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  • Doesn’t an Apprentice Lay Bricks?

    Published 12/01/23, by Kat Pithey

    "6:53am. 2019. My plane touches down at Manchester airport and that’s it – I’ve decided – I’m never stepping foot in a classroom again!..."

    Have a read of our latest blog from one of our ECT's, Alex Kendal, about his journey as an Apprentice Teacher and how he re-discovered his love of teaching. 

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  • Saying Goodbye to our Trust Director of Estates

    Published 13/12/22, by Kat Pithey

    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.”

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  • Every Day is Different for a SENDCo

    Published 29/11/22, by Kat Pithey

    My name is Becky Annetts and have been teaching for 20 years (it sounds a long time when you put it down on paper!). I began my teaching career in a primary school in Kettering and was lucky to have the experience of teaching across several year groups and supporting children with a variety of different special educational needs. The time came for a new challenge and Oakley Vale Primary School was about to open...

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  • Dawn Longhurst - Masters Degree in Expert Teaching

    Published 16/11/22, by Kat Pithey

    My name is Dawn Longhurst, a current Year 4 teacher at Beanfield Primary School. Like many of us, I am someone who loves to learn and have become increasingly more fascinated with the science behind how we learn. It was for this reason that when I saw the opportunity to apply for Ambition Institute’s Masters Degree in Expert Teaching, with the support from my school and the Trust, I decided to apply. Fast forward two years later and I have just attended my graduation ceremony, passing with merit. I struggled to pinpoint what I wanted to write about in this blog, having learnt so much, where did I start?! I then remembered at the end of any conference or reading I did, I was always asked the same question – ‘What were your key takeaways?’ So, I intend to challenge myself here to share just a few of my key learning points from each of the six modules…here goes!

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  • Isn't the World a crazy place?

    Published 11/10/22, by Admin

    As a teacher of 13 years and a Vice Principal of 10 years, I think everyone could see my move into headship...except me! My family, my colleagues, my Trust told me that I would eventually become a head, but I was adamant that this wasn’t going to happen…so here is my blog about my first year of headship! Isn’t the world a crazy place?

    When I was first approached about taking over Peckover Primary School as the Interim Principal, it was a great surprise. I had worked in a very close partnership with the old Principal and we’d always joked ‘If you go, I go’ and we were certain that we’d both end up working at Tesco’s on checkout numbers 12 and 13 – the ones opposite the alcohol aisle. And here I was just about to embark on the biggest learning curve of my life.

    I was very lucky to have a term to get used to the idea and to plan what the school would look like, under my leadership, but when September came around, no one could’ve prepared me for what THAT CHAIR really meant.

    Planning my first training day was the first challenge – how did I deliver an inspiring message to the staff and governors that demonstrated that I was a credible successor for the school. Time for my big-girl pants! In previous years, training day had always been someone else’s responsibility. My role had been to support the Principal and affirm and reinforce all the message that were being delivered and now they were my messages! Is it appropriate to say I really wanted to wear extra pairs of big-girl pants to help me?

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  • Mrs Lee sum, latine magister sum!

    Published 27/09/22, by Admin

    Mrs Lee sum, latine magister sum!

    A normal day in October, a cool breeze and hazy sunshine - today was going to be a good day!

    I was greeted by my Principal, Mrs Kendal and Assistant Vice-Principal, both smiling with an over enthusiastic ‘good morning, have you got a minute?!’ I immediately wracked my brain - oh no! What did I do or not do? Was it too late to feign illness or injury?

    It started well - much praise for my contribution to school life and my work ethic, my love for academia and a challenge was mentioned. Then, came the reason for the impromptu meeting ‘How do you feel about Latin?’

    Having been educated by Nuns, this was the image that came to mind instantly ... I explained that I had studied some Latin at school for religious reasons but had enjoyed the classics. This went down well with the Principal and the AVP. I was going to teach Latin for the rest of the school year to KS2.

