Last 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 attachment 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.