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Review Article of the Month - September 2011
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Debbie had been brought in to help the school out of ‘special measures’ and a clear bill of health was granted by the Inspector by December. However, before that happened we were given an interview with Becky Thomas, a parent, a governor and a teaching assistant. At the time, Becky was stand-in Chair of Governors. Again, if you read the interview with her, you will see we were again overwhelmed, but this time by the sheer enthusiasm with which we were confronted. “It can’t be this good,” we thought.

Shortly after coming out of ‘special measures’ we had the opportunity to interview Rachel who was still acting Head. Not wanting the embarrass Rachel, although we didn’t record it at the time, there in December, we were struck by a sense of gentle humility and competence and so it was a delight to hear in the new year that she was now the full head.

January saw us interviewing caretaker-governor, Mark Vincent, and there again was this same sense of total enthusiasm and confidence and it was clear that sliced bread was no longer even in the same league for comparisons!

Shortly after that we moved onto risky grounds, being given the opportunity to talk to three small groups of children in the school. Children have no fear or respect for aging reporters and the experience, from our side at least, was a pure delight. However we live in days when children can be targeted and so we threw away some wonderful photographs and kept the children semi-anonymous. But, mums and dads, your kids communicate well and were fun to talk to (I’m sure there are times when that isn’t always so!) And, oh yes, these kids were enthusiastic about their school as well!

Now the next set of interviews had me wondering had I been set up? However Rachel’s invitation was so open – parents will be coming in throughout the afternoon to talk to the children’s teachers. If you’d like to drop in whenever you want, I’m sure they will be willing to speak to you. And speak they did. I turned up at a random time, sat in the area where parents were waiting their turn and struck up conversations. This level of enthusiasm for a school can’t be this good! But it clearly is, so thank you to those parents who opened up to me.

Yes, that is what there is there, an openness. Why is it there and so obviously lacking in other places? I can only assume that it is the relief in coming out of ‘special measures’ and having such clear goals that everybody here feel they are going somewhere and it is good!

In May, Rachel set me up with two senior members of staff, Bruce McMillan and Debbie Kilbride. Enthusiasm and competence oozed! No wonder there is this feel good factor in this school!  At the end of the academic year we pressed Rachel for a follow-up summary of the year, but we soon found that rather than extol their virtues of the past year she had her mind on the year to come. No standing still here.

In the week ahead of us now, the ‘Reception’ should be full with a new intake of 15 little people. No doubt some of you parents will already have children in the school but to those who haven’t and for whom his is going to be a new learning experience as you entrust your little ones into the care of this school, tell us at the end of the year if you haven’t joined the Enthusiasts of Waterman’s Club! I have a feeling we’d have a job to find such a person.

Oh, just in case any of you reading this article think we must be biased to speak in such glowing terms of this school – well yes we are, but it’s not because they’ve bribed us (we do this freely and have received no benefits from this school beyond the joy of listening to them all) but because nine times we’ve gone in and talked to as wide a spectrum as possible of people and they are all saying the same thing. So to Rachel and her team, may the coming year be thoroughly rewarding as you graffiti the minds of us onlookers with the bright paints of your enthusiasm, openness, caring competence and confidence. Thank you. We’ll be watching!

Because of the Editor’s incapacity  during the Autumn term of 2011, regrettably  we were unable to keep up our contacts with the school in that term but hope to pick them up again early in 2012

Post postscript - we now note early in 2012 that this school has invited or let us in no less  than sixteen times.  If you want to know what transparency in education is all about, this is it.)

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Your editor is getting on in years which may be why he was overwhelmed at meeting  Debbie Rogan, the temporary Executive Head, and Rachel Welch, the acting Head. Maybe we all have a tendency to caricature people, but if you are an older person get rid of any image of an older lady with her greying hair in a bun – neither of these ladies were like that! At the time Waterman’s was still in ‘special measures’ and had been so, on and off for a number of years.

I note that in the introduction to my interview with Debbie in early November, I commented on a sense of care, competence and confidence, and that sense has remained and been added to with every member of staff we have interviewed over this past year
“The Waterman Experience”   

This week ‘schools are back’. Last week saw interest being shown in the first two “Free Schools” that were opening in this country. It is perhaps appropriate that we kick off this new term of Rochford Life and our new “monthly review” page with an assessment of one of our own local primary schools.

If you are a regular reader/user of Rochford Life, you will know that a part of our aim is “to reveal the community to the community” with the idea that the more you know about your community the greater sense of unity there may be in the community.
With that aim in mind we not only approached shops, businesses, groups and organisations, we particularly classified three particular ‘people groups’ – local government, churches and schools. The first two groups responded with great openness and Rochford Life now carries numerous articles covering those two.
When it came to schools, it was a different response. We left messages, sent e-mails and were largely ignored. Rumours on the streets were that several schools were having difficulties but in subsequent conversations, we conclude that some of them are just too busy to spend ten minutes talking to us about what they are doing. It was almost by accident that one day near the end of last October we found ourselves in the Wishing Well Children’s Centre attached to Waterman Primary School. After talking with Kay Mitchell of WWCC, she closed with “Would you like me to introduce you to the head?”  “Er, yes...” I replied, not having expected this. A minute later I was in the Head’s office!
So let me recap the year that has been of our experience with Waterman Primary School. If you have never taken the time to read the pages of the NINE interviews we have done with this school this year, then this will act as a summary for you.