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29 June 2021

The Monday Briefing: The End

The Monday Briefing: The End

Following our final assembly on Friday, where I distributed a range of well-deserved prizes to the students for Academic Excellence, Improvement, Conduct and Contribution to the College, the dust has now started to settle on the first year of my tenure as Principal at Ealing. 

I have started to reflect on an unrelenting period, where my skills in problem solving were tested on numerous occasions, where the College, along with all schools this year, has had to adapt to a range of challenging issues, and where, it is clear, the College has emerged stronger.

The events of which I’m most proud this year, are those which involve the accomplishments of the students themselves, which, given the year of disruption and uncertainty, have been life affirming.

Internally, we have a vigorous, confident and ambitious student body - and I’m not sure I could say that a year ago. They have taken the initiative in redeveloping and redecorating their College, whilst creating a platform, by themselves, which truly speaks for them in the form of the College magazine, Distinct. They have embedded a charter against racism, and have given their all at a time when one could have understood giving up. They have been phenomenal.

Externally, we had two students shortlisted for national awards, now rightfully placed on the Roll of Honours for both the Lexden Prize for A Level students and its GCSE counterpart, the Whitbread Prize, with the Independent Schools Association. We also have a sizable contribution from the student body to a wide range of charities from the Royal British Legion to Hestia, which supports victims of domestic violence. We have a group of students ready to join the undergraduate community, whilst past students have reconnected with us through our Azoomni series.

When students are at the heart of everything we do, then I know the College is moving in the right direction.

This begs the question: how do we keep the momentum to enable further improvement?

A decision was made earlier this academic year that it would be fitting to have a Head Boy and Head Girl for the first time at Ealing. When given opportunities, the students have grasped them with both hands. It quickly became apparent from the quality of applications that this deserved greater thought and a bigger role for those who have put themselves forward. Those who did will now make up part of a Prefect Leadership team, which will build on the promising work of the student council this year, to have strong input and real power within the College. They will have regular meetings with me, and will be involved in fundamental College projects, the first of which being the establishment of an EIC staff-student charter, making abundantly clear the responsibilities which both bodies have to make the College and success, and the expectations of one another within that. The Prefect Leadership Team will represent all students, and I know they will do a fantastic job in doing so, moving Student Voice to a new level of influence here, and embedding fully a priority from 2020-2021.

Another area which has given me cause for optimism, in a similar vein, was the staff consultation which was collated during the last week, analysed and used to formulate the key priorities for the College in 2021-2022. It was incredibly fulfilling to hear the ideas of a positive and happy group of staff for how we can improve further, and widening the scope of two projects which had started to bear fruit before the lockdown of January have been identified as those which should take precedence.

Our extra-curricular programme, which will be enhanced and reinvigorated by a change in timeslot and the loosening of restrictions, will now feature many of the activities featured in Activities Week for our GCSE years in the last week of term. There is a palpable desire to make the most of what our local community has to offer: to challenge oneself to try new things; to collaborate and work together to embolden teams; and to increase confidence whilst doing so.

Our staff CPD programme will also be re-energised. It will be held at a more convenient time, and split focus between excellence in the classroom, informed by the staff-student charter, and wellbeing outside of it for all staff. We don’t just want good teachers and administrative staff here - we want staff who are proud to work at the College, who feel a sense of purpose and belonging here and who, themselves, feel supported and valued.

Last week, I attended a strategy day for Headteachers across the Bellevue group which focused on where we wanted to be, as a group of schools, by 2025. It was universally agreed that the pandemic had changed education fundamentally, and that the upcoming years would bring huge change: different foci; new problems; unique challenges. With those issues, however, come opportunities to excel. Another thing which was agreed in the conference was how well placed the Bellevue schools were to deliver something truly exceptional within the sector. Collaboration, underpinned by strong relationships and concise communication at every level of the organisation, will yield this moving forward. 

Following the constraints of Covid, I am hopeful that it won’t be a case of getting ‘back to normality’ come September. 

Rather, I’m fully aware that a new world is coming into focus. It is for us, and all schools, to define the narrative of it. 

At Ealing, and across Bellevue, that will be a future where the valuing of students and staff is paramount, where together we can.

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