Farewell and Thank you Nottingham City

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”

Back in my days as a science teacher I recall a lesson when I asked if anyone had a £2 coin in their pocket and could read the message around the rim.  The class discovered the phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants”.  I was about to discuss the methodology of science, how Newton referred to himself, in a letter responding to Robert Hooke after Hooke wrote to congratulate him on his discoveries and his published scientific paper. “Yes, yes Sir” said one enthusiastic teenager “it’s an Oasis album”.

Wherever the phrase is used, the meaning suggests that creativity, developments, even innovation in science or other areas is often about picking through other people’s ideas and discoveries – that’s what I’ve tried to do across a fragmented and challenging educational landscape.

I have come to the end of my time at NCC this half term and since 2017, have been privileged to work with many “giants” of education, of teaching and learning, governors, and support staff, NCC colleagues, TU and the voluntary sector, heads and CEOs – in Nottingham City and regulators and wider services. Anyone working in schools in recent years has seen the value of unsung giant heroes like the cleaners not only keeping a place clean and tidy but safe from a virus; catering staff working out how to get meals to FSM children in a pandemic or suddenly during a lockdown holiday; reception staff having to ring home (yet again) and explain a class bubble has burst or a pupil, a teacher has tested positive; teachers who have had to replan delivery models, find creative solutions and look out, even more carefully for children and young people; heads who never anticipated reading or writing so many risk assessments alongside leading a school, senior leaders bouncing from issue to issue, discussing health more than teaching; governors wondering what on Earth they volunteered for ! So many “giants” and many amongst NCC staff too; giants trying to ensure clear guidance for safe working; giants trying to help admit a child mid year; giants working out how to help a SEND child unable to get to school or support a vulnerable family; or reach out to those vulnerable unaccompanied asylum seeker children and many just trying to keep a service alive like the swimming services and Councillors under fire from every direction but staying focussed on priorities, even busy MPs stopping by to thank local heads during the height of the pandemic.

I reflect on my four and half years ( since writing “Why be an education Director?” ) and it has been a privilege of seeing and hearing many colleagues in their work and working closely with some Nottingham “giants”. It has seen the LA world try and improve communications and create flexible systems to support schools and academies in the mission for the 48,000 Nottingham children and their families, who we all work hard to serve and educate.  We have tried to be creative and innovative to find and offer opportunities, to listen to partners and try and bring an effective engagement together. There is a great strength in partnership, a great strength in working on the significant areas we have in common. There is an importance to listening to the voice of children and young people ( and their parents and carers) and shaping the offer to raise aspiration, ambition and outcomes in an early help, inclusive City.

Nottingham now has almost 90% of settings good and outstanding and recently a very positive report of SEND across the whole provision in Nottingham City. Those who work hard every day to deliver and raise standards are amongst those giants. During my time the pandemic has been a massive trauma for the workforce and significantly for very many families, touching us all sometimes in hard and very sad ways. Overcoming that deficit and disadvantage will need more ‘standing on the shoulders’ to look for solutions but I have every confidence that working together progress can continue to happen.

Children and young people playing sport, or involved in an outdoor education activity or taking part in a concert, a play, a show, in any communal activity even solving problems in lessons, these pupils each make their contribution but the result is always greater than the parts. This brings an added joy, an uplift and a lesson for cooperation, collaboration, and partnership and that’s a way forward for the wider collaborative work in the City. 

So thank you for making my time in this role so rewarding, for the times of working together to solve problems and find acceptable solutions, for creating an inclusive culture and for being a “giant” in the City. Thank you for your hard work from Early Years, Primary, Secondary, AP, Special and Colleges and my very best wishes for the continued success of your organisation and for you personally.  

I am hoping to blog a few more posts now as I reflect upon 40+ years in education; 26 in classrooms delivering ~ 26,000 Chemistry and Science lessons, as a school leader and head and in helping an LA.        

