The richness of cultural and commercial expertise on London’s South Bank is contrasted by the challenges faced by many of those living on the surrounding housing estates of North Lambeth. As such, my aim is for the new Oasis Academy to be a bridge between the South Bank employers and the local Waterloo youth and for all students to become employed in a career with prospects.
Leading this school is not going to be an easy task. I am expecting numerous challenges and obstacles. In light of some scepticism around free schools, there will be many hurdles to overcome on top of the usual challenges when starting up a school from scratch – recruiting students, building an outstanding staff team, managing a budget yet fulfilling an innovative curriculum, and getting a building ready to serve children. However, the biggest and most important challenge will be instilling a genuine belief in everyone in this community, particularly the children, that they can do it.
All stakeholders will need to believe that these young people can become whatever they want to be, that unemployment or low-paid, low-skilled jobs are not the end point for them. The young people of Waterloo will truly “Discover their Greatness” and become leaders in their career of choice. This is the real test and where my energies and attentions are going to be concentrated. This culture will need to be created – it will not just happen.
As I prepare to leave the familiar walls of London Academy Edgware, my current school, I will need to stay focused in order to combat the free school cynics. In addition to the creation of the culture I need to ensure outstanding teaching and learning from day one in September; I need outstanding to be the norm. In order for this to happen I will, for my first six months in post, prior to the opening of the doors, focus on the following areas.
Recruiting awesome staff! As part of the recruitment process I will be observing all candidates teach in their current school with a class they have taught since September. I will also need to be clear over the nature of these teaching posts: you may well be a maths teacher yet in a “start up” school you could well be teaching physics and coaching rugby as well!
Developing an innovative and outstanding curriculum: I will be visiting and seeing first-hand as many different “outstanding” schools as possible. What are they doing? What is working?
I need to ensure clear links with primary feeder schools and the curriculum leaders there to ensure there is no loss of learning and the curriculum is a true development of what students already know.
A big job will be ensuring real links with the South Bank companies, arts institutions and charities. I shall be meeting face-to-face with local institutions, companies and corporations and offering a variety of packages that they can commit to.
Most importantly, I must ensure that our vision and values permeate everything. This vision is that all students are to be successfully and happily employed in a career with prospects and it must be at the heart of every decision. Climb the STAIR to Greatness is the school motto and STAIR equals: Scholarship, Transformation, Aspiration, Inclusion and Resilience.
I know that next September will come around quickly and I will soon be opening the doors ready to welcome 120 eager learners – my first cohort as a new principal.
Further informationFuture Leaders opens applications for Cohort 2013 later this month. Visit www.future-leaders.org.uk
Carly Mitchell is principal designate of Oasis Academy South Bank. She joined the teaching profession through Teach First before joining a Future Leaders development programme.