In 2008 after a period of 3 months “on/off, on/off” whilst the Government of the time made their mind up over the concept of Academies, I finally started work at Brooke Weston Partnership on 1st December 2008.
Having completed a Prince2 project management course at night school I’d joined BWP to be the “Project Lead” for the creation of what are now commonplace but then a relative new entity in the education landscape: an Academy. Throughout my adult life I’d had a varied career; starting out in Leicester as a regular PE teacher to finishing as an Assistant Headteacher in Coventry. During that time, I’d also worked for the Youth Sport Trust with the RFU in Bath & led expeditions to the jungles & high mountains of Central America. But my new role with BWP was a complete change in direction but the fresh challenge I was looking for.
Working directly to Sir Peter Simpson was a very different experience, unswerving in standards and values I wasn’t let off the lead for at least the first 3 months until I understood the Brooke Weston way & could be trusted not to go native. A formidable character but he gave me the experience & opportunities that provided a fast-track entry into the world of Academies, local authorities & on occasion into the heart of the DFE.
Between 2009 & 2013 the formation of what BWT is now swiftly came to fruition; alongside Ise Community College, Henry Gotch, Beanfield, Gretton, Oakley Vale, Peckover & Thomas Clarkson were all converted into Academies and the MAT “The Brooke Weston Trust” was founded.
In 2011 the Government announced the next initiative for the education sector - Free Schools. I recall being up to my knees in mud on the KSA construction site the BlackBerry (which had already had numerous trips through washing machines) rang & after scrabbling to press the answer button it was Sir Peter. Coming straight to the point he told me to come straight over as he had an idea. Immediately thinking the worse I rushed to Corby where he casually shared his idea & so began the creation of Corby Technical School.
Since 2008 no two days have been the same; from metal cabins on building sites to covid school closures & HAZMAT suits, from Sandhurst to an “Afghan” village in Norfolk with CCF, being banned from the Corby Council chambers at the Cube to being awarded the “golden feather” by the leadership team of the Red Kite Special Academy, from presenting on the main stage at the Academies Show to being introduced by George Weston to the Prime Minister at a Downing Street party; looking back surreal experiences.
There have been several strap lines & mission statements put forward by the Trust, but “Ambition” has been a consistent watchword for the property portfolio of BWT. The ambitious expectations of quality established at Brooke Weston CTC then escalated in the design and construction of Corby Business Academy which set the new standards and promoted the focus on continued capital investment in the schools of the Trust. From the classroom displays & National Trust fields at Peckover to the Free schools built on “refurbishment money”; from nurseries to the 6th form block at KSA; our school buildings are the envy of all those that visit them.
Not since the Building Schools for the Future days has there been enough funding in the education estates sector to do all that we need to do let alone all that we would want to do, I am however fiercely proud of the school environment that we have created for children to learn in.
Key themes for me over 14 years have been “leadership without authority” and “managing upwards”. I have never had line management duty for any of the Premises & Facilities teams across our schools, it has not been an easy task in seeking to guide and lead the strategic direction of the property portfolio with so many moving parts. Balancing the competing demands of the curriculum leads with ensuring that as a minimum our schools are warm, safe, dry, &, now in sharper focus, sustainable has not been without challenge. Our recent work on improving the environmental sustainability of the estate has enabled the solar panels on our buildings to have generated to date over 1GW of free green electricity - enough to power over 1/2million homes for 1 year.
Dr Campbell encouraged me to go out and “be a good neighbour” and an ambassador in the estates sector for the Trust. I was invited to join a group of likeminded individuals who wanted to collaborate to help develop the MAT education estate. Six years ago there were 12 Trusts sitting around a table, that group became The Trust Network which now has over 600 MATs as members with the organisation a key partner with DFE and named in Government policy for developing support for Estates professionals across the country.
I began my time with Brooke Weston Partnership in Kettering (sharing a desk with Matt Robbins & Debbie Tysoe in the old Ise College building, that desk was actually in a toilet which we had to vacate after lunch to let the catering staff get changed!) & now 14 years later I’m back, albeit in far more palatial surroundings! I have had the fortune to meet and work with remarkable people along the journey with BWT, & as daft as it sounds for someone who has had a career in making spaces & places it is the people that really matter not necessarily the space or place you work in. That said we have delivered a property portfolio that will provide a legacy of positive impact for generations to come.
There is much more I could ramble on about; CCF for example & the phenomenal opportunities that it gives young people probably needs an article all by itself.
However, in 2022 returning to Kettering where it all started seems an appropriate time to complete the circle and branch out in search of a new challenge. For those that don’t know I leave BWT at Christmas, I hope I’ll see you around perhaps working on the new Wisbech free school project or at an education conference or on an Exercise with CCF.
Thank you BWT & to borrow a phrase from Sir Peter after I brought back a Civic Trust Award for the KSA project or we secured the Corby Free School project, “that’ll do Matt, that’ll do.”