Life’s Longing and Goodbye

Life’s Longingprincipal-MAB-blog-150x150

With four children, I had the joy of celebrating the 21st birthday of my second (the eldest daughter) over what seemed to be a never-ending series of events, culminating in a theatre visit and party this weekend. It is a cliche of course but ‘where does the time go?’ with our children. One minute Sharla was a three year-old, entertaining seated customers awaiting their purchases at Argos, the next, she is in her final year at university and considering what she might light to do to make a living (now that she is old enough to hold a pilot’s licence for a helicopter :-)). On the day of the party, I was reminded by a close friend of the immortal words of the wonderful writer, Kahlil Gibran who, blending the thinking of many great religious and philosophical traditions over the years, in his book , The Prophet (one of my favourites), said of our children:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

As a father, an uncle, a soon-to-be grandfather; a teacher and simply as a human being these words resonate completely with me. Our job as adults is quite simply, I believe, to prepare the ground for the young around us to not merely survive, but to thrive. To enjoy greater opportunities to make a real difference in the world than ever we did. We should set examples but not expect our children to simply follow in our footsteps – they must do better than that. To work in the service of the next generation – in any way – I think is the most wonderful privilege of all. And of course, in the current post-information age, I think we also have to counter the potential hazards of the mind-controlling and attitude-twisting world of much of our mass-media, advertising and rogue politics. A challenge we have to meet head-on.

As I come to the end of my time with the Avanti Schools Trust and therefore, Avanti House School, I also effectively come to the end of a 33 year career in teaching (my new role in the Emirates, is one of Senior Inspector of schools; a government position). I look back with really fond memories of working with children, with their families and dedicated, hard-working staff, all with one goal in mind – a better future than our past. At Avanti, my final destination, we put academic results, character development and philosophical/spiritual reflection on an equal footing. We are clear that it is not enough for the next generation to amass qualifications. This idea of a truly holistic education is very close to my heart. And my short journey with Avanti House has been to build on the excellent work of my predecessor, Gareth, who with his team, opened a fine school but (and through no fault of the school’s) on not the firmest of footings (quite literally ‘homeless’). I now hand over two over-subscribed, extremely popular, high-performing schools – one primary and one secondary . Both look forward to a very bright future – on every level and in first-class, excellent facilities. I wish the two new Principals, Simon at secondary and Shriti at primary, the very best of luck; they have great teams of staff; senior, teaching and non-teaching, really supportive families and most of all very wonderful children.

Friends of Avanti House

A group of the most supportive family members are of course our very own Friends of Avanti House FOAH (our PTA) and I would like to make a special mention of their work. The fetes, evening workshops, meals and other fund-raising activities alongside their support at our major events has been some of the best-organised and freely-given I have come across in all of my schools. On behalf of the staff, students and all of our families, I would like to thank them for their efforts. The most recent two ‘events’ are of course the FOAH dinner and dance – details and pictures can be seen here  and the hugely successful drive to secure the top award (£12,000) in the Tesco Bags of Help project – details of which can be found here.

Alone Together

As I head into single figures for days left in what has been my most enjoyable phase of work in my career, I wish you all that you would wish yourself. And leave you with another wonderful piece from The Prophet; a reminder that we are ‘alone, together’ and our strength perhaps comes from intimately knowing this at our core whilst knowing the strength borne of both independence and togetherness. As teachers, parents and partners, there is much to learn here.

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Thank You

With a great deal to do in my remaining days, handing over to a new Principal and in preparing to move country, I shall sign off the blog here and wish the Trust and all of our children, families and staff all the very best wishes for the future. This I offer with genuine gratitude for allowing me to play a small part in bringing two schools to life.

Thank you.



Integrity – On Siteprincipal-MAB-blog-150x150

Our core value for the term between now and Christmas is ‘Integrity’ and for this week, we are thinking about a subset of integrity – that is ‘honesty’.

Over the next four weeks, I start the long process of clearing my deskand handing over to the new Principal, Mr Arnell,  Linked to our value and as I reflect on the past three years of working with the Trust, I reflect on a challenge that has occasionally been made towards the school  and that has been regarding ‘honesty’ – honesty in relation to the site issues that th
e schools (primary and secondary) have faced. img_3744However, I can, with my hand on heart, say that at all times the school community – its parents, the students and our friends have been quickly informed whenever things, entirely outside of our control as a school, have changed and as soon as the school was made aware. Furthermore, the pace of these changes and altered plans, over the past two years, has been relentless. Although a new building for the secondary was first planned to be ready for September 2014; site, planning and contractor issues have delayed this many times over, but the problems are behind us. It is a huge relief to have been able to share the images of the groundbreaking, blessing ceremony a couple of weeks ago and now to be able to share (above and below) actual evidence that contractors are on site and digging the ground.

Everything is now currently on track for a handover to the schooimg_3741l in May 2018. I take this opportunity to thank all involved, on behalf of the school and families, in finally getting this underway – not least Sue Archer at the Department for Education, who has been on board since the beginning, the Trust (our CEO, Nitesh Gor in particular) and of course our many lobbyists -many of whom are parents or prospective parents. And a very final debt of gratitude, I have said it before, to the parents of those early year groups who have stood by the school over the past four and half years.


