A pleasure and a privilege

2 January 2017

I have had the pleasure of Chairing the Southampton Education Forum (known as SEF) for the last two and a half years and in December I stood down to focus my efforts on Upper Shirley High’s forthcoming expansion.

On completion of my term, I can wholeheartedly say that we are a ‘city of opportunity’. The importance of Southampton’s civic leadership and the need to create strength in a fragmented educational system means that our city’s approach affords our community many benefits. Put simply, it's joined-up thinking-and-doing on behalf of our schools, colleges, Universities and local authority constituents.

It’s been a great few years serving the leaders and children of Southampton alongside Alice Wrighton as Vice Chair; who’s wisdom and insight champions authentic leadership. Alice's support has ensured the values of openness,trust and integrity have pervaded our work. For this I am most grateful.

This year, the impact of our committed city-wide group has improved attendance, which is up overall by 0.9% and now 0.4% above the national figure; outcomes in 2 Sciences at GCSE increased by 6% (this echoed in the PISA rankings internationally where the UK improved by 6 places in 2016 to 15th and above Germany, Switzerland and Belgium): attainment in English improved by 4.6% and Maths by 0.7%. In addition to this, SEF has a thriving and successful subject network group (the envy of other counties) and a cross-phase student leadership initiative with Southampton City partners called Imagine the Future which sees over 200 children annually from Years 6 to 10 share views and contribute to positive change. This particular work has been superbly led by students in our Sixth form colleges (Richard Taunton's, City, Itchen, St Anne's and Bitterne Park). Indeed, the strength of SEF lies in its stakeholders; stakeholders which include Solent and Southampton Universities, both of whom have given much to the city and will continue to do so with key projects including The National Collaborative Outreach Programme and new research into achievement of the disadvantaged. Our universities fastidiously support our agenda to broaden horizons, deepen knowledge and raise aspirations for Southampton’s children. All this considered, SEF is by no means complacent and we know there is much still to do to; but in the words of C.S Lewis…onward and upward.

A diverse system calls for diverse leaders and, forgive the truism but no two Southampton leaders are the same. Each has unique qualities and I’m energized by the wealth of experience and expertise within SEF. The group continues to grow in cohesiveness, effectiveness and reputation; all due to the commitment and focus of local leaders.

Whilst we are a city devoted to and relentlessly focussed on, our children, I have been inspired by the generosity of this city’s leaders to each other too. If leaders’ well-being is high so too is their capacity to achieve more and Southampton understands the importance of looking out for its educators to ensure the success of education year-on-year. I see this as our collective responsibility.

With thanks to The Governing Body of USH for supporting my Chairmanship and to Alice Wrighton, Anne Hendon-John, Sarah Stannard , Graham Wilson, Jason Ashley, Jill Lueddeke, Alison Parsons, Ian Golding, Toni Sambrook, Harry Kutty, Kerica Hunt, Sam Mawby, Vanessa Cass, Jim Henderson ,Martin Brown, Susan Trigger, Jonty Archibald, Lyn Bourne, Phil Humphreys, Ewan Scott, Tracy Davis, Richard Kennett, Andy Peterson, Denise Edghill, Dawn Baxendale, Jo Cassey, Natalie Johnson and David Townsend for your tireless work.