This Week – 11th February 2019

I had the most glorious week last week interviewing and appointing 4 leaders of our core subjects. The fields for Head of maths, science, English and SENCo were exceptionally strong. I am very happy to say that the successful candidates were as delighted to accept the position as I was to offer it to them. They are all experienced teachers who have worked and /or lived in the area for several years. They are:

Grace Aikman – Head of English
Zoe Coomber – Head of maths
Sarah Creamer – Head of science
Amy Francis – SENCo

I will post a short profile of each of them on our website shortly. Students and parents have an opportunity to meet them and several members of our governing body at our Taster Lesson Morning on Saturday 2nd March. The Taster Morning runs in two sessions from either 9.30am to 11am or 11.30am to 1pm. Students sign up for their choice of an hour long lesson in English, science or maths and computing. As well as that, we will be asking students to help us draw a giant mural and sign their contribution. This will then take pride of place on the fencing on our new school site, along the Lower Luton Road, for the duration of the build. Parents won’t be left out though. I’m trying to arrange for a 3D walk through of the new build for you (we are all kids, just some of us are bigger than others!). There will also be a presentation from our admissions expert regarding accepting an offer of a place and how the continued interest provision is managed by HCC.

So sign up. More details on the website www.kwschool.co.uk

Kier issued their most recent update on the construction recently. Go to

http://www.kier-constructioneastern.co.uk/home/katherine-warington

Now we turn our attention to appointing further teaching staff in our core subjects with the Heads of Department contributing to the appointment panel as they build their teams. This is phase two of our recruitment process. This will take us up to the end of February. Further teaching staff will be recruited in March and then we will be looking for support staff across all fields from pastoral, finance and catering to cover supervisors and student support staff. Watch our website and TeachInHerts for details.

Katherine Warington Taster Lessons

I would like to invite you and your Year 6 child, to attend a learning morning on Saturday 2nd March at Roundwood Park Primary and Secondary School.  There will be activities designed to inspire learning and enjoyment and give your year 6 child a feel of what it will be like to be a student at Katherine Warington.

Please click here for more information.

 

This Week – 28th January 2019

This week has been taken up by two main events.  The first has been preparing for our first group of interviews for staff and the second was a two-day conference with New School Network.

We have received a fantastic response to our advertised positions in our first stage of recruitment for Heads of maths, English, science and SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator). A team of us have scrutinised the applications and selected a shortlist to go forward to interview. It is quite a task as we are not only selected based on teaching excellence, subject knowledge and the ability to lead and develop a core department but also the fact that these recruits will be joining me to lead the development of the school. In the team where Together Everyone Achieves More, there has to be a shared view on what is to be achieved! So without giving too much away, the interview process and questions are not just aimed at competencies and capabilities but teasing out people’s values and seeing if they align with ours.

Added to this is the practicality of how to stage such interviews. No school, no students, no other staff! A fundamental part is seeing the candidates teach and getting student feedback through a student panel. I am so grateful that we are part of a Trust with three schools who are driven by solid values of co-operation and community. Our candidates will teach at one of the three schools and face a student panel from each, thanks to the kindness of the other schools. I have faced several student panels and there is always at least one question that throws you – like “What is your favourite biscuit and why?”.  I have, to date, resisted the temptation as an economist to wax lyrical about Jaffa Cakes (biscuit or cake and the VAT implications of the answer to that!).

New School Network is a charity, set up in 2009 with the aim of supporting new schools as they set up and open. The Department for Education is keen for all new schools to engage with each other to benefit from shared experiences and the New School Network is ideal for that. So the two-day conference had a variety of speakers including Mela Watts, director of the DfE Free Schools Group, Lord Agnew, Under Secretary of State for the Schools System and several Heads from existing and successful new schools who had opened their doors in the last 5 years. It was a great opportunity to learn and network. In a room of about 100 people, I was the only one to raise my hand to the question “who is opening a school in September and is not part of a MAT or Academy chain?”. Splendid isolation though, as much a theme in today’s politics as it was for Lord Salisbury, isn’t quite true. With SJL, St George’s and Roundwood (plus the University of Herts and Rothamsted), Katherine Warington School may be a newborn but we are from excellent stock.