Sixth Form Open Evening

Next week, on the evening of 24th November, the Assistant Principal (Head of Sixth Form and Careers Education) Paul Nash will lead the Sixth Form Open Evening. The school has also invited the new Principal, Simon Arnell and as of today, unless plans change, he fully intends to be there and to introduce himself to the parents/students of year 11 as well as those who join the evening from other schools. Paul, also joined by Deputy Nadira Morris, plans to issue the prospectus and also to present the curriculum and extra-curricular offer as well as say something about the future of business and University links and careers information, advice and guidance. There will be an opportunity also to ask questions and look at displays. Although not presenting on this occasion, I shall be around on the evening and really look forward to catching up with some of you.


We are thrilled to congratulate long-standing colleague Andrea Kahn who thisimg_2802 week became fully accredited as our SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) having achieved the National Award for SEN Co-ordination – leading the school to now officially be an Accredited SENCo School. As well as being a great teacher, popular with children and a fantastic head of year, Andrea has already made a really positive start to her role as SENCo – taking over as she did in September from her predecessor Gina Richardson. Parents of children who present with additional needs or who are just in need of some additional support unanimously speak very highly of her.


I leave this short blog with a reflection around the sub-theme of honesty. As we all reflect on what can only be termed as a ‘frank, open and rather aggressive and personal’ debate for the American presidency and with the outcome that it achieved, I was left with the question in my mind, more than any other, “how do adults explain some adult behaviours to children as being ‘acceptable’ in anybody, but particularly a leader”. They do ask us – as parents and as teachers. Looking to philosophy and spirituality, to those that perhaps help some or indeed all of us to establish our ethical code and our moral compasses, I am left with inspiration from two of those who have helped me to set mine – as a human, a father, a teacher and a leader.  I leave them with you.

Have a lovely remainder of the week and a restful weekend…




A New Secondary Principal

Welcome Back

Family and friends, I hope that you enjoyed a restful half-term break, if indeed you did take a break. Our students, I am sure, are rested and ready to return to learning and we look forward to welcoming them back. As I move into my final half term as Senior Education Officer at the Trust and Principal at Avanti House, I was pleased to hear that the Trust had, just prior to the half-term break, appointed my successor at the secondary school, Simon Arnell a current Deputy Head Teacher.

The process of transition and handover will now begin in earnest and a message from our Chair of Governors (Yuvraj Rana) formally announcing this appointment I have attached below. I take this opportunity to wish Simon well in building on the exceptional work of a fantastic team of staff. Leaders, teachers and support staff have worked and continue to work tirelessly over the past four and a half years of movement, challenge and uncertainty; always putting children and learning first.

The recruitment drive for the primary school, in anticipation of an early-2017 demerger of the two schools, is well underway.

Sixth Form Launch

This term of course marks the formal launch of our post-16 offer. Our own parents of year 11, as well as those who have an interest in Avanti sixth form are welcome to join us on the evening of 24th November when Assistant Principal (Head of Sixth Form) will introduce the offer and launch the prospectus and application process. Departmental staff, including those who will teach post-16, will also be present on the evening. More details will follow on the website in the coming days.

Friends of Avanti House Updates

Hot on the heels of the delivery of our very first minibus, courtesy of the wonderful fund-raising work of the Friends of Avanti House (PTA), there is an important initiative being run at Tesco, called Bags of Help (click this link to find out more and to get involved). Indeed, all of the wonderful, supportive work and activities of our PTA can be found at their website on by clicking here.

Announcement from the Chair of Governors, Mr Yuvraj Rana

Dear Parents and Carers

It gives me great pleasure to announce that we have successfully appointed an exceptional leader to the post of Principal of Avanti House secondary school from January 2017.

Simon Arnell was selected after a rigorous process of interviews, activities and tasks. Mr Arnell was able to unanimously impress our staff, students, governors and Trust colleagues with his commitment to education standards and the Avanti ethos.

Mr Arnell joins us from a high performing outstanding academy in Brent where he was Deputy. He has been a senior leader and teacher in Brent for the past 15 years. He has led his previous school in areas such as curriculum, staffing and CPD. He has also led on the sixth form provision.

We will invite Mr Arnell to address the school community in the coming term. I know he will be made welcome here and be able to take the secondary school  to new heights.

May I take this opportunity to thank all the students, staff and governors who were part of this highly successful recruitment process.

Kind regards

Yuvraj Rana

Chair of Governors

Have a wonderful week…

Ground Breaking News!

Ground Breaking News

As we announced late last week, we are pleased to announce that, after so many years of waiting and enormous efforts behind the scenes, a groundbreaking ceremony will take place at Whitchurch fields during the afternoon this coming Monday 17th October. This ceremony, presided over by senior members of ISKCON, marks the beginning of the actual building programme. This programme aims to see delivery of the final build to the Trust and the school around June 2018. The school looks to move into the new building in September 2018.

For my own part, I am naturally thrilled to finally see our state of the art, £25 million building start to go up – and before I myself move on to a new role in January. It will be for my Principal successor and our Deputy, Nadira Morris, to work with the Trust, the EFA and the contractors, B&K, to take forward the project from here to completion.

I would personally like to thank our parents, staff and not least our eldest students – in years 10 and 11 – for their incredible patience and resolve, since before 2012. I think it says so much about Avanti House that the overwhelming majority of these families have stood by the school and the Trust in spite of all the moves and other challenges.

The daytime, groundbreaking event; an auspicious occasion to be held at Whitchurch Fields, will be attended by members of ISKCON and members of the Trust joined by our Deputy Principal and we thought appropriately our longest-serving staff and eldest students – those in years 10 and 11. Many of the parents of years 10 and 11, will also join the delegation, by invitation only.

We look forward to keeping you up to date on developments as the building starts to take shape.

