Week Two Newsletter

Week Two Newsletter

100 Day Reflection from Ms. McBride

Dear Parents & Guardians,

Arriving as Head of a school can be daunting.  Long Close was already ‘Outstanding’, had great results and has been experiencing growth and demand from parents joining the school from EYFS through to Senior.  The school was buzzing with happy, passionate children and enthusiastic staff. My former colleagues were kindly telling me that the only way was down and they were also saying, “If it isn’t broke don’t fix it”. What could I possibly hope to accomplish in my first 100 days? But I had ideas, a vision for the future and a passionate belief in the roll of Century 21 (C21) education to fundamentally be the catalyst to take students on the journey from the learners of today to the leaders of tomorrow.

I hadn’t been appointed by Cognita to put my feet up.   In my case, having worked for our parent group, Cognita in the capacity as Education Advisor to the Group CEO Chris Jansen, I was lucky enough to have been able to spend time in the school on a number of occasions to get to know this wonderful community that is Long Close. I was told by Mr. Jansen on my last day working alongside him “McBride… I expect to see your ‘A’ Game”. No pressure then! It was important to use my first 100 days to get off to a great start.

Change can be daunting. Change can be challenging. But change can also be liberating, exciting, progressive and open the doors to new opportunities and possibilities for the most important people in this story. Your Children.

My initial 100 day plan reflected my strong desire to make a thoughtful and deliberate entry into Long Close School, and to take the necessary time to listen and learn as much as I can about what makes LCS unique.  A priority was to speak with the students, get to know the staff and identify the quick wins with parents in order to build the strong and trusted relationships that would be required in order to systematically engage all stakeholders in the steps necessary to set a vision for the future that will ensure we raise the bar on academic achievement, character development and nurturing a global perspective for all our students.

I am always struck by the thought that children entering into education today, will graduate at some point in the third decade of the 21st Century.  Just as we find it difficult to predict what the world will look like in a year from now, the world these graduates will need to be prepared for will have challenges and opportunities beyond anything we can possibility imagine. All that is certain is that our children will need a set of skills which will equip them to tackle all that the world throws at them with confidence, resilience and the ability to work together and to communicate.

Spending time with the people who make LCS such a special place during my first 100 days, has provided me with a great deal of information, input and ultimately insight on how to best strengthen and build upon the current and historical success of the school, ensures the DNA which makes us so special. I had lunch with students in the dining hall several times a week, talking about what they were interested in, getting to know them and letting them get to know me. I insisted on being Headteacher and not Headmistress. Dressed up during Book Day and encouraged both Senior students and staff to do the same in order to be part of the action, and began what is now a Senior School focus on Mental Heath and Wellbeing by running the Daily Mile and taking part in meditation with Year 8. I taught and spent time with the children – Nursery….Year 3….Year 7…..Year 8…..Year 10. Here, there, everywhere.

What I discovered on this whirl wind journey is that happiness is built into the culture of the school. It comes from the unusual amount of individual attention we choose to give our students. Our combination of small class sizes and excellent teachers means that we are better placed than other schools to find out what makes each child tick. We identify individual potential and nurture it so that all of our children can make the very most of themselves. It’s an approach that fosters an atmosphere of endeavour, ambition and personal fulfilment.  This is MyLCS.

The start of the new academic year already seems an age away, as does the warm September sunshine.  New members of the LCS community settled with remarkable ease, assisted, in no small part by the friendly and welcoming nature of the children, staff members and parents already here. Quietly observing children find their feet is a very precious part of working in a school and I feel somewhat humbled by how kind and natural the children are with one another. Their default position is to help and encourage each other which serves to create a wonderfully cohesive atmosphere, full of smiles and an ever-present sense of confidence, security and achievement.

I got the ball rolling with a geese-influenced Senior Leadership Team (SLT) dynamics and a team building high ropes adventure outing to push us all out of our comfort zones as we learnt to work alongside each other as a team. Through promoting our own areas of strength and supporting areas, we, as leaders are challenged by the talents and passions of those around us. We have created a culture of empowered leadership where students / staff / parents feel that our teachers and senior leaders are approachable and able to solve challenges without the need to go straight to the Headteacher.

We had a free-flowing ‘values’ session within the SLT just before term started. This showed we had a lot in common, chiefly that we valued a rounded education over exam-factory success.  I spoke about the strengths and weaknesses of my Myers Briggs personality trait preferences and the request on staff to hold me accountable when necessary. I also spent a lot of time with my Leadership team talking about ethos, strategy and the vision for the future as LCS Evolves.

Having been in the Independent school world, for almost 14 years, I understand the vision has been to ensure that our children achieve their potential through a broad and balanced curriculum, with success at 11+ and GCSE being the by-product of a rounded education. Whilst our children are practiced and confident at the point at which they sit the exam, we have placed equal emphasis on ensuring that they maintain perspective and continue to pursue their interests in other areas of the curriculum as we seek to Inspire every Child.

