Roots Federation - Our Journey to Federating...
In 2019 I took on the Headship of Heath Lane; a small maintained Nursery school in Hertfordshire. Gemma Williamson was already in post as the of Head of Muriel Green Nursery School. Over the years we both found being the Headteacher of one school had it’s challenges; fluctuating and unpredictable numbers with the ongoing threat of Early Years funding being reduced or removed. But life was generally good. It was at this point Gemma, and I were approached to work in partnership to support a third Nursery school that could not recruit a Headteacher. I could never have foreseen at the time the rapid, often bumpy, but ultimately amazing journey to federation! The initial driving force behind the collaboration of the three schools was financial. As a larger entity we had far greater purchasing power than we ever had as a small, standalone school. This was particularly beneficial when negotiating contracts and reviewing shared services. Another area of significant cost saving was through the reduced duplication of tasks and effort. The small administrative and premises teams of each school, worked together with a more strategic approach to accomplish common goals. This led to increased efficiency which in turn resulted in cost savings. However, it soon became evident that the greatest impact of the collaboration was on raising the quality of education in all three schools. We were able to invest in a comprehensive training programme to provide ongoing professional development for all staff. We capitalised on the great practice in each school and shared with the others, we identified individuals with a particular strength and facilitated peer work with staff in other schools. It allowed individuals and groups across all schools to shine and share their knowledge, skills, and resources to achieve a shared outcome. It was at this point, after a positive consultation period of all stakeholders, that we formally federated
It has not all been plain sailing; effective collaboration requires clear communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to compromise and make decisions together. This compromise requires discussion, trust and a willingness to ‘have a go!’ Getting the leadership structure right is essential and developing leaders at all levels is not a quick fix. Having three schools at differing stages on their journey to excellence requires an ongoing, adaptive approach and we have not always got that right. However, the following key factors have supported us as leaders over the bumps and across the potholes;
Being continually reflective and willing to adapt
Understanding that we are on a journey and looking at the long game as well as quick wins
Acknowledging we will make mistakes (there have been plenty of these that have supported our growth along the way!)
However, it is our uncompromising shared vision that has been the most powerful force in growing Roots Federation into a special place for all. Through our unswerving ambition to provide ‘Educational Excellence for All’ we have been able to develop aligned autonomy; each school has felt empowered to make a valuable contribution, keep things unique and special to their community whilst becoming a fully committed part of the Roots Federation. Would I recommend federating? 100%! Would I do it all over again? Absolutely!