With less than two weeks to go until polling stations all over the United Kingdom open their doors to voters in what is being described as the most tightly run election in a generation, incumbent MPs and those looking to oust them from their seats are hitting the campaign trail in a final push to win every vote that they can. For the people of Runcorn this week, this meant a visit from Prime Minister David Cameron as he turned out to support fellow Conservative Party member and local MP for Weaver Vales, Graham Evans.
As part of the visit, the PM stopped by Sandymoor School to speak with students, teachers, and Head Teacher Andrew Howard. Founded in 2012, Sandymoor is a Free School with a unique vision to provide an education for the future. With the aim of producing intelligent, employable global citizens that demonstrate social competence and a desire for learning and respect for each other and the world around them, Sandymoor was also awarded Microsoft Global Showcase School status in November 2014.
For local MP Graham Evans, helping parents in the area to found the school in 2012 is something that he says ranks as one his ‘proudest achievements’. To add to this, when Mr Cameron visited this week he said he was very impressed by Sandymoor, placing emphasis on the fact that, in his own view, by giving educators the freedom to try new things and work in their own ways, parents are presented with more options when it comes to choosing a school for their children.
“I am in favour of Free Schools. They give parents choice. Everyone wants the best for their children.” – David Cameron, UK Prime Minister
Not that Sandymoor has been short or praise or accolades of late – Andrew Howard was recently shortlisted for the Naace 2015 Leadership Impact Award – but the ringing endorsement from the Prime Minister is of great reassurance to parents, many of whom were involved in the founding of the school in 2012:
“It is a tremendous accolade for us to show our school to the Prime Minister. It is an intrinsic part of the community, now open seven days a week to share with residents.” – Richard Eastburn, Founder parent father-of-two
As part of Sandymoor’s approach to technology as an enabler and facilitator within education, the school has fully embraced the Office 365 Pro Plus Benefit available to schools, colleges and universities, meaning that staff and students are able to enjoy what Andrew Howard calls “an anytime, anywhere collaborative space for learning”. In a conversation last year with Gerald Haigh, Andrew explained how Office 365 has streamlined everyone’s workload. Each class has its site with schemes of work accessible to students and parents. Homework diaries are replaced by online calendar events that the head can monitor across the school. Shared diaries, online forms, the facility to book specialist rooms online all ease the administrative load on staff – and students can use online forms to report problems anonymously.
However the cards fall after May’s general election, and regardless of whomever will be residing in No.10 Downing Street when the dust eventually settles, this week’s visit from the current Prime Minister only serves to strengthen the resolve at Sandymoor and Andrew’s confidence in what they are doing. Governments may change, but you can guarantee that great teachers and great academic institutions will continue to push standards higher:
“It’s really exciting. We’ve been on a remarkable journey. We are renowned for doing things differently and making a difference.” – Andrew Howard, Head Teacher, Sandymoor School