My personal thoughts on joining Schoolsworks

East Preston Junior School (EPJS) is a friendly and happy school situated in the beautiful coastal village of East Preston. “Enjoyment and Excellence in all that we are and all that we do” is our school motto: we aim to provide exciting, meaningful and enjoyable educational experiences ensuring that all children have fun learning and achieve their academic potential. Our core values (responsibility, enjoyment, collaboration, kindness, excellence and respect) focus on providing a caring and nurturing environment to encourage our children to form positive relationships and become well rounded, resilient and confident individuals.

I have been headteacher at EPJS for 5 years and, before that, was the deputy head and SENCO for many years. Having worked for and been happy at EPJS for 20 years and for West Sussex County Council for almost 30 years, to lead the school into a completely different structure and to have a different employer was a huge decision for myself and the governors to make. We wanted EPJS to be able to retain its identity and core values but to benefit from being part of a larger organisation. Following careful consideration and consultation with all stake holders, over several years, we made the decision to become an academy and joined with Schoolsworks in May 2017. It has been a very positive decision.

Schoolsworks’ commitment to excellence and its ethos of “people first” resonate with our own values. Working with likeminded people to support us in our development, and celebrate, share and nurture what we do well is the basis of successful school development and was the fundamental reason for our joining with Schoolsworks.

The extensive and experienced educational expertise, together with other expertise within the Trust (eg buildings and finance) provides challenge and support at all levels. The knowledge that there is always someone to call on to help, who has the shared interest of our children at heart is invaluable. If I have had a concern or needed advice, I have had someone at the end of the phone, or with me in person, immediately.

Although schools working closely together, particularly as a locality, is not a new concept, the level of collaboration when working for the same Trust is exponentially greater. For me, I liken it to joining a large family. We assume a collective responsibility for ensuring the children and staff achieve the best that they can. However, alongside the warmth, support, companionship and friendliness are scrutiny and challenge to ensure that our children receive the best education possible. Schoolsworks commitment to the children and staff underpins all decisions. Striving to be the best that we can be and celebrating and recognising successes both individually and collectively is the fundamental principal driving the schools forward.

Opportunities for the Schoolsworks staff to collaborate are innumerable. Prior to joining with, and since joining the Trust, our staff have been made to feel welcome and their ideas valued at every opportunity. These occasions have become an integral part of our school and it is exciting to bring new and innovative ideas back to our school and try them out. Equally, sharing our ideas with other schools and knowing that we can make a difference to other schools allowing their children to benefit is gratifying.

For me personally, joining with Schoolsworks has allowed me time to reflect upon what we do well, spend time analysing what we need support with, and above all has taken away a whole level of school administration, thus allowing me to focus on the education of our children and supporting our staff. In particular, the level of financial support and scrutiny, has empowered me to set a budget (in the current climate of reduced income and increasing costs) that I feel confident to manage.

Becoming an academy and joining Schoolsworks has been a huge leap of faith: I trust Schoolsworks to help me become the best leader I can be and in turn for EPJS to be the best school it can be. I have been thrilled with our experience so far.

Kathy Lockyear

Headteacher, East Preston Junior School