Since this is a first for me, I’ve decided to take the easy route to #Nurture1415 with five positives from 2014 and five wishes for 2015.
They are in no particular order and I’ve mixed up work and personal as this perfectly reflects my integrated or, if you prefer, mixed up life.
Five Positives from 2014
I use the term playing in its loosest possible sense. I’m pretty hopeless at golf to the point that no matter what happens on the course it doesn’t really upset me. I consider the ball going anywhere near the hole, or for that matter the green, an added bonus. Playing golf is my metaphor for time spent with the family.
The furthest I had ever flown before this year was Pisa in Italy. But with our eldest daughter, Claire and her Australian partner Rhys, now living in Melbourne we took the long haul flight to the other side of the World. We enjoyed a fantastic two weeks visiting them, Rhys’ welcoming family and seeing the sights of Victoria. Saying goodbye was hard. Whilst the invisible bonds of love have an infinite ability to stretch, over time and space, the reality of Australia being the other side of the World hit hard.
I did actually wander around the golf course with Andrew on numerous occasions over the summer and it was great to just be together and chat about whatever. Emma, the second child of two second children, is oscillating between two careers – the one she loves and the other which puts money in the bank. Hopefully they can become one and the same for her.
I’m blessed to still have my mum and dad alive and 2015 will see then celebrate their 75th and 80th birthdays respectively. I should visit them more often, family matters.
Selling Our House (Twice)
Cath has wanted to move house for a number of years. There are practical reasons but it also signifies us building the next stage of our life together – the post-bringing up your children phase when hopefully there will be some more time for us as a couple. We won’t ever stop loving, caring or worrying about our grown up children but they are already independent, to varying extents, and it is time for them to spread their wings. I hope their greater independence will in time lead to a greater interdependence for us as a family.
We sold the house in September but everything fell through whilst we were away in Australia only for us to agree a sale again just before Christmas.
Connecting with Others
I deliberately limit how often I attend events particularly at weekends but I did manage to get out and about a bit. I attended @HeadsRoundTable in February where I added to the debate with Revise, Revise, Demise for Ofsted and then returned for another great day at Huntington School in May where I presented The Jerusalem & Babylon of Professional Development. I spent a lovely sunny day in Stratford at the BELMAS Conference, with Blagging Bloggers & Research Scientists, which gave me my first taste of a TeachMeet, before eventually doing my first presentation at a TeachMeet at the SSAT Conference in November. There was also the opportunity to have a right rant about Ofsted and their pending demise in the Summer at the Milton Keynes Inspiring Leadership Conference (#Imagine … Accountability, Intelligent & True).
It was great meeting so many people face to face some who had become friends in cyberspace and over the phone. It still makes me smile to meet people tentatively using real names only to end up chatting like long lost friends once we have shared our twitter handles.
Completing the Building Programme
From a dream seven years ago through the stages of visioning and then planning, we now have now officially opened St. Mary’s, Christ the King Catholic Academy and Christ the King Parish Church all interconnected on the one site. The opportunity to now focus on being, working and learning together is genuinely exciting.
Establishing the MAT
The summer holiday was a bit of a write off with all kind of complex negotiations to move Christ the King, St. Cuthbert’s and St. Mary’s to academy status within a multi academy trust. The legal team supporting our conversion described it as the most complex trust they had ever set up – it certainly felt like it.
We are now defined by our connectedness, the “I” and the “we” are in much greater balance and harmony. Leading the MAT and a team of headteachers will be my work for the coming years. In reality it may well be my last great educational adventure before retirement. I’m looking forward to the opportunities it will provide.
Five Wishes for 2015
It is always difficult to limit myself to five wishes as I am one of life’s dreamers but here goes …
A Better Work Life Balance
This is my equivalent of the give up smoking, doing more exercise or losing weight New Year’s resolution. Every year I promise myself and others that I will live a little more and work a little less. I run the risk of becoming Martha, from the Gospel, who was so busy working that she missed the important things in life. This year I promise (again) to do fewer things but to do them much better, focussing on the important and ignoring the peripheral. The massive building programme, forming the multi-academy trust and leading a large 11-18 school were collectively very stressful. I need some stress in my life, otherwise I find it difficult to get going, but too much doesn’t help me be the best leader or person that I can be. More focus, less stress is a New Year’s resolution.
Family Moving On Together
I’m not sure this is quite sure this is a wish but more of an acceptance that things may well change this year. For many years at open evenings I have used the phrase “roots to grow and wings to fly” to describe what we aim to do in educating other people’s children. We also try to provide the same for our own children. I sense Emma and Andrew, who both returned home after completing university degrees, may well move on this year. Whilst it is time for them to fly the nest it is with very mixed emotions that I will see them go. They need to find their own place in the World but I will miss them.
New Home & New House
Having sold the house it’s time to find another one which will serve us well for the next stage of our life. House hunting is interesting for me and Cath. Ever the home builder she is looking for a big eat in kitchen that we can welcome our grown up children, their partners and maybe one day grandchildren back to. We need enough bedrooms for them all to stay and something which will see us well into our old age. Ever the house builder I’m looking for a project. I’m time served having done up two family homes and recently led a £23.5 million capital programme. Hopefully we can find something to suit both our needs.
A More Authentic Education System
For a system to feel authentic then my story, our story and the story must be aligned. If you believe that education should create life enhancing opportunities for young people and the staff who work in it (the story), then performance related pay, competition between schools with its winners and losers and the current aggressive Ofsted machine (our story) don’t fit and this all leads to a lack of authenticity. It is time for a system built on greater co-operation and capital sharing where every child and evert teacher in every school matters. Greater equity and higher achievement is part of becoming great – it is a system thing.
More Dialogue, Less Monologue
Blogging and twitter are two of my great distractions in life. However, I’m guilty of using them more as a monologue than a dialogue – partly time constraints and now partly habit. Without compromising too many family weekends I will attend a couple of events this year. I’m looking forward to Northern Rock in the summer, may be in Glasgow in Spring 2015 and have an invite to think about for the Autumn Term. I’ve been asked to lead a series of one day courses on the early days of headship/senior leadership and hopefully these will happen in June & July 2015. I hope to meet more tweeters and bloggers this year.
I use to spend a few days per year visiting other schools and listening. It is a great means of professional learning. Just before Christmas I visited a fabulous school in London, offered some thoughts and learnt a few lessons. More of this next year, please.
I hope 2014 has been kind to you and your loved ones. As I always said to students, in our first assembly of the year, “This is the most important year of your life … it is as yet untouched … it is up to you to make the most of it.” May 2015 bring you every happiness and many blessings including the strength of body and mind to survive the difficult moments which may come along.
Look forward to joining the queue at Northern Rocks in June to meet face to face.
See you then:-)
Enjoyed reading this, Stephen – and it was great to meet you face to face in 2014!
“Do fewer things but do them much better, focussing on the important and ignoring the peripheral.” I know that this is easy to say and hard to stick to, but you’re obviously determined and motivated, and with the right amount of self-discipline I’m sure you can make it happen! My advice would be to try to convert this into specific actions – what will you do (small but important steps) and what will you definitely try to stop doing?
Hope you’re having a great Christmas holiday, and that 2015 is a positive, successful and enjoyable year for you and those you love!
Thanks Jill. The stop doing is always my massive challenge!
Great break, hope yours is too. Good to meet you last year as well. See you in 2015.