On Friday I had the opportunity to visit Monkseaton High School. The taxi journey out from Newcastle city centre reminded me of my time (in my early twenties!) when the Corner House was a venue I regularly visited for its live music.
The school was amazing – the image above is of the rear of the building – looking for all the world like the space ship from ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ – nothing alien here however, just some very interesting people working extremely hard in a unique environment. The coloured cubes on the roof are wind catchers; an intrinsic and innovative part of the overall design of the building; contributing to the extremely good energy rating of the school.
I met with Paul Kelly, the Headteacher and CEO of the Innovation Trust and his colleague Simon Thompson the Assistant Headteacher. Simon gave me a tour of the school – versatile teaching spaces around the edge, lots of open spaces for collaborative work and study, some dedicated areas for science and technology, all around a central open area that was a multipurpose sports hall and provided the main assembly space for the school. The atmosphere was relaxed, purposeful and quiet – the work that had been done to manage sound in such a large space was amazing – sound didn’t travel and the activity in one area didn’t intrude upon its neighbouring spaces.
I spent some time listening to Paul – to his vision that’s taken the school thus far and his ambition for the school, the students and the community it serves. Paul is going to be addressing delegates at our Leadership Forum on 15th June at Microsoft in Reading – so if you haven’t registered yet there’s still time!
What really shone through were the excitement and the vision – good leadership and management do result in a successful school. It’s a shame that under the current inspection regime the school is unlikely to ever be graded as outstanding – not until the value that the school adds is truly recognised. If I get the opportunity for a repeat visit I’d like to spend more time with the teachers and students to get their perspective of working and learning in this exceptional environment.