In a week which highlighted mental health awareness and the benefits of enjoying and appreciating nature, many of us have reflected on our relationship with nature, how much we notice, think about and appreciate our natural surroundings, all of which are critical in supporting good mental health whilst keeping us emotionally, psychologically and physically healthy.

Over the past week we held virtual conferences for both headteachers and governors, with 60 governors in attendance on Tuesday. Both events lead with the theme Building back stronger: Towards a strategy for education in Camden in 2030. We were fortunate to have a range of guest speakers at both events, including a number of Camden Executive Heads and Chairs of governors outlining and providing an insight into their local models of collaboration. Christine Gilbert provided a thought provoking introduction looking Towards an Education Strategy – System Leadership, where the emerging themes were shared.

Our current context should not be overlooked, where Camden, along with other Local Authorities are experiencing falling numbers in our schools, both at primary and secondary, which impacts directly on school budgets, it is also important to recognise the increasing range of pupil complexity that is present in all our schools. However, this is not a time for managing down, quite the opposite, and both Camden Learning and LBC are looking forward to a bold future, outlined by the education strategy. The plan is currently evolving and our stakeholder groups and successful series of Camden Conversations are all influencing the shape and content of our plans.

Collaboration was the key theme across both of the conferences, however collaboration can often be viewed as rather soft and woolly, however, Christine reinforced the need for collaboration in practice and systems, introducing the concept of a federated system, union by agreement. This is not about simply federating all schools, but promoting the vision for a comprehensive, inclusive, federated system of education in Camden. As the strategy takes shape, at the heart of everything we do, excellence and equity must remain central, maintaining the quality of education and excellent outcomes is fundamental. The focus on equity and the importance of individual and collective responsibility for all children in system is paramount, as Christine Gilbert accentuated, ‘A system that is better for disadvantaged pupils is a better system for everyone’.

A reminder about The Big Ask, the Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza contacted Martin this week to ask for children and young people in Camden to be encouraged to have their voices heard. It is the largest ever survey of children and young people in England, the results will inform the Commissioner’s agenda for supporting young people post-pandemic. I know how busy school days are, but the website includes lots of resources to help make this an easy tutor group session or PSHE activity.

Jon Abbey

Managing Director of Camden Learning

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