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.

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Gratitude

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 justine.reilly@avanti.org.uk 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.

Gratitude

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

Haribol