Children at LCS play in teams, act in plays, sing in choirs, understand the complexities of mathematical principles and concepts, explore science through scores of experiments, learn foreign languages, apply their learning both in and outside the classroom and, amongst all this, find the time to pursue what they enjoy, whether it be poetry, sewing, drama or archery; they are given the opportunity to find it. From themed curriculum weeks to specialist subject workshops, charity fundraising events to nationwide competitions, alongside the usual myriad of clubs, this term has certainly been a little breathless.

Through our committed Sports department we continue to ensure that our school’s sporting provision remains inclusive, wide-ranging and progressively challenging. Children throughout the school enjoy a curriculum which offers focused teaching of sports each week in Netball, Football, Dance, Tag Rugby, Hockey, Gymnastics, Athletics, Tennis, Cricket and Rounders. Supporting the vision for the school to be part of a league of competitive fixtures, children in Year 3 and above benefit from participating in a balanced programme of inter school competitions or friendly fixtures against children of similar ages from a range of local schools.

Our Director of Performing Arts, Amy Bingham’s vision that each child has the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate music has become ever more palpable. Termly whole-school music and performance events are now a part of the LCS calendar which sees every child in the school perform, either alongside their peers or individually. For those children who learn an instrument, there are further opportunities to perform in the regular recitals. In the Spring Term, children in Years 5-7 will be able to showcase their talents alongside other schools at the Wellington College Music Festival.

This year saw our youngest children in Nursery and Reception tread the boards in our School Hall theatre to stage their nativity ‘Shine Star Shine’. The children guided the audience seamlessly through the excitement of Christmas as seen through the eyes of a variety of characters.

What we do so well at LCS, alongside teaching core skills and knowledge in English and Maths, is ignite in each child a joy of learning that will be with them for life. We strive to encourage children to think creatively. The curriculum collapse week in the Spring Term that children undertake which encompass Art, Design and Technology, Computing and the Humanities reach beyond enabling children to simply make links between these subjects.  We are excited to be rolling this out more often across the Academic Year and indeed just this week the Children in Y3 – Y6 are buzzing with excitement generated by their involvement in our Performing Arts based Curriculum Collapse and launch of our exciting new Read Write Inc., Literature and Language Curriculum. Firefly, Tapestry, Facebook and Twitter helps to keep our parents engaged and I am please to report that we are all getting better (including myself!) in ensuring these platforms are continuously updated to you can witness the LCS story evolve for yourselves.

As I start my second term of headship at LCS and prepare for exciting announcements to parents regarding future development at the school, I have been given a three-dimensional view of a job that no training, coaching or book could ever prepare you for. The situations that you encounter as a Headteacher define you and not all days are always smooth sailing.  Sometimes they haunt you, but they ultimately build your armour to ensure that the next challenge feels a little easier to handle.  Above all, Headship at LCS is the most wonderful opportunity to lead a talented group of committed, passionate and inspirational teachers whom you entrust your child’s education to each and every day. That is simply the most awesome responsibility.

So what have I learnt from my first 100 (now 132) Days at Long Close

The first 100 days of headship at LCS have been a blast.  Even though some days I’ve walked out of the school gates, sat on the train and wondered if I had accomplished anything on my to do list that day, most days I’ve left exhilarated by the stimulating conversations that I’ve had with your children, my team and families in the LCS Community.

This is an incredibly exciting time for Long Close and I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to lead this School into the next exciting phase of its development. For me, there are six core drivers for ensuring we work in partnership to create an inspiring world of education for our students;

  1. Excellence for All – Every one of our students, staff members and wider members of the LCS Community
  2. Relationships are important – building strong relationships with staff, students, families and community partners is key to moving our academic agenda forward
  3. Equal Access to Information and Fair Play – honour that importance and participation of all stakeholders, not just of some. This is the cornerstone of trust and respect.
  4. Transparency – build trust by gathering and by providing information in a timely manner and don’t be afraid to admit it when you’ve got it wrong.
  5. Reflection – reflection sets the foundation for reform. A.I.L. stands for the First Attempt In Learning and as Ken Robinson once said “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
  6. Culture of Learning – learning must happen at all levels of the LCS organisation

What we are striving to enable children to do through our vision for the future, is exploit their natural curiosity and creativity, encourage their imaginations to flow and their descriptions of what they experience to become ever more elaborate.   Confidence, kindness, teamwork, perseverance and resilience continue to underpin every aspect of life at Long Close School.   These characteristics are ever-present in our children and are the foundations which allow us to do all that we do and, perhaps more importantly, to have just a little bit of fun along the way!

Thank you for all of your support.  I cannot wait to see what the future holds for all of us at LCS!


Yours sincerely,

Ms. McBride


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