Sixth Form Launch

After the fast-approaching half term break, we look forward to the official launch of our planned provision for the school’s sixth form which is due to open its doors, initially in Pinner, in September 2017. As family and friends will know, we made an early appointment of an Assistant Principal (Head of Sixth Form) this September, a year in advance of the opening of the provision. This position went internally to Paul Nash. Paul, alongside our Deputy, Nadira, has been working closely with our own year 11 as well as Governors, members of the Trust and a resident consultant adviser on early thinking around the curriculum and other post-16 matters. A draft curriculum offer has been circulated to parents and year 11 students and on November 24th, Paul will officially launch the offer and issue the prospectus to both internal students and those who might be interested in joining Avanti House from other schools. Avanti House School is a specialist mathematics and performing arts school and whilst there are real strengths in these areas, as there are in allied subjects such as English and the sciences, the sixth form offer will be a broad based one – including also humanities, creative arts, computing, economics and languages courses. We look forward on 24th November, to sharing our plans and the work being done behind the scenes with Universities, local businesses and other sectors, in the run up to opening the sixth form.

Open Mornings and Principal Appointment

Alongside my Deputy these past three weeks, I have had the real privilege of showing around dozens of parents of prospective students, currently in year 6. All have left the building saying wonderful things about the school – seeing it in action is always so much better than an Open Evening. These visits continue this week but of course, the deadline date for year 6 into 7 applications is 31st October 2016; so after half term, and whilst we always welcome visitors, applications will have to have been with the local authority.

One of the most frequent questions I am naturally asked at the moment, is exactly when parents are due to hear about a new Principal appointment. To be clear, the appointment of a Principal for the secondary school (and a separate substantive Principal for the primary – the two are set to de-merge early in 2017) is entirely in the hands of the Avanti Schools Trust. They have been busy on both counts and whilst interviews have taken place, no suitable candidate has yet been found for either position. The post of primary Principal is just about to be advertised for a second time and another round of interviews for the post of secondary Principal is to take place this coming Friday. As and when appointments are actually made, existing parents will be informed immediately and the news will be posted on the school website. As indicated in an earlier blog, contingency plans are being drawn up for a consultant-supported internal, interim solution were there not to be a successful candidate appointed as Principal of the secondary school, for January.


Respect and Humility in Leadership – a Reflection

I wish all our families and friends an enjoyable half term break and festival of Diwali – which we shall be celebrated upon our return from half-term. As a reflection this week and mindful of the exposure we all seem to be facing in the media just now – I leave you with a reflection on respect and humility – and particularly its importance in leadership; an inspiring quote from a wonderful teacher, speaker, writer and spiritual leader, His Holiness Radhanath Swami. All who aspire to lead others – at any level – could do much worse than take heed of his words.



principal-MAB-blog-150x150Open Evening

At the end of this month, once again parents of children in year 6 have to make the difficult decision regarding their child’s high school. A couple of weeks ago, very early in the cycle, we welcomed over 700 visitors to the school for our secondary school Open Evening at Pinner.

As usual and in large part down to the fantastic impression made by our current students on the evening, there was an electric atmosphere. Parents and carers, almost unanimously, felt very positive about the achievements of our still very young school. They communicated this positivity on the evening, in follow up calls and emails as well as during Open Mornings last week. They spoke of our wonderful students and our clearly very dedicated and hard-working staff; teaching and non-teaching. We are still open to those who might like to join us and see the school day in action – just make contact with the school via Reception or my PA to make an appointment for the weeks ahead.

On the evening itself I had to confirm to visitors (who were mostly on their first visit to the school), that this would be my last term at Avanti House as Principal and that the hunt was on, led by the Trust, for a successor from January 2017. I explained  that I would be leaving my position of Senior Education Officer at the Trust (deployed as I have been as Principal at Avanti House for over two years) at the end of December. My move abroad, to take up the position of Senior Schools Inspector in the UAE is a family decision.

Regarding a successor for Principal, interviews were held a couple of weeks ago, from a shortlist of applicants but, regrettably the Trust deemed that there were no candidates strong enough to take on the role. As a result, further leads are being sought in the hope that an appointment can be made in October. Failing that, there are contingencies for a robust interim leadership solution from January – the Trust are very keen to not rush into an appointment until they are confident that they have the right candidate in front of them. We shall keep you up to speed on this website/blog.

Groundbreaking at Whitchurch?

The new building at Whitchurch is a matter that continues to be a hot topic with a new wave of concern around the lack of building activity on the site. And understandably so. Conditional planning permission was awarded to a fanfare, back in February of this year with full planning permission granted in July; yet here we are in October. I am assured, by the Department for Education and the Avanti Schools Trust that this timeline – from full planning permission to breaking ground – of several months – is perfectly normal. This is particularly so for a complex build – including a modification to the roads and junctions around the site. The timeline remains as it was back in July – a building delivered no later than June 2018, for occupation over the summer. To achieve this goal, ground must be broken no later that late November. We should expect hoarding boards to start appearing on the site in weeks, rather than months.


In this first term a Avanti House secondary school we reflect on what is in some ways the most nebulous of our six values – that of ‘Gratitude’. When I ask students about this value, they are not as spontaneous in their responses as they are for example for the values of ‘Respect’, ‘Self Discipline’ or ‘Empathy’. I usually have to follow up with the questions ‘for what should we be grateful?’ And ‘to whom should we be grateful?’ These are interesting themes.

