National Careers Week is always provides a great opportunity for our students to focus on their next steps, and what they aspire to be beyond their time at the Academy. We have been pleased to welcome BBC Journalist, Pav Bhatti; Moda Living Architect, Peter Sproule, and the DWPs Michelle Kennedy into the Academy to give Aspire to Be careers talks. I am grateful to each of them for kindly donating their time in order to benefit our students.
In my role as Principal, I have been keen to champion readiness for the world of work, and raised aspirations. We have developed a careers programme that encourages students to look ahead throughout their time here, and offers every student opportunities to meet employers, visit work places and more. Our careers programme aims to meet the Gatsby Benchmarks, a framework of 8 guidelines that define the best careers provision in secondary schools.
It was a pleasure to see our Food Technology students’ exam work today. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to share the photographs as they are confidential until they have been scrutinised by the exam board, but I can attest that they looked delicious and extremely professional, with everything made from scratch by each student. I am very proud of how well all our students work, and it is always lovely to see them showcasing skills that they have taken time and determination to learn, and that will help take them forward in the future.
World Book Day was a pleasure today, and a wonderful celebration of the rich world of fiction that we all enjoy. I’m not sure any of us will forget the sight of the dinosaur-clad science and food teachers in a hurry!
There is no question that we are living through interesting times. The UK left the European Union last week after 47 years of membership, and change is in the air. We live in a world with more channels of communication than ever before, more able to share ideas and more able to share our frustrations and opinions. This has brought increased diversity, but also increased division.
The Academy has a comprehensive and inclusive ethos, with diversity and respect key to our curriculum intent. This year, I took the opportunity to extend this further by getting the whole Academy involved with MACFEST, the Muslim Arts and Culture Festival.
The festival is curated by prize-winning author and peace activist Qaisra Shahraz. Qaisra has dedicated her life to fighting Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination. She is committed to building bridges between communities in the UK and around the world.
Hosting our very own MACFEST event at the Academy was a wonderful opportunity to deepen understanding and appreciation of the richness of Muslim heritage.
We are looking forward to visitors from Manchester Airport joining us tomorrow as part of their International Week, when they will run workshops to celebrate Chinese New Year. Students will experience Chinese dancing, learn some Mandarin language skills and play Chinese musical instruments.
On another note, students continue to participate in Manchester United Foundation’s Unified Football scheme, playing alongside students from two local specialist schools, Brentwood and Pioneer House.
The Academy stands against discrimination in all its forms, and as a learning community we have a wonderful environment for building knowledge and developing the attitudes and principles that our students will take forward as adults.
“There’s only one human race…many faces…Everybody belongs here” James
Firstly, I’d like to say that I was blown away at our Open Evening last night by the enthusiasm and sheer thirst for knowledge shown by our young visitors. I can see that our next Year 7 cohort is going to be amazing and they do have a tough act to follow as our current Year 7 are great students.
Last week, I gave assemblies to each year group on the subject of local ancestor, Edward Watkin. Watkin is a fantastic example of someone whose ingenuity and tenacity saw him live a life that marked him out – breaking from his peloton, to use a metaphor that students of the Academy are familiar with.
Born 200 years ago just two miles up the road in Northenden, Watkins’ father was a supporter of working class rights, who was instrumental in the repeal of the dreadful Corn Laws that brought so much hardship to working class people. Watkin himself would go on to effect positive change for the masses, such as green spaces and public parks in urban areas.
A man ahead of his time, Watkin engineered the first high-speed rail link into London. He was commissioned to build a channel tunnel, which progressed several miles, until the government suddenly realised that a tunnel might open the way for a French invasion, and called the project off.
Undeterred, Watkin designed another great engineering feat, a tower that was to be significantly taller than the Eiffel to be situated in Wembley Park. Again, building started, but the project ran out of money and was eventually pulled down, making way for Wembley Stadium.
Watkin has a mansion built in Northenden, where he entertained the greats of his day, including Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and author Charles Dickens.
I hope that sharing Watkin’s story will help my students to appreciate that anyone can achieve great things with perseverance. It is amazing to think that a man who achieved so much lived just minutes from the Academy.
This brilliant new resource has been made possible with the support of our sponsor, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, who agreed that a dedicated space out of the library would afford our students a quieter, more private area to effectively discuss their futures. Thanks is also due to Bupa who again, also supported us in the creation of this facility.
At the end of our first full week back in the Academy, I must say that it is a pleasure to be here. Students have settled into the new academic year quickly, and there is a fresh sense of purpose around the building.
It was great to see so many of our Year 9 and 10 students taking the time to join Year 11 at the Careers Fair this week. This fair was the biggest that we have held so far, and saw more than forty organisations come into the Academy to talk to students about careers, courses and apprenticeships. The visitors gave very positive feedback about the students after the event, as did some of the student and parents who attended, so a very successful and valuable event all round.
Wythenshawe has been put firmly on the map, and some of the stereotypical views of the area dispelled, as BBC Radio Manchester spent the week broadcasting their shows live from the town centre. On Friday, a group of our students visited as part of a focus on young people and aspirations, sharing their role models with Mike Sweeney live on air. The students were a credit to themselves, asking great questions about careers in broadcasting and related areas, and I am very proud of them.
During last term we were honoured to host BBC journalist and presenter, Steph McGovern, as she officially opened our new building. Since then, Children’s BBC moved into the Academy for the summer to film a new series of their school-based comedy Class Dismissed. We are looking forward to seeing the results in the new year, and spotting students and staff of the Academy appearing as extras. It is lovely to be able to share the Academy’s fantastic facilities like this, which is made possible by the work of our site team who work so hard to keep the estate so smart throughout the year.
Thank you to the parents and carers of our students for your support in making such a great start to the school year, and to the students and staff who are working with such alacrity – I am looking forward to what the year will bring, and I hope you are too.