New Trumpington Community College headteacher is aiming for excellence to 'become a habit'
The school is aiming to close the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students.
Opened last year, the school building has been designed to adapt to changes in education over the next 50 years, as well as being responsive to climate change.
Now, its new headteacher is aiming to replicate this modern approach with teaching and a forward-thinking curriculum to help all of the school’s students achieve their full potential.
“This is the physical embodiment of what I’ve always imagined my school to be,” Adrian Kidd told the Cambridge Independent. “I was absolutely floored by the architecture.”
Trumpington is the first headship for Mr Kidd, who joins the school after a year on Ambition School Leadership’s Future Leaders programme. This intensive leadership development scheme is for leaders with the talent and commitment to become headteachers of schools in challenging contexts within two to three years.
“I wanted to have a greater impact, reduce disadvantage and bring relevance to teaching in the 21st century,” Mr Kidd continued. “When I read about Future Leaders I knew that the programme would help me achieve this.”
The school, which currently has students in Year 7 and 8, features an innovative open-plan design, inspired by Danish school models. It features a light-filled central atrium, with teaching areas laid out over two floors. Extensive use of glass connects all the areas of the school as well as giving views of the playing fields and surrounding community.
Within the school are both traditional classrooms, as well as indoor and outdoor open learning spaces with moveable furniture, and students complete a large amount of their work on tablet computers.
“It’s not just about talking about 21st century teaching, it’s doing it,” Mr Kidd explained. “It will be a different curriculum with a very different approach to that curriculum, and the opportunities for that wider cooperation is huge.
“It’s not just about academic excellence, it’s about the breadth and depth of academic excellence, it’s about making sure that creativity isn’t stifled because that would make me cross, both professionally and personally.”
He continued: “It’s about closing the gap between advantage and disadvantage, and trying to make sure there’s a level playing field.
“But also on top of that, really trying to not just talk about 21st century teaching, and all the rhetoric that comes along with that, but just to do it and really understand that students sitting behind tables memorising facts and figures is no longer the norm.
“We’re looking at a curriculum where we might teach English, maths and science, but it’s about breaking out of those little boxes so students realise that it’s not English in that neat little compartment, and science and maths in that compartment, but it’s actually a very blended picture because that’s what the real world is like.
“In many ways, it’s turning things around and trying to be a little bit clever with the teaching and learning in that we have the internet and all the information you need is out there.
“So rather than teachers standing at the front pushing information into students’ heads that they can easily access, we’re expanding on that knowledge and drawing from other subject areas.”
For Mr Kidd it is about building a knowledge base that takes in more than just the facts and figures.
He said: “What we’re trying to do here, through the use of the Chrome Books, is take the topic we’re going to be studying, students go away and learn the facts and figures, and bring that information to the lesson. What the teacher will then do with this knowledge is explore how are you going to interpret or apply it to these different contexts. So, you’ve got that knowledge base and we’re trying to add the depth and breadth that sits behind it.”
He added: “It’s not just cut and paste, it’s understanding that there are skills in research and what’s true and what’s false. Once they’ve worked out those facts and figures they can reinterpret it.”
An example of this, Mr Kidd explained, is combining subjects to make the learning more fluid. This could be researching a particular war in history and discovering more about the weapons used, then looking at the mechanics of the weapons with engineering in mind before creating a product to illustrate what they have learned.
“It’s realising that everything is linked,” he said. “For example, there’s part of the curriculum that I’m keen to explore where you might think that combining history, physics and technology might seem a bit peculiar, but the idea here is that students will be able to make a product of their learning, so rather than just knowing the stuff, there is a physical product.”
This work can then be shown to parents, teachers and the wider community to support the confidence of the college’s students.
“I’m incredibly disturbed by the narrowing of the curriculum when it comes to the arts and the performing arts – and one of the things I’ve been pushing very hard already is that those subjects aren’t exclusive to those departments.”
Mr Kidd has introduced some new practices into the school, including scrapping the college bell, timetabling many lessons as double sessions of 100 minutes and operating silent corridors to support the learning of all students.
“It’s making sure the students respect the learning environment and know that it’s about learning here and flourishing. It’s about discovery. And we want to make sure that there’s no place for disruption,” he said.
“If you’ve a clear structure and you explain to the children why those structures exist – and there’s an understanding of why we have to be silent – the buy-in is tremendous.
“It means that students who might be distracted or left behind aren’t going to be disturbed and they’ll get the maximum input. It begins to level that playing field and close that disadvantage gap.”
Mr Kidd previously worked for two schools in Essex before joining Trumpington. He will be supported in his new role by deputy headteacher Maureen Su, who has joined from Parkside Community College, and assistant headteacher Stuart Gallagher, who moves from Coleridge. All three schools are part of the Parkside Federation.