Thursday, 22 October 2015

Twists, Challenges and Rewards

“I am on a lonely road and I am travelling
Looking for the key to set me free”,                Joni Mitchell

“The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when”,                  The Hollies

The lyrics from these songs encapsulate all of our journeys at our college, whether it is as a student or a member of staff.  None of us knows where the road will lead and, undoubtedly, there will be many twists, challenges and hopefully rewards and enjoyment too.

Having just returned from one of my learning walks, I have been delighted by the very purposeful learning, teaching and assessment that I have just witnessed.  It makes me so proud that this is happening at our college and fills me with great confidence about the future.

As I came out of the Ash building, I saw our footballers training with our 1st team coach, Nick Barmby.  How brilliant is that?  What a great honour for us to have Nick Barmby at our college and to have the privilege of learning from someone who has played and coached at the highest level.

In-between writing this, I have just been to congratulate staff from one of our most successful departments at a results review meeting, that have performed at the highest level ever since I have been at the college.  In fact, I would say that the department has got better and better each year.  I cannot commend the staff any more than I have and it makes me a little emotional when I think about how hard they work to ensure the success of our wonderful students.  This is one of the best bits about being a Principal and nothing can prepare you for this experience – a real sense of elation, pride and humility.  As students, I do not think that anywhere else in the country can offer you more.

How time flies?  I cannot believe it is already nearly half-term and we are about to embark on our first Open Evening.  It only seems like yesterday when we came back in September with so many new faces, new names to learn, full of hope and expectancy about the new academic year.  For many of you, our college was a completely 'new' place and the start of a new episode in your lives.  I do hope that it has been worthwhile and that you are really pleased to have come here.

So much has happened within the last six weeks: trips, visits to universities, national competitions, tests, auditions for our cross-college performance of Chicago, dancing, singing in the theatre last week, presentations in class, beautiful and humorous poetry throughout the college, queueing to have your photo taken for our whole college photograph (which is now up), posing for the latest college prospectus, UCAS and all of us learning together.  This is what makes our college so special.  It is far greater than the sum of the parts and I do know that this experience is unique to our college.

For me, the bike ride to Scarborough last Wednesday was certainly a highlight.  To have the privilege of cycling with such brilliant colleagues: the fun; the banter; the ‘craic’; and of course the fish and chips.  I have rarely met such determined and supportive colleagues and the whole team, the fellow cyclists, drivers and sponsors, were a revelation as well as a fabulous cake sale on Monday.  It proves how powerful we can be if we operate as a team for a common purpose.

As I think about national events around us, I am saddened by so many things: the loss of jobs in our steel industry; the refugee crisis from Syria; the migration of people from one part of the world to another and the accompanying personal dangers; the creation of a new grammar school in Kent when all the evidence suggest that they (grammar schools) inhibit social mobility; the cuts in tax credits for the most vulnerable families; the new contracts for junior doctors which will mean that many will have to work for over 90 hours per week; the short termism at my beloved Leeds United (I am distraught that those with money make rash personal decisions whilst supporters show so much loyalty).  I was so full of hope this season and now I can only watch from a detached and numbed state from afar.

However, there are many good things too: the 84 Church of England Bishops who are campaigning to help provide housing, foster care and support for the 50,000 refugees; the launch of the Women's Equality Party; the Bestselling Book by Sophie Sabbage about beating the fear of cancer; and, of course, being at our college around so many enthusiastic, energetic, fun-filled people.  It is certainly so uplifting to hear the "beautiful conversations" and my advice to you is summed up by a verse of Steve Millar:

"Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future …
I want to fly like an Eagle
Let my spirit carry me …."

Well done on the first 6/7 weeks.  Make the most of your time, work hard, play hard and be open to the learning culture at our college.  Have a great half-term.