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Why schools must innovate as we start the new academic year

04 September, 2017 - 06:30
Children go back to school this week after the summer holidays.  Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

Children go back to school this week after the summer holidays. Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

One thing that you and I probably have in common is a memory of a first day at school. It might be a memory of starting school as young as five, or going on to middle or high school.

The anticipation, butterflies in the stomach, slight uneasiness tinged with excitement and undoubted tiredness following a night of restless or little sleep. The new notebooks, pencil cases, school shoes, etc, all add momentum to the fact that this is a new start, a fresh beginning.

All over the county this week children are returning to school, teachers are going back to their normal routine and parents are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief.

The start of the new school year is an exciting time for all of us in education. The preparation days, known as “Professional Development” or PD days, are also a chance for school staff to re-unite, remember their purpose, review their targets, finish any last minute planning and preparations in their classrooms so that they are ready to welcome children back to school.

At ASSET Education we will be using our PD day to gather our 120 teachers together from all eight schools in the Trust.

With five schools having joined us in May, this will be the first time for us that all of our teachers will be together in one place. I know that the expertise, the commitment, the energy and the talent in one room will be immense.

My message will be about collaboration, working together, sharing resources and ideas with one aim - improving the learning outcomes for the children in our care and aiming for excellence in everything that we do.

Although my job is now further removed from the classroom, I still hold the strong belief that teaching children is one of the best and most important jobs you can choose. It is so incredibly worthwhile, can have such a huge impact on the life chances of our young people and carries with it a huge responsibility for the success of the next generation. We can’t afford to make mistakes, we need to get it right so planning and preparation are essential.

So is this start to the school year just the same as last year and all the years that have gone before? I don’t believe it is and I don’t believe we can afford for it to be.

Schools still have a long way to go to really meet the needs of all pupils and achieve the learning and skills that we will need the next generation to have.

Educational change may have been exponential in recent years but are we are still a long way from making the most of the latest technology, from designing learning to meet the needs of every individual, and producing children who are leaving our schools more curious than when they started.

What we did yesterday will not be sufficient for tomorrow’s learners and as schools we must continue to embrace innovation and find the time to be the architects of change.

Our PD days are an opportunity to recognise the challenges ahead and think in a more innovative way. And one thing is certain - we will need to be highly innovative over the next few years if we are going to be able to continue to improve the educational offer at the same time as facing unprecedented real terms cuts to our budgets.

We are operating in an increasingly challenging financial landscape where more will need to be achieved for less and we will have to change the way we do things in order to be successful.

So, with butterflies in the stomach and an excited air of anticipation we will all be returning to school for the start of the 2017/2018 academic year that promises to be full of challenge for us all. - Clare Flintoff is Executive Principal at ASSET Education which runs St Helen’s, The Oaks and Whitton primary schools in Ipswich, Bungay Primary, Edgar Sewter Primary in Halesworth, Holton St Peter Primary, Ilketshall St Lawrence Primary and Wenhaston Primary.

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