I feel that in the modern age, gratitude is not really encouraged – almost considered an old-fashioned idea. The media and the web instead present an image a reality where the insatiable desires of humans should simply be satisfied without question and ‘now’ – rather than having to wait. As if the world and everyone in it somehow owes us something. Online purchases, for example, at the touch of a button – arriving the next day. Hypermarkets and shopping malls where almost anything can be bought. Take the idea of thinking about, researching, choosing, purchasing, wrapping up and personally handing over a gift to a loved one… This is almost a thing of the past! More common, for example, are the ‘birthday or wedding wish list online’. In my view, this takes away the personal touch – the human contact, the thoughtfulness and I think that gratitude in giving and receiving, also suffers.

I am no luddite and I do appreciate the power and potential of technology probably more than the average person but I think there is a powerful message that we need to convey to the next generation about not replacing the personal touch with the impersonal convenience of technology. Technology and social media offer enormous potential in broadening communication and in bringing people together – but they also risk our losing the joy of something given and received, whether that be a gift, an idea, quality time spent together, something made or bought and with real gratitude. So perhaps time to come away from our screens and to start giving and receiving with real people, in the real world.

And in true giving, this gratitude really is felt equally by both the giver and the receiver. As the great Christian mystic, Saint Francis of Assisi once said:

“For it is in the giving that we receive…”

Have a wonderful week as we head towards the celebration of Diwali


Welcome Back

Lprincipal-MAB-blog-150x150ast week we welcomed back almost 700 secondary school students (including nearly 180 year 7) and when our Reception children arrive we shall be starting the year with 300 primary children. In just over four years, Avanti House School has around 1000 children on roll. For a school which has seen more than its fair share of trials and tribulations just getting underway, in Free School terms, this is a remarkable testament to the faith of parents and carers and their belief in the high value of what we have to offer as a school and a Trust.

This year – as indicated, the fifth year – is a very special one. With leases now sorted and contracts just about to be signed, the contractors are expected to be on site at Whitchurch in weeks now, rather than months. We look forward to publishing photographs of our long-overdue ground-breaking ceremony. June 2018 is the current date for handover of the £25 million new build with detailed planning underway, with Pinner High School, not for just the sharing of the site this year but into next year too.

At the end of this year and the beginning of next, the school, of course, sees its first ever set of GCSE results – expected to be far and away the best that any state-funded school in Harrow has seen and preparing the way for the opening of the Avanti House sixth form in September 2017. For economic reasons, the two phases of the school are destined to become two legal entities – Avanti House Secondary School and Avanti House Primary School. Whilst this sits with ever changing Ministers in central Government, the Trust has decided that the school will run as two separate entities for this full academic year. From this September, Richard Halliday continues in his role as day to day Head of School and whilst I remain the legal Principal (until demerger is completed) Richard will actually be line-managed by former Krishna Avanti Head (and Education Director for the Trust), Usha Sahni. Twice a week, Richard will also be supported, day to day and on the ground by a highly experienced and successful former primary head, Liz Whincup. I am asked to take on a more Executive role as far as the primary is concerned – Richard will work directly with Governors and our Deputy, Nadira Morris, except when acting in my absence, will not engage directly with the primary school this year.

Nadira instead, of course, will focus almost entirely on secondary as she is very much the link between my own work as Principal and that of the new Principal, from January; hopefully to be appointed at interview in the coming weeks. At the end of this term, of course, I move on – with the family having decided to move to the Emirates. Our remaining daughters will continue their education – taking the International Baccalaureate in an International School Setting. I shall take up the position of Senior Schools Inspector with the Inspection Service, building on my experience as a qualified and practising Ofsted Inspector. This is occurring a couple of years earlier than I had planned to move on, but life has a way of being unpredictable at times and opportunities arise when they do and have to be grasped. I am confident that I shall be leaving the school in a very good place and in very safe hands; our new arrivals of over 20 new staff (secondary and primary) are very strong, bringing a wealth of experience to an already dedicated and highly skilled team. They have settled in really well.

To help myself and Nadira, alongside the rest of the senior team, during this relatively short period of Principal appointment and transition, the Trust have sought the services of an national lead in education – a former CEO of a highly successful multi academy trust – the now freelance Sir Paul Edwards. Sir Paul joins us two days a week for at least this term, to add capacity and ensure that there is a seamless and fluid transition to a new Principal in the new year.

As the term unwraps, I look forward to bringing you all up to speed on the exciting work of our youngsters and the ever-changing landscape of Avanti House School through this weekly blog.

I leave you this week with a thought for the week – lifting our spirits for a new beginning. One of the simplest to grasp and yet most astute of all the world’s spiritual literature/scriptures, I think is the Tao Te Ching – by Lao Tzu from around 4 BC. He has some interesting things to say about leadership and aspiration:

“To lead people, walk behind them. A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When (his) work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say ‘we did it ourselves’. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

For me the reflection here is all about the power of the many. A leader must set a vision and a direction but it is only when those (s)he leads actually buy into that vision, and move as one in that direction, that anything of value gets done. And a true leader does not worry him of herself about praise or blame – just effort, work and endeavouring to do the right thing. Others can take the praise when, finally, accomplishments are had. Set your goals high – even a thousand miles begins here and now!

Krishna alludes to similar themes in his advice to Arjuna in the second chapter of the Gita – Chapter 2 Verse 47. We explore work and setting high aspirations during assemblies this week and last.

Lord Krishna: Be intent on action, not on the fruits of action; avoid attraction to the fruits and krishna_by_yogeshvara-d4n7y4pattachment to inaction! Perform actions, firm in discipline, relinquishing attachment; be impartial to failure and success—this equanimity is called discipline.

