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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

John Dexter - Education Director

Once again the end of year approaches and as is ever the case change is in the air. Exams and SATs over, we get lulled into the idea of a quieter summer and it’s just a different kind of busyness. Festivals, Arts weeks, Carnivals, contributions to community activities, trips off site, school camps and residentials, music, dance, drama, exhibitions, sports days, competitions……oh and some semblance of the usual routines of teaching and learning, as often as we can do in our classrooms.   Thank you to everyone who gets involved in that very rich tapestry, which we all know is so vital for City children. I suspect that ‘extra-curricular’ will become ‘curricular’ in the autumn term’s new framework. Interesting to find myself chatting to primaries this summer concerned about how their year 6 will fare on changing sector and in parallel conversations with secondaries concerned how year 7 will cope. I have loved to hear of the flow of information, and meetings, the shared interest and the developing inclusiveness, long may that continue. There will always be a desire for better information but transition remains an important objective for smoothing the journey and ensuring everyone gets off to the good start, settling socially but also  the learning. There has also been change in many of our recently inspected Nottingham schools and last summer I mentioned we had got back to the position prior to the autumn 2013 ( the dark autumn of Ofsted and secondaries) and over the last year we have seen a steady increase in the numbers of children attending good or outstanding schools from 83%  to almost 90%. If you have contributed to that in any way, especially if you work in one of the eight primaries who have moved from RI to good, well a very big thank you. Thanks to school leaders, heads, teachers, governors, support staff, Trust officers and of course children. Like most things it’s always a team effort and it’s been good to sense partnership working effectively in schools and between everyone. If you were not inspected an equally big thank you, after all we all do the job to make a difference whether inspection looms or not.

Social media locally continues to highlight many exciting activities and events that our children are involved in and succeeding with too. I am pleased the Education Improvement Board will be looking in future to see how this can be built on by developing a cultural offer using the resources, traditions and history of the City to best effect. This feels like a good direction for more partnership work and to be able to bring to life some parts of the curriculum in the new world of a new framework. A partnership which worked well over our combined literacy work – from the Dolly Parton Imagination for early years, the recent Big Read campaign, our highlighting the message ‘Listen Read Talk to your children” on light night’, the role of the ‘young City of literature ambassadors’ and then of course all the important work done in schools to help children learn to read and to foster a love of reading. Let’s hope the Summer reading challenge for 2019 is equally successful on the space theme and the #storyparks fun as well as a play touring the libraries – do encourage involvement.

One further of those opportunities highlighted the best of outcomes for me in the spring term. About 350 Y8 from 8 secondary schools came to a ‘Spring into Science’ lecture at the University, many of course seeing a University for the first time. But the content delivered by two committed professors showed such opportunity at its best. Content pupils should know from lessons about frequency, amplitude etc. Then content they hear about but at best see on a video such as the famous wine glass shattering at the perfect note sung at the resonance frequency. Then some real frontier science using light to transmit sound with a virtual drum. The Q and A that followed showed how we can use such opportunity to teach the basics and raise ambition and aspiration. However it works best when we work together, pupils prepared, lecturers well briefed and someone coordinating the event. Thank you to schools, NCC and the University.

This time of year also brings farewells to those leaving for promotion maybe for family reasons, retirement or just moving on. You will be having celebrations, and then getting back to lessons but also colleagues trying to make appointments filling gaps in your organisation – all vital, people matter in our job. I try not to mention individual schools or people but this term has an exception and David Stewart is known to so many of you and has been at the City working in special education for over 40 years. Few people have been through 6 inspections and all at outstanding and a headteacher since 1992. David has run a wonderful special school but he has always advocated for and trumpeted the cause of every child in a polite, generous, determined and highly effective manner. His departure leaves us a great legacy, much wider than his own school and very special to many City families and children, some with the most complex of needs. His is a great role model of kindness, passion, determination, and effective teaching. Thank you David and long may that be our collective mantra.

When you get there, have a good break, those of you coming in for results in August our best wishes for smooth operations and successful outcomes, but enjoy the well deserved change to your routine and we all look forward to continuing to develop those partnerships in September.