Most schools reflect the personality of their Principal to some degree or another. At The Aquila School, the happy and effective working relationship between Wayne Howsen, Principal and Kylie Cleworth, Head of Primary has clearly made its mark on every area of provision and learning. Wayne and Kylie joined The Aquila School together, having previously worked in the first primary school in Abu Dhabi to have been rated by ADEK as outstanding in all areas.
Now in their 7th year of working together, it is clear that Wayne and Kylie have a synchronicity in in their leadership style and a great friendship at that. There is a lot of laughter and excitement for the future as they explain their ambition for The Aquila School and we enjoy hearing them gently tease each other and finish each other’s sentences! Whilst their overarching attitude shows real joy in their work, to hear them talk about their goals for the children at The Aquila School is to hear teachers with a real passion for their craft.
Both Wayne and Kylie describe their careers in teaching as a ‘privilege’ and simply state their shared goal as making their school ‘a great, happy place to be’. Together, they continually reference their aim for the school to be at ‘the heart of the community’.
When asked about their greatest accomplishment at The Aquila School so far, they agree that the flourishing confidence of the Foundation Stage children has been a real high point of the first term. As to challenges for the foreseeable future, Wayne tells us that:
‘We are opening our secondary school in September 2019, and we are very much focused on the preparations and ensuring things go as smoothly as possible. The children know this too, we’ve had members of our Year 6 cohort writing to Kylie, asking what life in secondary here will mean for them. We were so impressed! To see young children taking a role in considering their own future is exactly the time of independence we hope to foster’.
Wayne went on to say that;
‘In terms of ongoing challenges, we know that we need to establish our reputation without being part of a known school ‘brand’, but we are very clear about the best way to do that – by committing to amazing learning and amazing experiences for all of our children’.
The community here already appears to be coming to life, as our team are met by a panel of four parents (with children from right across the primary school age groups), willing to share their time to give their personal perspective and experience of this school.
Wayne is clearly hugely popular with parents, with all citing his personality, track record and obvious passion for education as key factors in their school choice. One parent remarked;
‘Mr Howsen’s vision for the school was compelling. We knew he would make this school totally different. We are excited for the future! This school feels unique, special and is a very positive place’.
Whilst another parent added;
‘Mr Howsen feels like a friend to our children. He makes them happy and he knows them all so well. This is a very friendly place, like a family’.
On the whole, the families had experienced a very positive first term. Fundamentals such as administration and communication had been good, although one parent felt that the administration staff were more difficult to reach than in their previous school.
Events such a community ‘table top sale’, where children had been invited to independently run a stall to raise money for charity, were cited as real highlights of the first few months.
Parents enjoyed the assemblies and regular ‘open to the community’ sessions such as ‘Tuneful Tuesdays’ – a regular Tuesday morning singalong for everyone involved with The Aquila School. The ‘lighter’ homework policy (where children are only required to read and can undertake optional projects if they are happy and motivated to do so) has been positively received by all.
Parents are keen to see the school grow in terms of numbers as at present, certain activities (particularly extra-curricular activities and sports) are shared between the age ranges, where the parents felt that they would be best delivered by year group. This was a small issue, however, and to counter that, most felt that being part of a new school from the beginning had allowed their children to grow and adapt along with their classmates and school.
Last words then to the most important stakeholders at The Aquila School, the children. Our team were lucky enough to join a group of eloquently spoken Year 5 students during their library time. They were keen to give us the lowdown about real life at their new school.
The children were uniformly positive in their pride for, and enjoyment of their school. They mentioned the ‘happy atmosphere’ and the ‘strict but fair teachers, who listen to your opinions’ as key elements of life at The Aquila School. They felt that they could talk to Mr Howsen at any time if they had any worries or concerns. A question about bullying received an emphatic response ‘No! Not here!’ Their only request? More play equipment in the playgrounds, please!
It can be a struggle for any new organisation to create an obvious ethos and culture, especially one with as many interested and vocal parties as a school. At The Aquila School, the leadership team have successfully done just that in under one term, clearly positioning The Aquila School as a progressive British curriculum school with an attention to the unique learning style, individual progress and happiness of each child.
We look forward to seeing the story of this quite different school play out.
The Aquila School is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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