Arjuna, action is far inferior to the discipline of understanding; to seek refuge in understanding—pitiful are men drawn by fruits of action. Disciplined by understanding, one abandons both good and evil deeds; so arm yourself for discipline—discipline is skill in actions

Have a great week.

I’ll Be There…

I’ll Be There

What a wonderful celebration to end the academic year; a wonderful feast of drama, dance and choir, our second at the Southbank, this time at the Royal Festival Hall. The show, I’ll Be There, a self penned performance of the Mahabharata was put on by children, from Avanti House secondary and primary along with some of the older pupils from Krishna Avanti. To a packed audience, we were taken through the great epic with far too many ‘stars of the show’ to mention. Once again, as these images suggest,

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our children really rose to the occasion and reminded us all why we do what we do and exactly why we call ourselves, at Avanti House, the family! Thank you to parents and friends who joined is this afternoon and well done and thank you to the supremely wonderful and talented Vandna Synghal, a volunteer at the Trust, the writer and director of this show and also thanks to our Director of Performing Arts, Paul Nash and the many staff who made sure that this wonderful event happened – particularly to Eyvonnie, our new Head of Year 7 and drama teacher, who stepped up to the plate with a level of organisation and attention to detail that is fast becoming her trademark.

Moving On

True to the title of our epic performance, “I’ll be there”, I shall be there, at Avanti House School, in September, to oversee the start of our fifth year of operation. Sadly, however, I shall not be returning to the Trust or to the school in January. As most of our existing parents will know already, my family has decided to move the United Arab Emirates in 2017 and I shall be leading the way in late December. It was always an aspiration for the family that our remaining two daughters, if we could make it possible, would attend school and study in an international setting; the middle or the far East and study the IB Diploma in an International School. I know that when I do move on, in around five months from now, I shall leave my other family, Avanti House, in very safe hands.

We have a brilliant Deputy and succession leader, in Nadira Morris, an excellent day to day head of primary in Richard Halliday and a wonderful and growing body of staff teaching and support, secondary and primary to serve our fantastic children. The Avanti Schools Trust are already putting in additional capacity to support the handover process, once two new Principals are appointed, one for secondary and one for primary, for January. Indeed a Consultant Headteacher will join us at secondary, similar to the one who has recently been supporting Richard at primary – all with a view to adding capacity for the smoothest of handovers to new leadership.

I officially leave my appointed role as Senior Education Officer (deployed as Principal at Avanti House) at the end of December. I will then take up the position of Senior Inspector in the schools’ inspection service in Dubai. Excited by the move, I shall nevertheless be very sad to leave but happy that in my short time, we managed to stabilise what had been a very vulnerable project, find suitable temporary homes, secure full planning permissions, achieve outstanding early years and KS1 outcomes and look set to perform at GCSE in the top 10% of similar schools nationally. I shall spare my thanks and reflections until later in the year.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our families and friends for another fun packed year, the one where we secured with absolute certainty the future of both the secondary and primary phases of the school – and just in time, given how popular and oversubscribed our schools are! The overwhelming majority of parents and families are so incredibly supportive of the school, it makes it a privilege to serve.

Have a lovely holiday and remember..


Hare Krishna

What Do You Want to Be?

Happy and Strongprincipal-MAB-blog-150x150

There is a now quite infamous story of a pupil in school who when he responded to an assignment given to his class; “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, he replied “happy”. This young pupil went by the name of John. He was told by the teacher that he did not understand the assignment. Rather cheekily he is then said to have suggested that the teacher perhaps did not understand life!

Some time later, of course, John (Lennon) was the founding member of the group, The Beatles; a group of young, untrained but fiercely ambitious musicians from Liverpool, who went on the be turned away by almost every record label at the time, being told that ‘guitar music is on the way out’. Later, some would say, they played a very significant part in changing popular culture in the ten years they were together. They also wrote and sang quite a few nice tunes! There are two messages here; the first is this really is what we all want to be when we grow up – ‘happy’ – and there are probably just as many full grown adults who would say that they have not yet fully achieved this status. The second is a message about the importance of resilience. In our bid to be ‘happy’ and to bring happiness to others, how hard are we going to try and how many times will we be prepared to pick ourselves off the ground. Things do not always go according to plan, life takes unforeseen twists and turns; surely as teachers and as parents, we would want, above all else, to ensure that our children are fully equipped to meet all of life’s challenges and all eventualities, head on. Looking at John’s life journey there is some irony in that one of the last song lyrics he ever wrote was ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans..’ only to have his life cut short by an assassination just outside his home in New York. At Avanti of course, we would also have encouraged respect and self-discipline as two of our values – answering the teacher back was perhaps not the best choice he ever made! But, truthfully, we really do not know what the future holds and it is our duty, I believe, to educate young people in resilience and tenacity (or ‘grit’ as some people call it) – this is as important as the best examination results in my view. As the school starts to settle into a new consolidation phase, with full planning permission now granted (just waiting for the six week, compulsory Judicial Review to close), we are looking at the broader curriculum – the one that develops character, spiritual insight but critically, also all the skills for young adults to be enterprising and world-ready.

Library Preparation at Pinner

As we bring the academic year to a close, the school is busying itself getting ready for the new year in September; the fifth year since opening. One exciting development is that of the library at Pinner. We are blessed to have one of our kind parents, Srirangapriya, recently join us as a volunteer to support the mammoth task of getting the library ready.

