The newly-formed Bridgwater-based Quantock Education Trust has held its first conference on the theme of ‘Building Character, Shaping Futures’. Staff from the Trust’s partner schools attended the event which was led by two distinguished guest speakers from the education sector. Andy Wolfe, Deputy Chief Education Officer for the Church of England kicked off the conference by talking inspiringly about the importance of developing positive character in students and the role of school staff in achieving this aim so that all young people are able to flourish.
“I was delighted to be invited to speak at the Quantock Education Trust’s inaugural conference and excited to learn that the focus was ‘character education’. From a Church of England perspective educating for character is ultimately about educating for ‘life in all in fullness’ and is most impactful when it seeks to develop and celebrate the flourishing of individuals, communities, families and societies. It is good to see that this ethos is at the heart of this trust’s ambition,” said Mr Wolfe.
Mr Wolfe was followed by prominent educationalist, public speaker, writer and Chief Executive of the Chartered College of Teaching Dame Alison Peacock whose experiences as Headteacher of The Wroxham School, a small primary school in Hertfordshire, formed the basis of her highly engaging talk about how a ‘learning without limits’ approach to education that focuses on an inclusive, creative approach to school improvement impacted on specific students and on the school as a whole as it’s previous ‘special measures’ status was reversed within ten months of her appointment.
Dame Peacock talked about individual students whose talents where allowed to flourish under the Wroxham School’s unique approach and also pointed out to the audience how unique it was for a multi-academy trust to be dedicated to embedding the delivery of character education across its partner schools and how innovative it was for a trust to demonstrate this commitment by holding a whole-staff conference during its first few months of operation.
One teacher from Spaxton C of E Primary School, which is a partner school of the Quantock Education Trust commented, “I was able to relate a lot to some of the examples Alison gave and it made me feel very proud of the school that I work at and very proud of the role I am in. I am going to research some of the materials that Alison suggested for further reading regarding leading without limits so that I can strengthen my future practice.”
Reverend Ed Moll, of St George’s Church in Wembdon, Somerset, who is a member of the Quantock Education Trust Board said, “I thought this was an excellent conference, very high quality and inspiring speakers. I really hope their talks helped all staff remember why they went into the profession and to be inspired to continue to strive within it. Character was a superb theme: it combines the strengths of church schools, where ethos is explicitly inspected, and non-church schools where the equally strong ethos is not always able to be brought out into the light. A benefit of this kind of subject is that participants aren’t sent away with something else to do, but rather we were made to think about what more we could be, which, in a very busy work environment feels manageable and maybe inspiring.”
Students from both primary and secondary level worked together in the lead-up to the conference and, on the day, demonstrated their musical and dancing talents by performing a version of ‘Giant’ by rap music star Rag n Bone Man.
Head of Drama at Haygrove School, Miss Abbie-Louise Hannaby said, “It was such a privilege to work cross-phase in order to provide the opening performance of our first Trust-wide conference. The older students worked brilliantly with the younger ones, supporting them and encouraging them all along and the younger ones were hugely inspired by the hard work and talent of the older ones; their collaboration was a joy to see. I am hugely excited by the opportunities being part of the Quantock Education Trust will bring for the partner schools to collaborate on projects and enable staff and our young people to work together and learn from each other.”
The Quantock Education Trust was formerly established in August 2019, after being founded initially in 2016 under the name ‘Haygrove Academy Trust’. The Trust’s mission is to improve the life opportunities of all the children and young people in its community and has at its core the aim of driving cross-phase school improvement by prioritising achievement underpinned by the development of personal qualities and attributes which foster a love of learning and the growth of civic and moral character from early childhood onwards.
Speaking after the conference, Quantock Education Trust CEO Mrs Karen Canham commented, “Our commitment to embedding ‘character education’ in both our curriculum and our extra-curricular programme is what makes the Quantock Education Trust stand out from other multi-academy trusts in the south-west region. I was thrilled to see our first conference come together and feel very excited by the positive reaction of so many of our staff from all our schools to our mission to develop valuable positive character traits in our students from pre-school age through to young adulthood.”