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

Tony Smith