|29 May 2013|
New Newsletter Sign up Page
Hi everyone, I have now added a signup to the site. This goes straight to the newsletter signup page. No charge of course!
Posted by Andrew at 8:28
|5 May 2013|
Malaysia Blog - day 1
So far so good. I have just landed in Malaysia (well strictly speaking I wasn’t involved in the landing per se.) and after a very smooth, fast airport experience - Gatwick and Heathrow, please take note - I am now in the back of a car taking me to the Boulevard hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
For the first time ever I had to pay excess baggage charges at Heathrow, due to pre-orders of 240 books!
The car journey and indeed the country are new to me but somehow familiar - I guess it reminds me of Brunei in that I am in the middle of a beautiful rainforest yet on a four lane motorway that runs from the Airport to the City.
It’s 8am here but 1am back at home so probably not a good time to call and tell them I got here safely. And smoothly - even the car parking was a breeze this time as I was met outside terminal 4 by a chap who drove my car to a secure compound and may possibly bring it back next week as well. And all this for less than the price of the long-stay carpark where you have to drag all your luggage to a bus stop and then lump it on and off the bus; I’m definitely a convert (Nod to Martin Lewis for finding this deal).
In fact, about the only frustrating thing about the journey was the fact that we made good time and I missed the last five minutes of the Sherlock Holmes movie. So now I’ll never know how Lord Blackheart or whatever his name was came back from the dead. Bummer.
Posted by Andrew at 2:30
|27 April 2013|
Cothill Education Trust - DO NOT TRUST!
I am feeling very conflicted today. And angry. And sad. I spend a significant proportion of my time explaining to young people that while of course life should be fair, and we should do our utmost to make it so, the fact remains that it is not and never will be.
It seems somewhat naive of me then to realise that dealing with people in good faith does not always guarantee that they will reciprocate. Recently along with 5 other people, all of them extraordinary, I have been fighting a battle. We consisted of one marketing expert, two financiers, two lawyers and one education consultant. Not the sort of dinner party you’d necessarily look forward to, I suspect.
The six of us on the face of it had very little in common, other than the school which we had chosen for our children. Of course, this is one of the most important decisions parents ever make, and the fact that this was an independent school rather than a state school is irrelevant; it was simply the best school for our children in our area, and we chose it.
The school is St Aubyns in Rottingdean. Formerly a very exclusive boy’s boarding feeder for Eton, Harrow, Winchester, etc. (in which I taught for 7 years) it has metamorphosed into a local school serving local parents, taking boys and girls and predominantly a day school.
Last year a trust approached the governors and offered to save the school and take the school off their hands financially. Of course the governors were extremely grateful and were reassured that now the future of the school had been secured. But they failed to get any written agreements as to the future of the school, and the trust not only did very little to improve the running or marketing of the school, but having cleverly convinced the governors into handing the school over without making ANY promises to keep it open, they decided just 9 months later to close it down with a term and a half’s notice to staff and parents.
The letter went to parents on 21st February (none of us will ever forget that date). It said that because the Head was leaving they were closing the school since they couldn't find a good head anywhere. Really?!
I found at least two experienced heads, and contacted two organisations willing to provide experience interim heads, but they ignored that as it did not suit their plan to close.
I emailed the principal of the trust offering to help run the school until a suitable head could be found. He said that they had decided to close for a number of reasons, not merely the fact that the head was leaving (which he was).
He then spoke to his lawyer and changed his story - he had NOT decided to close the school, and was merely CONSULTING.
It was at this point that a group of parents came together to build a proposal which would persuade the trust that the school was viable. We even had a large public school willing to take the school on, but they were determined to close the school and profit from the ‘asset’ (and indeed the principal was heard to say on more than one occasion what a nice little asset this would make for the trust).
Two months of virtually 24/7 planning and working, regular 3 hour phone conferences, and late night email sessions ultimately came to nothing as the trust had employed a small law firm (appropriately called GBH) who cared little for the school and were merely advising the trust on how to close the school legally. Indeed this is how they advertise their services and spoke about this at a meeting which Mr Richardson attended.
Incredibly, though many of the trustees seemed to be honourable, it is my understanding that they caved in to pressure from the principal, Mr Adrian Richardson, and voted to close the school anyway, despite having been provided with two very workable proposals. And staggeringly most of them never bothered to even visit the school in order to see what an amazing place St Aubyns is; so much for Cothill.
But here is the paradox - if it were not for the evil perpetrated on so many teachers and children, by greed, asset stripping and breathtakingly arrogant behaviour from certain people, I would not have met or got to work with such a wonderful group of people who have shown a depth of feeling, care and commitment to each other, as well as professionalism and determination.
Often throughout this disgraceful behaviour by Cothill Educational trust I have been reminded of the famous quote: “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.” Unfortunately, the cold reality of life is that even if good men and women do absolutely everything, sometimes evil will still win in the short term.
