This year, as Andy Sprakes stepped up to receive his award he gave a little speech.
“I don’t believe in awards”, he began. Uh oh.
“It’s not me who has made any of this happen, is it? It’s the students and their families, the staff and the governors, it’s everyone”.
This tells me Andy is a perfect candidate for our Martin Bacon Memorial Headteacher of the Year Award.
I never had the privilege of meeting Martin Bacon, but he is credited with great success: turning Swavesey Village College into the best performing secondary school in Cambridgeshire, with a national reputation for excellence and a steadfast focus on delivering a whole education; establishing the Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust as a lasting legacy, turning around Nene Park Academy, beginning the process at Manor School, and paving the way for the new build at Northstowe; and all the while still finding time to value individual young people in the school, many of whom remember sitting down for a cup of tea in Mr. Bacon’s office.
When asked about the secret of his success, Martin replied with the words Andy echoed last week: the praise wasn’t due to him; it was the students, the staff, the whole team who made a school successful. Perhaps he would have been embarrassed to learn we named our award after him.
Andy Sprakes has a similar track record of school improvement, as the Head at Campsmount Academy in Doncaster where he had everyone back in a learning environment the same week that the school burnt to the ground in an electrical fire, and led the school to its best ever results and a glowing Ofsted report despite working out of Portacabins.
This year, still not satisfied with the success he was having, Andy co-founded and took on the headship at a new flagship school, XP, working from Ron Berger’s expeditionary learning principles and with a supportive culture at its heart. At XP, students work in crews to produce beautiful work as part of expeditions that have end products with real value and real audiences. Andy has been in temporary accommodation again, but this time an adapted room in Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium. We took 25 visitors over there this term and were astounded at the students’ enthusiasm and eloquence in speaking about their unique curriculum. As a free school, the team at XP didn’t have to follow the National Curriculum, but their vision is to see what they are doing replicated, so they’re making it as easy as possible for other schools to follow in their footsteps.
So should we be rebranding our Headteacher of the Year award? Our previous winners, Sally Lees at Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre, Wendy Heslop at Cramlington Learning Village and Karine George at Westfields Junior school, are very different leaders but share the same emphasis on developing staff and students and a culture of experimenting and achieving. Modesty and a genuinely empowered team might make any of these great leaders feel awkward about accepting an award for the achievements of their schools, but perhaps this makes it more important that we blow a trumpet for them.
By Iggy Rhodes
Whole Education Network Facilitator