I’m the headmaster of a school that’s received lots of media attention over the last year. You could describe some of the attention we’ve had as ‘school shaming’.
I joined Great Yarmouth Charter Academy a year ago. The school had some of the worst results in the country. Behaviour was bad. Teachers and pupils were often scared.
I came in with an approach I call ‘WARM and strict’. Lots of media attention followed. Some commentators were positive, most were negative, none had actually seen the school in action. This never stopped commentators judging the school or me personally.
Some families chose to leave the school. Some families chose to join the school. Some found the rules too strict. Some found the new rules liberating.
Adults working at the school were hugely grateful for the changes. Many had wanted to leave the school or teaching alltogether. They felt supported in a way they hadn’t. They felt safe. They saw children transform. Children who had been withdrawn, blossomed. Children who had been habitually rude, became polite.
Behaviour changed rapidly. We encouraged visitors from the start. We still do. Every visitor was amazed by the transformation. Happy teachers, polite pupils, calm lessons. Just a lovely atmosphere. WARM and strict.
Negative media reports continued. Social media attacks and blatant lies continued. Personal and completely unfounded attacks continued.
School continued. Pupils learning in every lesson continued. Teachers feeling accomplished and proud continued. Pupils feeling they could be clever and keen, without fear of peer derision, continued.
None of our, very vocal, detractors ever visited the school. Open invitations were turned down.
We published and retweeted reports and comments from visitors.
Without exception, actual visitors, people who toured the school freely, who talked with teachers and support staff freely, who talked with pupils at break and lunch, these visitors who had actually seen the school with their own eyes, they were blown away.
I told twitter this. I wanted, I want, the world to see what we’re doing. I’m proud of the start we’ve made.
The hugely positive visitor comments, the massively supportive blogs, they got little wider attention from the media.
Detractors, none of whom had ever visited the school, continued to describe the school in the most negative terms. Detractors, who’d never met me, continued to attack me personally.
Ofsted came, no notice inspection, safe guarding. This was as a direct consequences of the lies that had been widely spread about the school and me.
The Ofsted team were hugely positive, as were staff, as were pupils. Read the report. It’s overwhelmingly positive. The positive Ofsted report got a bit of media attention but a fraction of the negative attention we’d received earlier in the year.
Then we reiterated to kids they needed sensible haircuts for school. No ‘meet me at McDonald’s’. Huge media attention. Avalanche of personal attacks. Lots of completed unfounded claims.
In school, we just got on with the job. Kids cooperated. Normal school life went on. Manners continued to be the bedrock of school life. Mutual respect continued to be a thread throughout the school week. Visitors continued to be blown away at the positivity of the place. Kids continued to learn in calm, focused lessons.
Detractors,who had never been to the school, continued to attack the school and me personally without any evidence.
In August 2018 we got our first set of gcse results. We went from 30% 4+ getting maths and English the previous year, to 58%.
We went from 14% getting 5+ maths and English the previous year, to 30% getting 5+ maths and English.
That’s an increase of 28% in the number of pupils getting 4+ and an increase of 16% getting 5+.
Detractors immediately came up with unfounded theories to explain away the improvement in exam results. They’d done the same when actual visitors loved the school. They’d done the same when Ofsted’s unannounced visit was hugely positive.
We’ll probably get a full Ofsted this year. Detractors, I suspect, will dance in the street at any criticism we receive. They’ll explain away any praise.
Huge media attention for the haircuts, the discipline, the vocal detractors. Pretty much media silence for 28% increase in GCSE results. That’s got to be one of the biggest improvements in the country. Yet, no media attention.
We’re pleased with the exam results. We’ve got pupils going off to do things, a year ago, they would never have dreamed of, but, the bit I’m most proud of, is the school culture.
We’d love you to visit. We just want people to see what we do. We’ve a huge journey ahead. We’ve also come a long way in a short time.
It would have been nice if we’d had more media attention that represented the truth about who we are, what we do, what we’re achieving. But I guess kids learning every day, feeling accomplished, teachers feeling truly valued and supported, gcse grades being amongst the most improved in the country, maybe it doesn’t get people talking in the same way.
Visit! We’re expanding. We’ll be recruiting. We’re a lovely, happy, polite school with pupils and teachers who really do get on well. We’re WARM and strict and we want you to see it with your own eyes.