Ambition School Leadership - South West launch

Jan. 26, 2017

Bristol was the last of Ambition School Leadership’s regional launch events, which took CEO James Toop from Yorkshire and the Humber to the South West.

James Toop opened the event at Oasis Academy Brightstowe by welcoming everyone to the school. He also announced that Ambition School Leadership will be opening a new delivery hub in Exeter, as part of the organisation’s growth into the areas of the country which most need great school leadership.

Explaining the move, he said, “Our goal is to be a catalyst for leaders to improve children's outcomes and develop their leadership. There is great work going on across the country. We want to connect the bright spots.”

James Toop was joined by Rebecca Clark, Regional Schools Commissioner for the South West and previously a principal and executive principal in Bristol, and Nick Haisman-Smith, Chief Executive of Family Links and The Nurturing Schools Network.

Rebecca Clark spoke next, sharing her aim: “Across the South West, we will deliver an excellent education for every child.”

She noted that achieving this aim will be a challenge, and that we, as a sector and a society, need to understand social mobility and schools’ role in it. She stated that schools have an obvious part to play in closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, but that their remit goes far beyond that. Schools must prepare all their students for the future. Opportunity is a precious resource and it will only be redistributed if children are supported at every stage, from early years and every year.

To achieve this bigger remit schools must solve the problem of finding and incubating great staff, especially leaders, and how to ensure that talent goes where it will have the greatest impact. The South West is a diverse and large region, including rural, suburban and urban areas, so making sure all leaders are supported and in the right school is a real challenge.

To achieve this, Clark said, schools must be systematic about talent management, so that individuals can see a route through from NQT to MAT CEO. More than that, we must have networks that reach beyond individual schools so talent can be shared and development maximised.

Ambition School Leadership helps groups of schools across the country to build and share capacity. Clark ended with one final message: that schools and school leaders must have confidence in their collective strength, be prepared to look outwards and to build networks that will have a positive impact on children everywhere.

Next, Nick Haisman-Smith opened his talk by describing the work of Family Links; they support schools to improve parents’ and young people’s emotional health, engaging parents of children from antenatal to 18+.

Research shows that children whose families that struggling with emotional health are often less socially mobile. Family Links helps schools to provide coaching and support sessions for parents, which provide real benefits for parents and children alike. Sessions like these are particularly vital, Haisman-Smith says, at key points in children’s lives – for example phase transitions and adolescence.

Haisman-Smith stated that schools can help improve children's own well-being, but to do so the importance of well-being must be embedded in school culture. Family Links encourages schools to embed emotional well-being in the curriculum for children of every age.

They also work on teacher well-being; Haisman-Smith noted that healthy staff put in place healthy practices for their students, and so have a profound effect on their academic and life-long well-being.

Haisman-Smith went on to discuss the definition of emotional well-being, saying that while it’s a common term it can mean different things. The public conversation is often about mental illness, but rarely covers the positive assets necessary for good mental health, and how to maintain them.

He said, “For us, emotional well-being means the essential assets that we can encourage people to develop; self-awareness, self-regulation, the ability to form positive relationships and the skills to resolve conflict. It’s vital that we all understand mental end emotional health, so that when necessary we can ask for help.”

Thanking the speakers, James Toop summed up the event and outlined Ambition School Leadership’s role in improving outcomes for children across the South West. The organisation will: develop great leaders; nurture a network; research great leadership practice; and offer strategic support to local networks.

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