Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Getting Better All the Time

Getting Better All the Time

No, not a tribute to that great Beatles song – though it’s not a bad anthem for schools – but very much the theme for today, most of which (on my part) has been devoted to entertaining 15 fellow professionals following the Future Leaders’ course. These visitors were from the Midlands (good to hear voices from such a large chunk of my past!), already in senior positions in schools and preparing themselves, through this study tour amongst other activities, for headship. In truth, it’s not really about headship in places like the RGS. This focussed and effective programme equips school leaders to work in some of our most challenging and challenged schools: and it works, because I’ve met previous graduates.

As always happens in the best visits, it was truly an exchange of professional practice. Being questioned closely and searchingly by perceptive professionals – and I mean those adverbs! – makes us examine our own policy and practice: why do we do such things? Can we do better? What are the strengths on which we should build? Because it’s not good enough merely to be satisfied: we can always get better.

These future leaders are a symptom of what’s happening in education nationally, a real thirst for improvement driven by people who have that hunger, and the knowledge, confidence and expertise to ensure the improvement happens.

It’s an interesting time to receive such a visit, when we’ve just started analysing the colossal amount of data from the four surveys we’ve recently carried out: we’ve sought opinions from parents, students, teaching and support staff. It’s too early to come to conclusions, though a high level of agreement on common major themes is immediately apparent: but it certainly challenges my senior colleagues and me to think, so we felt particularly well-informed when our visitors quizzed us.

A great professional sharing, then: and a pleasure to meet such good, dedicated and similarly-minded colleagues from another area and sector.

And if that kind of improvement wasn’t enough, then at lunchtime I enjoyed a presentation from the four lower sixth-formers who’ve just completed their engineering placement scheme with Nissan. Their hosts really followed the spirit of the excellent Engineering Education Scheme. The students were given a real engineering challenge which, if their proposed solution is successful and implemented, will significantly streamline the production process for Nissan’s Juke and Note models in Sunderland. A real problem in real time: real engineering; real learning!

Oh, and while all that was happening, and so much other learning and endeavour going on as usual, everyone had paid £2 to Comic Relief to come in non-uniform. A generous thing, no great demand made of anyone, yet a collective result that makes real impact. 

Perhaps that’s a metaphor for education as a whole: it’s certainly been a good day.

Bernard Trafford
Headmaster