Srirangapriya is building on the good work of our Head of English and Literacy, Miss Vasudeva and some of our enthusiastic students who have got most books on the shelves. However, within each section there is a good deal of sorting out to do so that is the first priority followed by cataloguing (Shakespeare is already done!).  Srirangapriya also has some good ideas to promote the library electronically via a library website; showcasing the brilliant books that we have for loan – perhaps with a discussion forum and other features. I think it is worth saying that we should all watch this space – and as a school we are grateful, as always, for voluntary support and this is yet another example of time given up to serve the mission and vision of the school.

The plans are already in place to appoint a librarian, for the first time in the history of the school, hopefully to start with us in September.

Principal Designate Appointment – Avanti House Primary School

As parents and carers will have already heard, following the decision to de-merge the primary and secondary phases of the all-through school into two legally independent schools, an advert is out for the appointment of a Principal Designate of the primary school, for September 2016. We shall keep family and friends posted via this website as and when there are developments in this.

A Weekend of Celebrations

Last weekend really was a weekend of celebrations with both the FOAH organised summer fair as well as the consecration of Sri Sri Radha Krishna deities taking place at Pinner.
As planned and mentioned in recent months in this blog, the months of planning finally came to fruition on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd July we saw the consecration of Sri Sri Radha Krishna deities at Avanti House Secondary School in Pinner. This auspicious ceremony marks an important landmark for Avanti House secondary school and was performed in the presence of His Grace Jananivas Das and His Holiness Bhakti Rasamrita Swami. The rituals were performed by Sri Radharaman Das.This wonderful event was attended by a large group of guests invited by Avanti Schools Trust and which included a number of our own students, who will each day have opportunities to access the shrine. Daily Aarti is now being performed and we look forward to opening up the Altar Room for private and group worship for staff and students. Our thanks to the Trust and to Sahil Agarwal in particular for organising for this auspicious event to take place and for the opportunities it affords the community, going forward.

Our thanks to all who were able to support, yet again, another highly successful summer fair, organised by the Friends of Avanti House. We are particularly grateful as a school to Yogi, Hemang and the Committee for making it such a wonderful and well-attended event. We look forward to hearing of the fund raising totals; family and friends can see some of the excitement of the day at the Facebook page by clicking here.

As with everything that we do at Avanti House, it really is the family spirit and the team that pulls things together; even under the most challenging of circumstances. There are no egos at play here – everyone plays their part, to the best of their abilities and whether it is the design of a new building and curriculum, moving from one site to another, putting on a show at Wembley Stadium or the Royal Festival Hall, a long weekend in the Isle of Wight, installing a new library or inviting Sri Krishna and Sri Radha to reside at the school, although working to a common vision, it is never the work of one person – it is always a collaboration. It is always team work. I look forward to sharing this spirit of Avanti when this week we meet the parents of year 6 children for an information evening and also we welcome many of our new teachers for an induction day. An exciting week ahead!

Last Chance to Get your Tickets

As you well know, Avanti House Primary and Secondary, are with Krishna Avanti, performing a spectacular musical production this summer on the Mahabharata. The performance is taking place at London’s prestigious Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre on Sunday 17th July 2016 at 4.30pm.

Tickets are available at the primary and the secondary sites.

Please contact Mrs Mistry and Mrs Gupta at respective sites.

chodronMindfulness and Resilience

I leave you with a quote this week from one of my favourite Tibetan Buddhist writers and teachers, Pema Chodron. Here Pema reflects on our tendency to blame  ourselves and others and to go in search of greater security and certainty – especially when things do not go according to plan. Whereas, it is actually the nature of things to frequently not go according to plan (physicists call this entropy!) – the key to a happier life, perhaps, is to detach – to accept things as they are (if they cannot be changed), then adapt to the circumstances and do something different!

Krishna said something very similar, in a very positive way, to Arjuna, on the battlefield, as we read in Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6, Verse 5:

“Elevate yourself through the power of your mind, and not degrade yourself, for the mind can be the friend and also the enemy of the self.”

Have a great week



Mixed Messages…

Coach Incident – Isle of Wight

One of the coaches on our year 8 trip to the Isle of Wight had an incident on Friday afternoon. It did not turn out to be a serious incident and all parents/carers were contacted by the party to reassure them. Deputy Principal Mrs. Morris was heading up this coach. There were other staff on board and 58 pupils heading to a castle visit. The coach then had a low speed collision with an object on a narrow road. No other vehicles or pedestrians were involved.

Nobody was hurt in the incident. The outside layer of some of the coach windows at the side were damaged but there was no damage or glass inside the coach. The children were quickly and safely evacuated, obviously a little shocked but with no sign of major distress. The party then walked, on a footpath the short distance to their castle destination. Parents/carers were all being contacted by the party and reassured soon after the incident.

A new coach (and driver) were to pick them up from the castle and return them to where they were staying. All have now arrived home safely.

Working Togetherprincipal-MAB-blog-150x150

As both a father and a teacher I frequently think about the confusing and mixed messages that the adult world seems to offer our children. At Avanti House for example, we espouse the six values of ‘respect’, ‘integrity’, ‘courage’, ’empathy’, ‘gratitude’ and ‘self-discipline’. We talk about them with students in tutor time, in collective worship, in PRE and citizenship lessons and we remind students about them on the corridors and in the playgrounds. Our students understand these values and much of the time seem really pleased to have such a framework to set the standard of conduct at school. They really do, in large measure, live and breathe these values at Avanti House. However, the very same children, fast becoming young adults in our midst, must oftentimes think as though they are surrounded by quite the opposite. Whether it is in the media of entertainment – soap operas, blockbuster movies, computer games, magazines and the like, or whether it is real-world news; they witness cheating, lying, backbiting, aggression right up to graphic violence and terrorist threats or actions.

