OUR AIM? TO BE THE BEST
With new Vyners Headteacher James Neale now well into his second term, ICN was pleased to take the chance to meet with him to learn about his plans for the Warren Road school. Encouragingly, he aims to establish Vyners amongst the best schools in the country by 2015.
As James told us, “Our target is for Vyners to become an outstanding school in every sense of the word. With hand on heart, we want to be confident that all of our students can get as good or a better deal here than anywhere else.” Quite an ambition, but James has come from one of the top performing 4% of schools in the country and he’s had six months to assess the potential of Vyners. “I believe this is a great school; our 1100 students are on board, we’ve got wonderful staff and very supportive parents.”
James has always worked in comprehensive schools and considers them a good starting point for young people. “The quality of education in this country is exceptionally high. And part of the pleasure of being a Headteacher is to be able to help drive up those standards – not just in one’s own school but also in schools in the whole area. There’s a Hillingdon Head Teachers’ Association and we meet every half term to talk about the issues we are facing. We welcome the support we get from other local schools and are happy to contribute in return. This collaborative approach gives us strength in numbers. It’s also important to benchmark ourselves against the best schools further afield, so I encourage my staff to go out and visit – spending time talking to other Heads, staff and students.
“It’s a fact that marginal gains accumulate to improve the whole, so it’s worth paying attention to details which in themselves may appear insignificant, as well as the more ambitious projects. We’ve been conducting progress checks every five or six weeks to ensure we’re moving in the right direction.
“Inherently”, said James, “young people want to do well - some go about it in different ways and some need a bit of nurturing. For some, visual learning works best, others need an auditory approach, and yet more require kinaesthetic guidance (when they are encouraged to do things with their hands). It’s up to us to identify these challenges and satisfy them.”
A recent initiative that James is particularly proud of is called ‘Teachers for Tomorrow’. Here, sixth-formers with an A* in English or Maths actually tutor Year 11 students that may be struggling a bit with these subjects. It adds another layer of teaching and the younger students get the benefit of some one-to-one tuition. Meanwhile these teachers of tomorrow receive quality teacher training and are able to work with resources such as past exam papers as they plan and prepare lessons for their charges.
James noted that since the start of the academic year, his students were looking smarter in and out of school. “We’ve introduced a new tie with the school crest on it and we talk about the Vyners’ Brand – about having pride in the way we all present ourselves. It’s not always easy these days on account of what is shown on the media. We’ve also introduced a ‘suits and jackets policy’ for the sixth formers.
“Another thing that attracted me about the school is its sense of tradition and links with the local community. Since it opened in 1959, there have been just five Vyners’ Headteachers; and five members of the present teaching staff are themselves ex-pupils. Some current students are the third generation of their families to have been taught here and it makes me immensely proud to be part of this tradition and help to build on it.
“Our links with the community include our aim to be ‘good neighbours’ with those living nearby: a meeting of local residents allowed the airing of concerns such as the road traffic we generate. I want to encourage the vast majority of staff and children to walk or cycle to school. We aim to foster community links more broadly across Ickenham too.”
An example of that on the day of our visit was the school’s involvement in Fairtrade Fortnight, (see article on page 3). We know from ICN over the years of the musical and fundraising prowess of Vyners Swing Band, and more recently Vyners’ sixth formers have been increasingly involved in our community fundraising initiative with Uganda, in the CLICK Rukiga project. We are pleased to welcome James to Ickenham and Vyners, and we look forward to keeping you up to date with the school’s news in future ICNs.
|DROP-IN FOR THE BEREAVED. Third Monday of each month. St Giles’ Church Hall, 2pm to 3.30pm. A friendly, informal opportunity for a chat, over a cup of tea, with other bereaved people and bereavement visitors. The next meeting is on Monday 15th April (then Monday 20th May). Just come along, or ring the Rectory (622970) if you would like to talk to someone first.