Finally, I’m in the process of working with Kier to set up some time lapse photography from the site as the build develops. Another source of regular site updates is the Kier KWS Project page at

www.kier-constructioneastern.co.uk/home/katherine-warington

Tony Smith

This Week 17th December 2018

Just wanted to sign off the year with a construction update.

Site works are now confirmed to start the week commencing 7th January 2019. All archaeological work is now complete with no new findings revealed.
Minor enabling works will be taking place on site from w/c 17th December 2018 in the guise of the following activities:

1. Tree surgeons will remove the shrubbery from in front of the new Common Lane access road.
2. All on-site fencing will be completed.
3. Bonding facilities for the ground-worker will be prepared. There will be a dumper and a digger on site to facilitate this operation.
4. Heavy equipment deliveries in preparation for start on 7th January.

There will be no site activity during the Christmas period 21st December to 2nd January.

This is a copy of the newsletter distributed by Kier to local residents impacted by the construction phase of the school. Click Here. 

We will be advertising four key positions from January 2nd- Head of maths, English, science and a Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator who will also be a qualified teacher. We will interview and appoint by the end of January.

So that leaves me with one last important task – to wish you all a peaceful Christmas and to thank everyone for their support and encouragement as we enter a very exciting, ground-breaking 2019.

Tony Smith

This Week 10th December 2018

The structure of the Trust has been in place for several years as we steer the proposal for the new school along the labyrinthine road from need to reality. As we now look forward to opening in September 2019, we have been reviewing the Trust structure as it becomes the governing body of the school. Represented on the Governing Body will be Roundwood Park, St Georges, Sir John Lawes, University of Hertfordshire and Rothamsted Research. We currently have vacancies for two Community Governors. The opportunity for parents of students to become governors will follow in the new year.

We are looking for Governors with a variety of skills, including the following areas:

• Legal
• Property and estates management

It is desirable but not essential for any applicant to have recent secondary school governance experience.

This is an exciting opportunity to join us before the school opens, helping to shape the school as it grows. There is a significant time commitment required of school governors and possibly even more for a new school. It’s approximately 2-3 hours a week. There will be some evening meetings plus meeting preparation time and regular training. There will also be a need to carry out school visits (1-2 per term) during school time.

All governors will adhere to the 7Nolan Principles of Public Life. For further information on being a school volunteer governor, please see:
https://www.governorsforschools.org.uk/volunteers/

If you would like to be considered for the role, please complete the application form electronically which is available from the Governor Vacancies page and send to:

recruitment@kwschool.co.uk

The closing date for applications is Monday 7th January. Applicants will be reviewed by the Trust, and may be invited to interview.

This Week 22nd November 2018

We are reaching the final stages of our technical acquisition for the school – that’s everything from computers to flat screens to phones. I’m glad to say that with a little bit of bargaining and arm twisting, it looks like we’ve managed to get pretty much everything on our shopping list including a school radio station and some drones!

I observed a Year 7 geography lesson this week. One of the key points I picked up was literacy and vocabulary challenge that can face new Year 7 students. It’s not ‘next to’ or ‘below’, it’s to the west of or to the south of. The specialised vocabulary and associated understanding can be daunting for new Year 7 students, especially when you multiply that across 10 subjects. There is a recent article in Schools Week from the Florence Pope School in Macclesfield all about the transition challenge. Most schools focus on and get the pastoral transition right but the literacy transition can also prevent a smooth crossing from Year 6 to Year 7. For example you need background knowledge to fully understand: ‘As the desert sun climbs overhead, the kangaroo rat burrows deep in the sand’ (Willingham/Lemov).

I did the Six Word Story challenge with my Year 7 creative writing class this week. It focuses on the power of words. Hemmingway famously responded to the challenge with ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’. My class voted our winner to be ‘Coffin lid closes, she’s still alive!’. We will assess the level of literacy of our new students at Katherine Warington very early in Year 7 so we can offer extra support and stretch where needed.

I went to the Reach Free School in Rickmansworth this week. They have just moved in to their newly built school now they have full year groups and opened a Sixth Form. It was fascinating listening to some of the staff who had been there through the entire journey. I took a lot away from the visit. Reach have had a successful Ofsted and a strong first set of GCSE results and I thank the senior team for their time.

