11 September 2023

The Monday Briefing: Into the Groove

The Monday Briefing: 11th Sept - Into the Groove

It really was wonderful to welcome students back to the College on Friday following three productive Inset days. I said to students during the assemblies I gave, and I’m happy to share in the blog, that I likened it to a dead carcass having life breathed into it.

Where it was quiet, bland and feeling rather clinical, the colour, vibrancy and vitality returned - and EIC is all the better for it.

Following the Covid break, I reflected on what I had missed most from imposed exile from the classrooms and corridors of the College. Without doubt it was the small interactions which simply could not be replaced: the jolly ‘Yes, Sir!!!’ from the jack-the-lad in Year 13; the enthusiastic ‘Morning, Allan’ from the dedicated year 12 girl; the too-cool-for-school head tilt from the cagey Year 11s.

The Inset days which preceded our Student Induction Day were very productive. Starting with my introduction to the academic year, and a safeguarding update from the Vice Principal, staff were given time to start preparing for the new academic year. New joiners were given extensive guidance on systems and processes in the College, and a whole staff meeting was held on Thursday - a deep dive into how we tackle one of the pressing issues in education today: how we encourage and maintain high attendance amongst our students. Having a united approach to such a key area is vital, and all staff agreed on a graduated process which equates to a ‘no stone left unturned approach’. We will do absolutely everything in our power to get students in and strain every sinew to give them the best chance of seeing College life as welcoming, productive and empowering.

There was lots to do on Student Induction day, and it often sets the tone for the year ahead: Rules and guidelines to refamiliarise themselves with; electronic planners to set up and start to compile; CAT4 tests to work through, determining potential targets to work towards for the year; timetables to get to know and start getting used to. All of this is done in one busy day to ensure that the tone is set for the year, and that students are ready to ‘hit the ground running and never look back’ from the first day of teaching.

I was at pains to stress to all students that not a moment should be wasted in the opening weeks. With a serious start comes serious progress, and the building of momentum. There is no better start than a fast one.

I have seven requests of all students in my first assembly - I’ll share them with you here:


1 - Be Here

As I referenced earlier, attendance is a burning issue in education. So many students are finding that overcoming the barriers to setting foot in school are a bridge too far. The fact of the matter is that there is a direct correlation between attendance and achievement, and I ensured that the students understood this. I was pleased to see almost all of our enrolled students on Friday. Those who were not were generally on the way back from abroad and delayed, or completing the process of becoming students at Ealing. 90% is the benchmark, and even then, I want to see each and every one of our students with attendance records above that.


2 - Be On Time

One of my great annoyances is poor punctuality. I very much dislike being late myself - if it happens once for me, that’s too much, and I vow never to let such an occurrence repeat. The vagaries of the London transport system can sometimes play havoc with this of course, but that should not be an excuse. And not should it become a pattern. And so, students know that staff will be confronting any lateness head on.


3 - Try Your Best

This simply means putting in full effort, at all times. Each and every one of our students enrolled with a goal in mind, whether that be GCSEs or A Levels, and the only way they will succeed in the goal is through full effort - so don’t waste a moment. Seeking a utopian educational establishment where every student gets A* in A Levels or 9 in GCSE is an impossibility for us - or indeed any school. A more realistic goal is in bringing about full effort in students, and taking pride in this state of affairs.


4 - Find the way to get the best from yourself

This will obviously happen in different ways for different students but it all starts with having high standards. Not striving for anything other than the best one can do. A key trait of an EIC student is proactivity in learning. Where there is doubt, clarify with a teacher until none is left. I shared with all students the methods of a former student, Tom Harper, who didn’t leave every day until he had answered every question on his ‘medallion of misunderstanding’. It’s easy to make excuses and put barriers up as reasons to justify not reaching this level, but students must find a way past these.


5 - Don’t get in the way of anyone else’s learning

I read a great tweet over the summer which stated that school rules could be encompassed in just two lines: Do Your Best; and Don’t stop anyone else from doing their best. There is no room for disruption of lessons at the College, and nor should focus be dropped. I stated in the strongest possible terms that ‘Learning is the number one priority while you are here.’ Always.


6 - Contribute to the College

An important part of being a valued member of the College community is to give as much as one takes from the institution. This means that they understand the importance of looking after one another. A simple rule is applied at Ealing: if someone needs help - then don’t give it a second thought - help them. This can be as simple as affirming an answer or encouraging someone when they get it wrong. It was really pleasing to hear Maria - the Attendance Officer and Student Liaison in the office - when she said to me that on four separate occasions, she had had a door held open for her. That’s exactly the sort of work place I want to come to every day.


7 - Act well on trust

I’ve often told students that Ealing is a College which runs on trust. Students have such freedoms here - a less rigid approach to rules and regulations around uniform and how they address staff, along with flexibility over how many subjects they study and the make-up of them - that they need to pay back that trust by respecting the territory they are given. This means taking care of the facilities. This means abiding by the rules we do have, like keeping mobile phones out of lessons, or challenging behaviour which undermines the learning or wellbeing of others. Finally, it means telling the truth, even when it might get them or someone else in trouble. Only then can a mutually progressive relationship between staff and students pervade everything we do.


I know it won’t take long for students to get into this groove. When it’s firmly embedded, it’s a potent way of being which will endure long after their time at Ealing has become a distant memory.


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