But I really believe that the only thing that can defeat us permanently is our own attitude and response. And that’s education.
To put it another way, here is another quote that is much less famous (because it is from me and I am neither famous nor dead).
“Do not judge me by my mistakes, for they are many. Do not judge me by what life throws at me for that I cannot control. Judge me rather by my choice of response.”
So here is a question I am currently grappling with - do we always need to have a war before we discover a Florence Nightingale? Or a Mahatma Ghandi? What if these people had been born at peaceful uneventful times?
Where they who they were because of where and when they were? I suspect so.
So what should our response be? If you ever hear of another school who has been approached by Cothill offering to ‘help’, PLEASE warn them. Please tell them how Cothill did nothing other than take on the school for £1, spend half a million refurbishing it, but do nothing to increase pupil numbers, then own an asset worth millions. It is now too late for St Aubyns, thanks to the actions of Mr Adrian Richardson, and what he persuaded his trustees to do, but we all owe it to the next school to ensure that neither CET nor anyone else behave in this disgusting manner ever again, even if they claim on their website to have been ‘white knights’ keeping the school open for an extra two years! Arrogance and ignorance in equal measure, perhaps.
Some of the Cothill trustees have resigned, possibly in protest at Mr Richardson’s actions - my respect to them, but I hope that they will have the courage to speak out as well.
Posted by Andrew at 13:30
|9 April 2013|
I predict that tomorrow will be one of the most amazing days ever known at St Aubyns. Tomorrow will be the day when a community of extraordinary people come together to do great things.
I predict that tomorrow will be the day when a staggeringly strong group of teachers demonstrate their consummate professionalism, their love, and their ability to subordinate their feelings about the disgusting way they have been treated to their feelings of care and concern for the children in their care.
I predict that tomorrow will be the day when one of the most extraordinary group of parents I have ever known will grit their teeth, dry their tears, and wake their children and tell them how precious they are, before sending them to school for the beginning of their final term.
I predict that those same parents will somehow find enormous strength in each other, and hand over their children with a smile, however forced, for the final time to the school that has helped to find and nurture the very best in those children, as they have done with so many generations of children before them.
I predict that tomorrow will be the day when the children of St Aubyns themselves return to the school they hoped desperately would survive. Despite their disappointment, they will demonstrate their phenomenal resilience. Tomorrow is the day when those children will shine, as the realisation that this is their last term together will make them seize every moment together with positivity even amongst the sadness.
I predict that tomorrow is the day when those same children will begin to learn some of life’s hardest lessons, lessons that they should not have to learn yet, but which nevertheless they have been forced to learn by the selfishness and greed of others.
I predict that tomorrow is the day when we will slowly begin to put aside our hatred, if not our burning anger, as we start to remember once again that it is our love, respect for each other and unity that matter.
I predict that tomorrow is the day when some people will quietly hang their heads in shame, in the full knowledge that their decision to close a unique school totally unnecessarily has put a dent in the lives of so many teachers and pupils whom they have underestimated spectacularly.
I predict that tomorrow is the day when I will somehow manage to stop hating and turn instead to ensuring that such evil as has been perpetrated on these young souls and their wonderful teachers NEVER happens again. I believe that tomorrow there will be a great outpouring of faith, of fire, and of focus.
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”
Friends, we did not ‘do nothing’. And ultimately evil will not triumph, even though our wonderful school will be closing, unless we allow ourselves to be consumed with bitterness - I predict we will not.
Posted by Andrew at 23:42
|26 February 2013|
Together with a small but amazing band of dedicated parents, I am currently working to save the fantastic St Aubyns school from closing.
This has come as something of a shock to staff, parents and pupils. The school was taken over by an educational trust who are now threatening to close it down.
Suddenly, an army of talented people has emerged, showing just what can be achieved in a very short time by people who share three things; Faith, Fire and Focus.
And the array of parents who have posted extraordinarily moving testimonials on the facebook page shows what a unique place it is.
Here's one real example: a brilliant teacher who is faced with redundancy thinks not of herself or her financial future, but only of the sadness that the children in her care may have to leave such a happy place. It's people like her that make it so easy to keep battling,
Here's another: I spoke with the deputy head, who despite being faced with redundancy spoke first to me not of his wife, children and mortgage, but of a couple of the children whom he knew would struggle in pretty much any other schools. And that attitude is typical across the board, in certainly the best staffroom it has ever been my privilege to work in.
I realise that although we are all exhausted, we are paradoxically energised as well, as much by each other as by the cause for which we are fighting.
It also makes me realise how much of our lives we can fritter away. In just five days we have mobilised, galvanised, and developed a plan that will save the school from needless closure.
What, if anything, have I learnt so far?
For me, the biggest and slightly surprising lesson has been simply this:
Sometimes we really live. Sometimes we merely exist. But the choice, either consciously or unconsciously, is ALWAYS ours.
God Bless St Aubyns.
Posted by Andrew at 22:10
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