Walk 14 Hannig around the Saas Village

So we return to Saas Fee and walk to the side of the village, after a short cable car ride up Hannig to 2342m and walk facing the Fee glacier. A glacier like so many suffering from climate change. at one point not so long ago, snow and ice were at the edge of the village! This is a nice 3 hour amble with lots of flowers and the odd goat. In the village lots of really interesting history, especially the Priest who first brought tourists to the place.

 

Walk 13 Chatsworth

Today we go to Chatsworth. Lots of walking in this estate and lots of time spent in the amazing gardens. Many of you in Nottingham and Derbyshire or S Yorkshire will know this place well. We have enjoyed their Christmas extravaganza in the house and also the summer RHS shows ( usually in serious rain and mud).  This though is a walk days starting on the edge of the estate at a BandB and walking up around the Tower and  larger ponds.

We have such familiarity I have few photos but enjoy this walk from January 2019

Walk 11 Woodthorpe Park

Today is a special walk, it’s a from ‘home’ walk, it’s lockdown and it’s Easter.

We have always appreciated a park at the top of the road; taking babies in pushchairs; toddlers to swings; sledging in snow. Just a place to stretch or sit or meet and to watch the seasons pass through those grand horse chestnuts and gardens. Enjoying blossom, kicking over leaves, being blown about or frosted.

 

  • Thank you Nottingham City council for keeping this open during the 2020 pandemic.
  • Thank you local people for being sensible walking around etc
  • Thank you NCC for buying it and looking after it since 1921 – and in part thanks to a donation from Sir Jesse Boot.
  • Thank you to the volunteers who help out – and long may that continue BUT
  • Most of us appreciate parks, we probably appreciate them more now. I hope government will help fund local councils better to preserve, sustain and ‘grow’ our green spaces – there is bailing out banks and there is stewardship of our natural parks in urban settings

Walk 10 Around Millelallalin nr Saas Fee

Get the gloves on! We ride up from Saas Fee at 1309m to Millelallalin at 3456m. Come out on snow and sit underneath Allalinhorn. This just explores the area around the  cable car station. There is a scary walk around the edges and across the glacier to be saved for a later trip. You’ll need to acclimatise and also get used to walking on snow. Oh and not forgetting all the summer skiers tramping down having gone up about 5 am and finished midday as the sun disrupts the surfaces.

This is a place to amble and observe and enjoy a Swiss hot chocolate. We have walked up towards the peak in glorious sunshine and after half an hour a complete white out came as a bit of a scare.

Walk 9 Clumber

Lots of Nottingham folk will have walked or cycled at Clumber. We have done both, and recall taking the girls there when they were fairly little to learn to ride their bicycles, with mixed success.

Recent times we’ve also enjoyed visiting the gardens and greenhouse….and having a cup of tea.

In the long hot summer of 2019 there were some great photos from the air showing the outline of the old house thanks to fairly scorched ground.

 

Walk 8 Blea Tarn to Pike O’Blisco

This walk has a climb about 500m starting and finishing at Blea Tarn.  We find this very quiet spot just between the Great Langdale valley and the Little Langdale valley. On the descent we get to the three shires stone where the historic boundary of Westmorland, Cumberland and Lancashire met. More importantly the local pub in little Langdale ( the Three shires) is definitely a Dexter favourite.

There are two similar photos at the end, and you’ll agree that’s because its’ a view to just absorb. Had it not been such a cold autumnal day we might have swum.

Walk 7 St Cuthbert’s way

Today is a long walk in fact 5-7 days staying in BandB overnights. We start in Melrose in the Scottish Borders and move into England and Northumberland. It’s 100km. I did this walk as a retreat on my own after finishing at Trinity.

Not always nice weather a few April showers to cope with. We finish in Lindisfarne and see the place Cuthbert lived 634 AD to 687. He is one of those fascinating Celtic saints – I wonder what he would have made of our situation today.

Anyway brace yourselves for the weather but whilst this is a v quiet walk w few people those you meet will be very special and both were a deep joy.