Taking the reins of a school placed in special measures by Ofsted is no easy task, but Gary Senior is thoroughly enjoying his new role at St Nicholas Catholic Primary School in Liverpool. With 24 years’ experience as a headteacher and surrounded by a hard-working, dedicated and child-centred community, Gary says progress is happening at a quick pace – the school’s Bluebirds Nursery has recently been judged Good by Ofsted. With a vision which is ‘striving to be an inspiring and aspirational community following the example of Jesus’, St Nicholas puts its special children at the centre of everything they do. Gary takes us through his busy but rewarding week where inclusivity and team work is key.
I leave for school at 6.30am on a typical day and arrive home at 7pm. One of the advantages of getting in early is I usually have an hour to work undisturbed or to have a look around our fantastic school before the start of the day, including a visit to our Bluebirds Nursery (which was recently judged as Good by Ofsted). The day involves a morning assembly and collective worship (it’s lovely to see lots of happy faces – children and staff!), four formal meetings and a governors’ meeting looking at leadership and management.
First thing this morning is a working group regarding our new school website. We then prepare for a round of observations with my School Leadership Team (SLT) looking at the progress we are making with teaching and learning. As the day goes on, we feel the “happy buzz” you get when things are going well and as a team we are delighted with what we are seeing in our classrooms – happy, smiling children and staff who are working so hard to ensure each and every child makes the best progress possible. A further meeting takes place in the afternoon with the school’s Archdiocesan Officer who has called in to see how things are going. I am delighted to share the good news with her!
This morning, I attend a meeting called a Local Authority (LA) Project Board where SLT and governors are held to account regarding the progress we are making. I am delighted to hear very positive messages coming from the LA and Archdiocesan officers following a recent two day LA Review and how everyone feels we have “gone from strength to strength since last November”. I cannot wait to tell staff, children and parents/carers the good news that our efforts, commitment and dedication are being recognised.
The day starts with an important visit from our LA Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) consultant who is helping our team improve teaching and learning. I rarely get the chance to have a lunch break and today is no different with me spending my lunch with a group of Year 5/6 children – you learn so much during these informal moments when children tell you how proud they are of their teachers and teaching assistants or indeed what they are not happy about! During the afternoon, our dedicated chair of governors pays us a visit and takes a tour as well as receiving an update from myself about recent successes. My governing body are newly established, very hardworking and are already providing the right balance of support and challenge as and when needed.
Although we are very proud to be a Catholic school serving the Cathedral community, we are also blessed to have such a multi-cultural and multi-faith catchment. Today my EAL (English as an additional language) lead and I are looking at ways of ensuring the induction of new children is as child-friendly, welcoming and supportive as possible. The day ends with our celebration assembly where we share everything that is good about our very special school! During the assembly, the male staff members, including yours truly, are introduced to the children as female super-heroes (in fancy dress I might add!)…something that was definitely not part of my job description!