Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Human Scale

Being shown round the remarkable Leigh Technology Academy at Dartford today were headteachers from The Grove and Royal Manor Arts College who found much to confirm the directions we have taken with the new Portland institution.

Like others, and indeed like we will be, Leigh Technology Academy is subdivided into much smaller units. They call them Colleges - and these are very autonomous. They are schools in all but name, with their own heads and staff and a unique version of the overall uniform. We were shown round by two highly articulate young men, George and Josh - both head boys within their own Colleges (selected after a gruelling interview and presentation process!). Both told us so much that was useful - and had a pride in the whole institution that was quite remarkable, but well placed. They explained clearly how the smaller units led everyone to behave better, to be proud of their achievements, to support each other and it clearly lies at the heart of the amazing progress the whole institution is making. The colleges are mixed age, and in technology we heard confirmation of what George and Josh had told us: youngsters chase after the role models of older students who in turn respond so well, and work better, with the responsibility of helping the younger ones.

So many little surprises: we asked Josh about work experience - ah yes, he said, he'd done his in India. We asked if they did student lesson observations - yes they said, Ofsted have helped train us to know how to do them. In technology they were building Karts - how are they doing? we asked - to be told they were 4 od the nation's top 10. And so on. Amazing, but attainable. It really is all about ambition and detail. We only saw one item of litter - a can - but as soon as we saw it Josh picked it up and binned it. Pride indeed!

We took away a mass of those details - and they held onto one or two of our ideas too. This relationship with other successful institutions already a little way down the road we are following helps us to be clear about the decisions we make in developing our Portland institution. We caught up with Chief Executive Frank Green at the end of the tour - they have Ofsted tomorrow and he was relishing having them see the progress they had all made! Frank further helped us to understand the detailed processes that had worked so well for them before they got their new building.

So much detail to remember! But we will stay in touch with our friends at Leigh Technology Academy...

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