“It’s fair to say that without the support of the Trust, I wouldn’t be sitting here now”
Scott Gaskins is Head of School at Littleport and East Cambs Academy (LECA) – a new-build secondary school that benefits from shared facilities with a special school and local leisure centre.
Scott epitomises the Active Learning Trust’s focus on ensuring clear pathways for progression are in place for staff members, and supporting staff members through that journey. Having worked at Neale-Wade Academy as an Assistant Head when it joined the Trust, Scott progressed to Vice Principal within the school, before being offered the role of Head of School at LECA ahead of its opening in September this year.
These are uncertain times for schools leaders – and teachers – with regular changes to fundamental aspects of the sector making the role of a Headteacher more challenging.
“There’s a lot of pressure on Headteachers,” says Scott.
“It is, as you would expect, terribly hard work. I live the job; I don’t leave the school until I know I’ve answered all the questions that are on my desk.”
The leadership model in place at LECA, and a number of other schools across the Trust, sees Scott supported by an experienced Executive Principal, in this case Jason Wing. Formerly Head of Neale-Wade, Jason is a National Leader for Education and now Executive Principal of both Neale-Wade and LECA.
“The model I am working in, whereby I have Jason and the wider Trust to discuss issues with if needs be, is really beneficial,” says Scott.
“It’s fair to say that without the support of the Trust I wouldn’t be sitting here now. It allows me – with the changes in GCSEs this year for example – to see how Heads of other Trust schools are approaching the problem, and chat about possible solutions.
“This model, whereby I have come from within the Trust – allows you to grow your own Headteacher, if you like. Trusts or groups of schools can build better Headteachers by supporting that individual through their progression.
“Because I’ve progressed from a member of senior leadership into this role as Head of School, the Trust has been able to nurture and to grow me as a leader, and the result is that they feel confident, and trust in me, to oversee what is a brand new £38m facility.”
Is there an issue around autonomy for the Head of School though, as a result of working with a more senior colleague? The answer is a resounding ‘no’.
“For all intents and purposes I feel like I am Head of School – and I am. Jason allows me to put my stamp on the school; if I want help I ask. We meet twice a week to talk procedure, policy, curriculum design, finance that sort of thing, but I feel I have complete autonomy – just with the huge benefit of Jason’s support.”
As with Scott’s time as Head of School, support from the Trust and from those around him has been vital, first in his role at Neale-Wade, as the school fought its way out of Special Measures, and then as he took the decision to progress up the leadership ladder.
“When we (Neale-Wade) joined ALT, they brought a wealth of experience. They were able to bring their own brand and their own team. Most importantly though, they opened up doors for us to go and see other schools in similar situations. This allowed us to explore new ways of doing things like senior leadership, curriculum development and behaviour management. We explored how schools were operating up and down the country, not just in our local area, and without the Trust that would not have been possible.
“I was promoted to Vice Principal Learning and Assessment and I think it was being part of that senior leadership team at Neale-Wade, being part of the transformation of that school, that really gave me the confidence to go on to be a Head. When we achieved our Good Ofsted, bearing in mind the fact we were in Special Measures when I joined, I knew I was ready.”