Leaving my jersey in a better place

I have spent this last term in an unfamiliar position. I have handed in my notice, having worked at Bath Community Academy (and its predecessor, Culverhay school) for 15 years. This includes a year of initial teacher training in 2001. I have accepted a new contract at Winterbourne International Academy (WIA) as Assistant Principal – minority / vulnerable groups achievement, including SENCo.

Having seen many staff come and go over the years, I myself, have never experienced working in a school, knowing I was soon to leave. Until now that is.

I recall learning about the New Zealand All Black tradition of “leaving your jersey in a better place”, as described in the book “Legacy: What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life” by James Kerr. This concept resonated with me and it inspired me to work hard to ensure that I have left every facet of my work in a strong (better) place for someone to take over.

Due to the nature of my role, I had many things to tie up. I started by considering my key areas of responsibilities, which are:

– welfare responsibility for my “Excellence Community” of students.
– curriculum responsibility for the “Excellence Community” of subject areas; currently made up of Performance – PE, Sport, Performing Arts, Drama & PLTS and The Sciences – Science & Child Development.

I then started to break down each of these into specific areas and reviewed the systems and nuances that I have developed that have helped me adhere to various policies. Everything needs to be in a state that is intuitive and ready to go for anyone wishing to take over.

In some cases, I have needed to consider specific people that would be most appropriate to take over roles that do not necessarily fall within my formal job description e.g. leading ITT or being the Quality Nominee for BTEC. Liaison with the appropriate staff in a timely manner in order to pass over the responsibility was key.

One of the finer details was to inform a parent of a student with ASD in my community (so that they could talk to their child on their own terms) before going public with the news of me moving on. We then discussed which adult in the school could replace me as the key person in their school life (which needed to be male). This person was carefully selected through discussion with the student, the parent and then with the member of staff. A finer detail maybe, but one that was very important to get right for the young person involved.

Due to the nature of daily life as a senior leader, it was not appropriate to spend my days sat in an office working towards the successful completion of my transition work. Instead, I prioritised my daily duties, supporting the day to day running of the Academy. In the evening, I managed to dedicate some time to some of the jobs that required more time / preparation to execute. Remaining jobs, such as clearing my inbox, informing any external agency staff that I liaise with and clearing my desk can be completed over the holidays.

I have a full commitment to the students at Bath a Community Academy; not just up to the last day of Term 6, but throughout the holidays, up to the end of my contract (August 31st). However, from September 1st, my responsibilities will shift to the students at WIA (specifically those that are part of a minority or vulnerable group, including those with SEND). I believe that it would be remiss of me to not engage in any dialogue with colleagues at WIA in preparation for next year, especially as my responsibilities include the role of SENCO. By adopting this approach, I am better prepared to support the students (and staff who work with these students) from “Day 1”, saving myself time and energy trying to go from a standing start.

Activities that I have been involved with have included:
Meeting and introducing myself to staff whom I will be line managing in September.
Meeting with parents of children with SEND, who were keen to meet the new SENCO in advance of the next academic year starting.
Being involved in an external Pupil Premium review (one of my areas of responsibility).
Liaising with other senior leaders.

I have worked hard not to compromise any aspect of my work at BCA whilst starting to lay the foundations for my new role. Only the staff that I work alongside and the students that I work for, can tell you if I have managed to get the balance right. Time will tell if I have managed to succeed in my attempts to leave my jersey in a better place.


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