with Miss Parks the SCCEPS Maths lead, to support the development of the mastery maths curriculum and with staff training. Mrs Corris from DGS is helping to support the development of the Science curriculum and Mr Lawton and Miss Street from DGS have ongoing involvement in the History curriculum. Miss Howells from St Birinus works a day a week at the primary school to support with safeguarding.

    St Birinus School and Didcot Girls’ School

    Sharing staff across the secondary schools allows us to ensure that the broad KS3 and KS4 curriculum offer is taught by specialists at both schools. Currently, Miss Robertson teaches Drama at SBS, Mrs Hook teaches Dance, Miss Saunders and Miss Liang teach Chinese, Mr Byrne teaches Computer Science, Miss Edwards teaches Music and Miss Hanna teaches Psychology. Food is taught at Didcot Girls’ School by Mrs Kumagi and Music by Mr Foxon from St Birinus. The longstanding highly successful mixed sixth from means that students are taught by both DGS and SBS teachers in Didcot Sixth Form.

    Trust-wide leadership roles

    We have created opportunities from some of our most experienced teachers to take on leadership roles across the Trust. This creates excellent opportunities for children, whatever school they are in. For example:

    • Dr Khan, Director of Ethos for RET, has established a Leadership Ladder (known as the STAR programme at SCCEPS) in each school, creating opportunities for children to engage in a rich extra-curricular offer as well as developing leadership skills for the future
    • Mrs Ashton, Assistant Headteacher at DGS works a day a week as RET Associate Director of Education implementing the Early Careers Framework, ensuring that all new teachers in the Trust receive exceptional support
    • Mr George leads on Careers education across the Trust: the Year 11 Careers Fair which was first established at DGS now includes Year 11 boys, and DGS students take part in SBS’s annual BIG STEM careers event planned by Miss Nutley, SBS Careers Lead, for February.
    • Mr Rees leads on our digital strategy across the Trust. This meant that the schools were able to respond quickly and extremely effectively to the demands for remote education over the last eighteen months. We are committed to continuing to innovate and develop in this space.

    Business Studies, Computer Science and Maths also have Trust-wide leaders and this ensures that we share best practice across the three schools. We are beginning to realise our ambition of a seamless 4-19 curriculum. Miss Streets leads on developing leaders across the Trust - this is an investment in people, our next generation of RET leaders.

    Superb Extra and Supra-curricular opportunities

    We refer to extra-curricular activities as ‘the other half’, alongside the taught curriculum: they are essential to an all-round excellent education. We have deliberately created a structure which enables children from across the Trust to access this offer. For example:

    • Mr Dingley, RET Director of Music, involves children from all three schools in the superb RET Music Concerts. We look forward to the Christmas concert on Wednesday 15th December
    • A highlight of the school year, the Dance Show at Cornerstone, is back in April next year and will include dancers from both St Birinus School and Didcot Girls’ School
    • ‘We Will Rock You’ is this year’s drama production brought to us in February by students from both secondary schools
    • Sixth Form students mentor younger students in both secondary schools and the feedback from both groups is that this is a highlight of their weeks. We are exploring how to expand further our provision of sixth form mentors
    • RET’s Climate Action Steering Group organised a hugely successful RET Climate Conference in November and there is exciting work planned for the future

    Support Staff Services

    RET hubs for finance, premises, IT and catering are led by exceptional people who work brilliantly together. This means that the Headteachers and their teams can focus on the quality of education rather than worrying about a burst pipe, the tender for the new food supplies provider or how to replace projectors across the school. This allows leaders and teachers to focus on what they do best, and the economies of scale of working together in this hub structure allow us to make financial savings.

    What next?

    There is always plenty of work and more to do. Our excellent Trustees, another group of people who add huge value to RET, are interested in growth and we explore opportunities that are congruent with our vision for providing excellent education with our local and wider communities.

    Teaching is a people business. The more opportunities I find for people to collaborate across the Trust, the stronger we will be. In the words of Hellen Keller: ‘Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.’ This has been a year of tremendous challenges for us all. Yet, perhaps precisely because of this, collaboration across our schools has never been stronger.

    My final note on the importance of great people is to thank all of the 350 staff who work across RET. It is privilege to work with you all. In particular, let me thank our Headteachers: Mrs Hornsey, Miss Littler and Mr Manning. Great people doing great work, often in the face of significant challenges. Thank you to those families who appreciate their phenomenal hard work and take the time to contact them to acknowledge this. It is appreciated.

    I wish you all a safe, restful and happy festive season and look forward to what we will achieve together for the benefit of all our children and young people in 2022.

    Written by Mrs R Warwick - RET CEO and Executive Headteacher

    Written by Mrs R Warwick - RET CEO and Executive Headteacher

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