The mixed messages we send the next generation abound – and in an information age, these messages are relentless. This is why, I think, that schools will only succeed in nurturing globally aware, socially confident and enterprising young adults if we work closely with parents and families. There has to be a consistent, purposeful, optimistic and positive (yet realistic) message that we send to those who are inheriting the successes and failures of our generation and the one before it. Indeed, in my 33 years teaching and leading in a wide variety of schools and particularly where youngsters have been troubled, challenged or disadvantaged in some way the success in moving things to a better place rests entirely in the relationship between the school, the family and the child – it is a three-way relationship and it must, I believe, lie at the very heart of everything that we do. Schools cannot work in isolation – children’s characters are substantively formed in the first 9 years of their lives – half of which they spent entirely at home.

Nor can families work in isolation – children from age 4/5 – 16/19 spend two thirds of their waking life at school. In the very best schools, this time is a partnership – where values are shared, support is mutual and there is an understanding, as in any relationship, that things do not always go according to plan – but that children get one chance at an excellent education so we should be compelled to keep trying for them.Radhanath-swami-on-parenting

Some things in the news are almost impossible to explain – and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Jo Cox; who was so senselessly taken away from them last week in an unimaginable act – a public servant who only gave to others.

At Avanti House parents, students and the school sign a Home School Agreement. This sets out exactly what the parent and the child can expect of the school and exactly what the school expects of the child and his/her family. Most schools have such an agreement. Our current Home School Agreement is found at this link: Home School Agreement May 2016 v2 1. I think you will agree, it is quite an elaborate agreement for the parent and the school alike; whereas for the student, it is quite simple:

  • Behave impeccably and follow the six school values of Respect, Integrity, Courage, Empathy, Gratitude and Self-Discipline;
  • Work hard in my studies – in school and at home and in partnership with school staff;
  • Look after my school environment and its equipment.

School Lunchesvegan-pad-thai-e1429117378854

One of the non-negotiables in the Home School Agreement is that of parents agreeing to pay the daily school lunch fee (currently £2.35) for the healthy, nutritious and tasty lacto-vegetarian meal that is served in our restaurant each day.

These meals are cooked freshly on site by a subsidiary company of the Avanti Schools Trust  – Govinda’s and the meals are blessed as prasadam. We talk often with students about receiving this food with gratitude and respect, with a sense of offering and of eating together and not wasting food. Govinda’s continues to work hard to listen to the views of youngsters as to which foods they prefer to eat (within the faith-scope of an onion/mushroom-free facto-vegetarian context) and what are the less popular choices. Our school lunch provision has come a long way this year and we are still looking to work with students and Govinda’s to ensure that it continues to improve.

Voluntary Contributions

Are-school-trips-worth-th-007A number of parents have asked recently about ‘paying for trips, visits’ and the like. UK Education law is very simple in this area – schools cannot charge for any activity that takes place mostly during school time (in our case 8am – 4.30pm; Monday to Friday. If most (51%+) of a trip, visit or residential takes place outside of this time, then schools are able to charge. The charges have to be reasonable and competitive.

If a trip, visit or residential is wholly or mainly taking place during the school day then it cannot be charged for – but the school can still ask for a voluntary contribution. There must be no pressure to comply and no reason need be given for choosing to not contribute. If the contributions gathered do not cover the cost of a trip and the school has not budgeted to subsidise it, then the school might have to go ahead and cancel/refund. We are changing our paperwork for when we ask for voluntary contributions, so that there can be no doubt about this.

Parent View and Student Surveys

One of the ways that a school can gather some intelligence on how parents/carers and students view the education on offer is through a survey. We plan to run a full student end of year survey within the next few weeks and results will be published on our website and in this blog. Conveniently, Ofsted put a Parental Survey up on their website, called Parent View. My thanks to over 70 parents who have recently completed this survey – we had hoped for a lot more (there are 700 of you, even if only one parent completes the survey) but we are grateful to those who have. During parents’ evenings, starting with year 7 coming up, we are going to have older students showing parents how to get onto this site so that they can see it only takes a few minutes to complete. The majority of questions scored well over 90% strongly agreeing or at least agreeing. However, it appears as though ‘homework’ and ‘reports to parents’ are the main two areas where less than 80% (around 76%) agreed or strongly agreed that these were in a good place. But one parent is more than 1% with less than 100 respondents so far. Once we hit the 200 parent respondent mark, we shall consider carefully how to then respond to this survey as a school. If you have yet to get online and complete the 5 minute survey (anonymous) you can register here

quran-quote-peace-meditateTo end. An inspirational quote from the Quran during this festival of Ramadan – a reminder to us to tread gently, offer peace, to never stop learning about ourselves and to put the needs of others before our own – even when we are faced with unreasonable problems (or unreasonable people).

Have a lovely week


Taking a Deep Breath…

Welcome Back

principal-MAB-blog-150x150Welcome back. I hope that our friends and families enjoyed a restful half-term break. The first week back has been frantic as we set off on the last half term of this academic year. At the moment most of what I seem to be doing is interviewing candidates for jobs from September. These interviews are across all key stages and in most subject areas – for our still growing school. We are also replacing some last minute resignations as some of our existing colleagues look to move on for a host of reasons – (closer to home, abroad, moving with the family, taking some time out to travel or for promoted positions to name but a few!).

