Meet Leigh Moore. She’s the inspirational leader at Wodensborough Ormiston Academy (WOA) in one of the most deprived parts of Sandwell. This is the story of how a school head has made it her absolute priority to stay in close contact with her students and their families throughout the lockdown. If students can’t come into school, she and her team will get out to them in the community!
Leigh started as Principal in 2016 tasked with turning around the poor academic results, behaviour and reputation of the school. Her Majesty’s Inspector (HMI) monitoring visits now report many improvements, describing the school as “truly inclusive” and a place where “leaders ensure that pupils feel safe and are safe.” Nonetheless, Leigh is the sort of person who will always be striving to make things better, whatever the inspectors say. Leigh says, “It’s all about the kids, they make my job special, they are the ones who really matter.”
We are about changing lives every single day
The school’s ethos is ‘Believe, Achieve, Succeed’ and every student and staff member embody this vision at WOA. “We are about changing lives here every single day. We aim to provide an oasis for a safe and nurturing education – and if we can’t provide education at school then we’ll take it into the community,” reflects Leigh when lockdown meant schools had to close, other than to vulnerable children and those of keyworkers.
Support for students and families during lockdown
Leigh and her team have set up a system so that every student has someone at school keeping in touch, sometimes in person, sometimes online, mostly by phone. She’s still in school every day as are many of her team. Numbers actually coming into school have dropped dramatically since Government forced schools to close – on average around 15 students daily. That’s why the focus is on support for students and their families at home. This isn’t simply educational support using online learning platforms, there’s also a raising achievement platform (iBelieve), form group classrooms and the ‘WOA Workouts and Wellbeing classroom’ too, with daily exercises and films and social media updates. The school aims to miss no one out.
We’ve had amazing support and donations from the local community
Some of the support is very practical – with Leigh’s WOA Community Team delivering food hampers to over 75 of the most vulnerable families who are really struggling financially in the lockdown. In addition, the school are providing toys, puzzles and online learning devices for those who need them most. This has all been possible because of amazing support and donations from staff and the local community including the charities FareShare, Business in the Community and Community Recycling Consortium.
Looking after student’s mental health and wellbeing
Leigh is worried about the impact of isolation on students in relation to their mental health and well-being as well as their education. She and her team are aware that there are children who may be struggling and some may need counselling and again she offers that support online and within the school too. She and her team know it’s needed and very much appreciated.
It’s important to get back to face-to-face learning
With recent Government talk about a phased reopening of schools Leigh is confident she will make it happen in a safe and secure way for staff and students as important it is important to get back to face-to-face learning and support, albeit operating very differently. She understands how worried parents, students and staff are and how she now has to plan carefully for a safe “new normal”.
Leigh has experienced how the pandemic has touched or affected everybody’s lives – her mother, an NHS worker, was recently hospitalised due to the Coronavirus but has now thankfully been discharged and this has helped to shape Leigh’s thinking about how to best support and protect her team and her students during these challenging times.
She feels that one of the ‘benefits’ of lockdown has been to bring the community closer together which she hopes will remain long after the pandemic. She cites a lovely example of how her school team have been helping make scrubs for Walsall Manor Hospital and donating PPE to local care homes and Children’s Services in Sandwell too.
It opened my eyes to what life could be like
Born and bred in Sandwell, Leigh has always wanted to teach ever since she attended a Latin Summer School which she says was “life changing” as it “opened my eyes showed me what the world could be like”. This got her onto studying the Classics and well on the road to becoming a teacher so that she could give something back to her Sandwell community.
In addition to keeping her 8-year old daughter happy and healthy throughout this pandemic, to relax Leigh still hopes to find the time to do one of the online yoga classes she books (but never actually does!) and is thankful to the arts organisations like the National Theatre who have kept her entertained with epic productions such as Frankenstein and Anthony and Cleopatra.
Leigh has the final word, “I’ve signed up – so have my team – to changing lives. We’ll continue to do that whether or not there’s a pandemic.”
WOA is part of the Ormiston Academies Trust, one of the largest not for profit multi-academy trusts in England and their mission is to become the Trust that makes the biggest difference.
If you are interested in exploring public sector jobs within West Midlands please visit www.wmjobs.co.uk