This month the Principal’s Blog takes a different slant as East editor Len Grant chats to Jane Clewlow, East Manchester Academy’s new Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning.
So which school have you just moved from?
I’ve been at Salford City Academy since 2006 as Vice Principal responsible for the 14-19 curriculum. It’s been my job to set up a new sixth form from scratch. We converted an old shell of a building into a thriving sixth form with, amongst other things, its own hair and beauty salon and construction skills centre.
Before Salford I worked as an Assistant Vice Principal at the newly-created City of London Academy in Bermondsey. It was so new that for the first two years we didn’t even have a school building but taught the children in ‘Portakabins’. It was only when the first intake reached Year 9 that we moved into our brand new school. That was an amazing experience.
What attracted you to the East Manchester Academy?
After London I never thought I’d have the opportunity to start in a brand new school again. But here it is: the chance to influence things right from the start. If you move to an existing school the systems and procedures are already in place, so it takes time to make positive changes. At the East Manchester Academy we can start from scratch and continually look at the Academy from the pupils’ perspective, always asking, ‘What will be best for our pupils?’
The school will start with just one year group. What challenges will that bring?
Unlike established high schools where the Year 7 pupils are the youngest, our Year 7s will be the oldest year group as they progress through the school. Apart from our sixth form students, they won’t have big year groups above them to look up to, no-one to show them how things are done. They’ll be the ones that set the tone for the rest of the school which will be a challenging responsibility for them.
Won’t it feel a bit empty with only 180 pupils rattling around?
Not at all. The Year 7s will have their own ‘home base’ and certain sections of the school will be off limits. We want to make it feel small, safe and secure for them from day one.
What are you most looking forward to?
Oh, meeting the pupils and getting back into the school routine! Although I’m still going back to Salford once a week to teach my A-level students, I miss having the children around and find it very strange working in an office environment. I can’t wait for September!
When did you know teaching was for you?
My love of English came first. It was my reception teacher, Mrs Warburton, who, when I was just five years old, recognised that I had a particular aptitude for the subject. By the time I was 16 or 17 I had a real passion for English and also loved working with young people so the two came together in teaching. I studied English Literature at Lancaster University and completed my teaching training in Manchester before taking up my first post near Warrington in 2000.
And the satisfaction?
There’s satisfaction every day but now that I’ve been teaching for nearly 10 years it’s also wonderful to hear from ex-pupils. I’m in regular contact with a number who have gone on to achieve successes in a multitude of fields: some run their own businesses whilst others are representing our country in Afghanistan.
One of the pupils from the original intake at The City of London Academy got in touch with me recently; he thanked me for the impact I’d had on his early school career. He told me how he now runs three businesses, is a local politician and is about to go to university to read politics. For him to attribute some of his success to me is incredibly humbling. To know you have inspired a young person to go on to achieve great things is what teaching is all about.
I know that all of the pupils who start with us in September will go on to achieve great success and I’m looking forward to be being part of the team that helps them achieve that.
See the East Manchester Academy website here