Once all new teacher and leader appointments have been made we shall announce the staffing changes for September and introduce families and friends to our new colleagues. We have made some fantastic appointments in all areas. In addition to this, we are welcoming a number of volunteers to the school, both at primary and secondary and for a number of reasons – from the long-overdue re-opening of our library at Pinner through to additional support from the Trust for Mr. Halliday in senior leadership at primary. We are always grateful for the time given up by so many, in a voluntary capacity, to support our work at Avanti House. On top of so many things going on at the school, as an existing, registered Ofsted Inspector (a significant number of inspectors now are practicing Headteachers and Principals) I am bringing so much back from the excellent, ongoing training that we receive, as we prepare ourselves in anticipation of an inspection in the next academic year. Indeed, next Monday evening 20th, I shall sadly have to miss a meeting with September 2016 Reception year parents (Mrs. Morris and Mr. Halliday will of course lead) as I am due to inspect a school, elsewhere in the country, on Tuesday.

Secondary students came back to school buzzing last week, not just about the wonderfully organised Sports Day at the end of the last term (thanks to Mr Hindes and his team) but also about the many wonderful trips, visits and visitors they have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) in drop down days, activities week and at other times. They are really fired up to make the very best of these opportunities (including international visits) – the curriculum is all the richer for it.

Heatwave and Uniform

A few secondary parents have queried where the school stands with regard to the heat of the building as temperatures creep up to 25 degrees and above. Avanti schools do not currently have a summer uniform. However, at the suggestion of the Trust, we have agreed, when we look as though we are in for a very hot spell, to firstly encourage all students to carry and drink plenty of water and secondly, if they wish, to put their blazers, sweaters, cardigans and tie into their lockers during the day. We have done this for two weeks now with some success. Less than 10% of students choose to enjoy the relaxation of the uniform and they are asked, if keeping their tie and blazer on, to keep their top button done up. Shirts, at all times, must be tucked in and there is no flexibility in any other area of the uniform (shoes etc.) Students MUST wear their full uniform to school in the morning and leave the building wearing it too.

It is getting a little cooler this week, so I anticipate that we shall revert to normal uniform at the start of the week and take it day by day – looking at the medium term forecast. It is important that our students look really smart, but they must also be comfortable for learning and not be at risk of overheating.

Another Performance for the Prime Minister

Hot off the heels of the school’s performance at Wembley a few months ago, for the Prime Ministers of both the UK and India, the Avanti Schools Trust invited our Director of Artistry, Paul Nash, to pull together a troupe of singers to speak and to perform for the Prime Minister, David Cameron at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Haveli at Bhaktivedanta Manor – where devotees are also celebrating 50 years since the beginning of ISKCON.

All that I have so far heard, from those invited guests who were present, report that our youngsters (as usual) did us really proud on the day as they performed excerpts from the forthcoming I’ll Be There performance at the Royal Festival Hall. Our sincere thanks to Paul and others for making this possible and hastily arranging rehearsals.

A short video of the event can be found here.

A Track Record for a Homeless School

As we receive the final acceptances for year 7 places this coming September, it is looking likely, that for the first time in the short history of Avanti House School, we shall have a full intake of 180 students, with a significant waiting list behind this. With other year groups (including year 10 going into 11) still growing – by the week – it says an awful lot about how Avanti House (currently in its third temporary building – and for secondary at the wrong end of town) is viewed by the vast majority of our community of parents, as a school they really want to continue and to flourish – in spite of the challenges faced with premises and planning permission.

These challenges continue. Whilst conditional planning consent was agreed back in February of this year – driven and unbelievably well supported by parent voice – our own ground has yet to be broken and at the current rate of development between the EFA and Harrow Council, which is slow to say the least, we are at risk of not being able to send the contractors in until late Autumn – possibly the very end of the year. All of this is incredibly frustrating and puts at very high risk any hope of being able to move the school to the Whitchurch site until the summer of 2018. We are really fortunate that the Governors and incoming Headteacher of Pinner High School are so supportive of our co-location plans as we plan for a third year here, where we shall be around 1000 in number to Pinner’s 360.

Friends of Avanti House Summer Fair

As we wind up to the end of term, a major event for the whole community will, of course, be the PTA, Friends of Avanti House (FOAH) Summer Fair. This will be held at the Pinner site on Sunday 3rd July from 11am – 3pm. More details on the FOAH website (Click HERE). I would like to take this opportunity to thank FOAH for all of their fantastic work, in my time, over the past two years – entirely voluntary, they have been both ambassadors for the school and excellent fund-raisers too (as well as traffic marshals, providers of refreshments etc. etc.) Let’s hope the weather holds this year!

A Reminder: I’ll Be There…

As mentioned above, a reminder to all our families and friends to quickly book your tickets for our stage performance at the Southbank – the Royal Festival Hall – next month, of the performance of the Mahabharata entitled I’ll be there.

Tickets are now on sale at both the Pinner and Common Road sites (also at Krishna Avanti) for the event taking place on Sunday 17th July.


Theme for the Term

The school’s theme for this bhagavad-gita-h-r-m-12-728term is based around our core value of Self Discipline and one of my favourite quotes from the Bhagavad Gita that I used in assemblies last week

I have to remind myself of this optimistic quote all too often in these challenging times.


Ramadan e-belgique 1


And to our Muslim families and friends, at this wonderful time, we wish you Ramadan Mubarak.

During this time you demonstrate, through your fasting and service, a self-discipline which is devotional.

I wish you all fruitful and wonderful week ahead.