    I shadowed the Latin lead for a couple of weeks until she departed to pastures new, buried myself in books and on-line Latin courses. I was in the full throws of ‘geekdom’. I found the whole language compelling, the origins and etymology of words, the mythological creatures and the morals behind the stories. I couldn’t wait to share this with the children!

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  • Using Artworks in the Classroom

    Published 23/06/22, by Admin

    My name is Grainne Purkiss and I am Curriculum Lead at Oakley Vale Primary School. I have been working in education for over 25 years and prior to my “calling” I worked as a menswear fashion buyer for the long-dead Burton Group.

    Once upon a time, and it really was a very long time ago, a very posh lady came to talk to my class about art. At the time I worked in one of the most deprived areas of Leicester (in fact one of the worst five in the country). The very posh lady proceeded to show, on an old slide projector, in the blacked-out music room the picture Titian’s “Bacchus and Ariadne” and I held my breath awaiting the oncoming car crash because the very posh lady asked my children what they could “see”.

    “A monkey”. They replied. And “why are they dancing?” she said. “They’ve been drinking vodka”

    The very posh lady brought the children up to the screen and asked them to show how they thought the artist painted the picture, providing them with an artist’s palette and paint brush (and beret!) and wham, those children were hooked. Hooked because none of their answers were deemed “wrong”, hooked because – posh lady reasons - and hooked because they were given a chance to enjoy stillness and quiet, calm reflection.

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  • Use of puppets and Makaton within the class

    Published 08/06/22, by Admin

    My name is Claire Farthing and I have worked within the early years sector for over 20 years now. Within that time practice has evolved along with the curriculum and research. However, one teaching tool that I consistently use is the use of Makaton and puppets within the classroom.

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  • Effective Use of Libraries to Support Reading

    Published 14/03/22, by Admin

    “I don’t like reading” or “I can’t read properly”.

    How many times have we heard this when asking children to read? Especially after covid lockdown when children have lost that reading habit?       

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  • Oh no, not fractions!

    Published 04/03/22, by Admin

    When I cheerfully announced to my Year 4 class at the end of a Maths lesson that we would be starting fractions next week, it’s safe to say that their reaction was rather… lacklustre. This piece of information was met with groans, a few theatrical gasps and so many nervous glances around at their peers that you’d think I’d just announced the not-so-untimely demise of TikTok. Alas, all it took was the very mention of the word ‘fraction’ to strike fear, trepidation and teenager-like sullenness into the hearts of my usually enthusiastic 8-9 year olds. Funnily enough, I’m sure I would have received a very similar reaction had I made the same announcement in the staff room at lunchtime. In fact, upon realising that fractions were fast approaching when discussing planning with a colleague, my own reaction was not dissimilar. This led me to ask myself why teachers and pupils alike often have a less positive attitude towards fractions than other areas of Maths and, put simply, it is this: fractions are HARD.

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  • Developing Rosenshines Principles in the Classroom

    Published 01/02/22, by Admin

    There are many different routes in teaching these days, and my journey was certainly an interesting one! Having spent a couple of years volunteering (which was only ever meant to be two weeks) and a couple more years working as a teaching assistant at Beanfield Primary, I successfully qualified as a teacher on an EYFS focussed school direct programme. This involved spending the majority of the year in a year 2 classroom with a fantastic mentor, an incredibly enjoyable ten week placement in a nursery and occasional study weeks with an EYFS focus. What I discovered in the subsequent early years of my career is that as useful as ‘learning on the job’ was, I had been taught very little about the science behind teaching. In my fourth year of teaching, I participated in the ‘Developing Outstanding Pedagogy’ programme provided by the BWT Primary Training Hub which focused on implementing Rosenshine’s principles in the classroom.

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  • Should Phonics be taught in Nursery?

    Published 20/01/22, by Admin

    From a young age I always knew I wanted to work with young children.  During sixth form, I spent time volunteering at a local nursery, and this confirmed my passion for Early Years. I knew then that teaching in early years was the path I wanted to follow.

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