Tony Smith

This Week 12th November 2018

There has been a tremendous reaction to the school and a fantastic volume of applications to join us as our first students in Year 7 in September 2019. The main window for applications is now closed and HCC will organise notifying families on National Offer Day on March 1st 2019. We still welcome applications, but they will be treated as late by HCC and not included in the first round of offers. We will arrange an event around that time to welcome students who have been offered a place and inform others about the arrangements for the continued interest process.

I’m told that survey work on site is edging slightly ahead of schedule as the weather has been kind so far. I will have a timeline shortly for the first phase of the build and the full school build which I will publish on the website highlighting significant milestones as we progress.

This week I chaired a fantastic meeting with our curriculum group as we discussed the details of our curriculum at Keystage 3 and 4. The focus was our additional learning opportunity at the end of each day from 3.30pm to 4pm. A very strong feeling emerged that our extra learning opportunity (period 7) should focus on developing the skills which emerge from and feedback into the knowledge taught in subject periods in the school day. We won’t be able to confirm the range of our period 7 offer until recruitment is finalised but I’ve already had some approaches from people to offer their time on a voluntary basis and our intention is to offer a wide range of opportunities such as critical thinking, young engineer, book club etc. We also have some great suggestions from students and parents who attended our open day. I’ll develop an option process so that students can select their period 7 on a termly basis then rotate. Orchestra and team sports will sit outside the options process so they can be pursued all year where applicable.

Finally, I attended a very interesting talk from Paul Hannaford on Drug Awareness at Rothamsted this week. It was arranged by the Harpenden secondary schools (with some financial support from the local council). It was a graphic, no holds barred insight into the reality of drug use and abuse and its devastating impact on individuals, families and friends of addicts. Paul is a former addict who now spends his time delivering talks and programmes to young people and parents. You can find out more about Paul’s work on his website www.paulhannaford.com

This Week 29th October 2018

It’s been a really energising week. We can finally get our teeth into developing a curriculum in detail. Whilst we have the parameters of a timetable and subjects, what we will teach, in what sequence and why will we do it this way, is at the heart of any school. The curriculum gives the school its purpose. Sometimes schools can fall into the trap of narrowing their curriculum and then teachers are encouraged to teach to ‘the test’. There is a lively debate amongst educators as to the ideal curriculum – knowledge based or skills based, or are these intrinsically linked with no real value added by false categorisation? Also what is the thinking behind some schools moving disadvantaged students on to a stripped back curriculum, perpetuating their disadvantage? A strong curriculum in depth, breadth and reach is the starting point. A rich curriculum can deliver exam success provided it is implemented through well taught and appropriately sequenced content, thoughtfully designed assessment practice and an appropriate model of progression. So perhaps after the endless months of wrangling over the school being built, you can understand my delight at being able to move forward to discuss what we teach and when, how much depth at what stage and which subject ideas we will link together. Then we move on to what resources to allocate, which way to teach and how to make sure all students are able to access each new concept, construct or fact. We are designing a curriculum with clear intent, to be implemented consistently and which will continually evaluate the knowledge and skills students have gained against expectations.

I have also been developing the teacher recruitment arrangements for the new school. I find this far more energising than discussions about battery versus radio controlled clocks for classrooms! We have a list of potential teaching staff who have expressed their interest over the past months and we are beginning the process of contacting them as well as finalising the job specifications and personal specifications. Vacancy adverts will run just after Christmas for key teaching staff then I’ll begin support staff recruitment in the Spring. The logistics involved with observing candidates teaching Year 7 students could be a stretch but I intend to reach out to our partner secondary schools and see if I can run that aspect of the recruitment programme at their schools.

Finally DON’T MISS THE APPLICATION DEADLINE. It’s tomorrow, the 31st October. Make sure you aren’t haunted by the spectre of lost opportunity!

This week 20th October 2018

It has been an interesting week full of diverse issues.  We are at the stage of finalising the furniture, fixtures and equipment for the finished school (FF&E), so lots of conversations about the type of folding tables in the dining area, vinyl versus carpet in various parts of the school, radio controlled clocks versus battery clocks and whether the radio signal would actually work through the walls!

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