What happens on Executive Away Days? (II)

What happens on Executive Away Days? (II)

Once again I’m looking to shed light on the thinking and practice of the Senior Leadership Group (SLG) at the BSN.

I can still remember the sense of disconnect between school leaders and colleagues from my early career.

I always wanted to know what went on.

So, what did happen this year at this crucial planning and review event? How did we use our time?

SLG seminar 2017 – Heads, Deputies and Heads of Business Units


  1. Aligning everyone’s efforts to accomplish the BSN’s objective;
  2. Planning for transformation and capacity building;
  3. Designing 3-18 learning experiences for BSN Connect;
  4. Reviewing plans / pre-permissions for BSN Connect and the Leidschenveen Campus.


1: https://kieranearley.co.uk/2016/04/what-happens-on-executive-away-days/

Last year’s write up – it’s amazing how far we’ve come.

2: https://kieranearley.co.uk/2017/01/winners-by-alastair-campbell-and-school-strategy/

A reminder of the BSN’s Objective, Strategy and Tactics.

3: Global Human Capital trends – Deloitte 2016 – “Different by Design” and “The Rise of Teams”

4: The BSN evaluation framework

Sustainability and capacity building were the key themes. How can we ensure that we continue to improve outcomes for children and young people?

We split into two teams (curriculum leaders and business leaders) for three of the sessions; both explored in detail how BSN Connect as our Learning HQ could function.

Curriculum leaders’ challenge:

  • To produce two fully worked concepts for schemes of learning for Connect 3-18;
  • To describe how experiences in BSN Connect will be integrated into unit plans at each key stage;
  • To emphasise the delivery of domain knowledge;
  • To start BSN Connect with a “bang”;
  • Planning for exhibition / gallery stimuli worth visiting BSN Connect for and how this might be followed up in school at the beginning, middle or end of a topic;
  • To consider how we will know BSN Connect has made a difference to the quality of learning.

This is the first time cross-school, cross-phase planning has taken place at The BSN. And colleagues’ creativity was unleashed. The 3-18 theme of “Exploration”, in all its forms, emerged. More colleagues from across the school are now being invited to expand the thinking into outcomes we can visualise for our students.

There will of course be many other learning opportunities for children, young people and our community in BSN Connect (specialist kit we can’t put in all four campuses, the theatre, out of hours learning, master-classes etc.) but it was excellent to focus on the curricular interface at the seminar.

The Teachers planning a 3-18 Scheme of Learning for BSN Connect

The Business Leaders looked at how adults may work and learn in BSN Connect.

Among other things the culture of more open connected team-working was explored as we move from what I described as occasionally feeling a little like this:


To this:


Let’s be quite clear about this, these are already high-functioning teams working tirelessly to ensure the quality of our provision. An organisation of the size and complexity of The BSN wouldn’t function without them.

However, there is no doubt in my mind that the current environment in which our colleagues work (in what are essentially separate classrooms over two locations), is a barrier to further connectedness. Teams today can work even more effectively and with a shared sense of purpose when project driven and connected. Frank open discussion led to hard, practical steps about making this happen. Buildings and spaces shape behaviour and interactions. Floor plans for adult learners and business leaders were shared with our architects.

Working on the plans for BSN Connect with Dirk Jan Postel from Kraijvanger archtitects

After lunch on the Friday we bucked expectations of the “graveyard slot” and accelerated.

In order to take the next steps in securing sustainable quality for the future we are using “Characteristics of a successful multi-campus 3-18 school” – A BSN self-evaluation framework.

This document was adapted from a template written in 2014 by Sir David Carter called The 9 characteristics of Successful Multi–Academy Trusts. Sir David Carter has since become the National Schools Commissioner in England. Within the English “school-led system” MATs in principle seek to share best practice, people and resources for maximum benefit for children and young people. They are also seen as being financially efficient. They are diverse in their make-up, values and core principles.

We are not a Multi-Academy Trust, (we’re a fee paying, independent not for profit School), but we share some features; we too are seeking to build a strong, improvement-focused, sustainable organisation. The BSN’s One School Vision seeks connections internally and externally to leverage better outcomes for our children and young people with aligned principles, practice, resources and sustained quality training for all colleagues.

Accountability structures, talent-management and effective communication are crucial as we examine how effectively the campuses are working together. The SLG will have these priorities and next steps assigned as objectives for next year.

In the final “Mystery Session” (which had led to some anxiety leading up to the event), I prepared our chair of Governors, Peter Bayliff to heckle the SLG about the thinking behind BSN Connect. Using the excellent chapter “Traps and Biases” – from David Didau’s book “What if everything you knew about Education was wrong?” potentially dangerous group-thinking was addressed – very directly.

I kept quiet.

Which was actually hard…

The SLG confidently and thoughtfully answered the questions.

BSN Connect could take us into new territory – we all need to lead it.

The following week the outcomes were presented to the Board of Governors as we move towards a sustainable future.

The Strategic Leadership Group 2016.17 

2 thoughts on “What happens on Executive Away Days? (II)

  1. Andrea Jenkins

    Looking at the circular diagram of the different teams, where do teachers fit into this model?
    The assessment team is represented, but what about all the other teachers helping the children to learn on a daily basis?

    1. Thanks for the comment. I probably could have made this clearer; the diagram refers to Business Unit colleagues in particular and our DHT Assessment sits in this area as she reports to me. Of course, everyone at the BSN is helping children to learn on a daily basis.

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