My name is Mr Barry Doherty and I have had the privilege of being the Headteacher at Colmers School and Sixth Form College since April 2011. I have learned much about Colmers, the students, the local families and myself in that time and remain humbled to lead this school community whilst seeking to create the education and life-chances I dream and demand for my own children. This section contains some pages which I hope you will find interesting and illuminating.

 

 

A Bit About Me

Where do I begin? Being a teacher of History, I guess I ought to be chronological and start by saying that I am a Brummie, born and educated in Acocks Green at Holy Souls RC and then Archbishop Ilsley RC. I enjoyed school and always knew that when some lessons or days were a bit boring, it was good for me and that if I kept working hard, good things would happen in my life.

School memories are often dominated by various teachers who opened my eyes, stretched my imagination, made me feel valued and basically helped build my self-esteem and self-belief. Sister Philomena and the legend that was, and is, Mr O’Connor – cowboys boots, long hair, Ford Capri, played guitar, owned a Betamax video player – you get the picture…

I was always aware of classmates who didn’t work hard, didn’t seem interested in getting a good job or didn’t seem to care about how they made others feel. Luckily, I wasn’t one of those students but always knew that if it wasn’t for my supportive and loving parents, brother and sisters, maybe I would not be so advantaged in life.

I signed up to join the Royal Navy aged 15 or 16 but surprised myself with my GCSE results and instead stayed on at school to study A-levels in History, English Literature and Chemistry and an AS-level in Geography. My love of History emerged during those years but that love was largely the impact of two brilliant teachers, Miss Mann and Mr Alexander, who made it all seem so fascinating and, again, built my self-confidence to do well in the final exams.

Ignoring suggestions of a gap year, I went straight to The University of Liverpool for three years and gained a History Degree and always knew I wanted to become a teacher. After some fairly tough regular teaching in Toxteth, Liverpool, I made my mind up and was able to get on a PGCE History course at the University of Bristol. Our tutor was the incredible Mr Peter John who was another in a long line of inspirational and confidence building mentors or teachers who made each one of us deeply passionate about our subject and our new profession.

Since graduating as a teacher I have worked in four very different schools in Solihull, Coventry and Banbury, before joining Colmers in April 2011. I had been teaching for almost ten years before our first child. We now we have three of them at school and it has added another major understanding of how and why children learn and why they struggle at times. Again, I am reminded of the advantage children have when parents and carers take an interest, read with their children, help them with their homework, build their self-esteem, help them overcome doubts and help them deal with their fears. But also driving them here, there and everywhere for clubs, matches, practices and all the other things that fulfil their lives.

Watching any son, daughter, niece, nephew, or any child develop language, reading skills, write their first name or come up with their first original idea, joke or impersonation is an incredible experience and one that teachers, family members, parents and carers can all share in the pride and the responsibility. It’s only in the past 13 or 14 years that I’ve truly understood that idea that it takes a community to educate child.

Whilst now middle aged and certain that I shall never play for Aston Villa, I remain ambitious and expect to become the first headteacher in space. Why not? Dreaming and ambition is not something we ought to give up when we become surrounded by cynicism and doubts. I am an optimist and a believer – those qualities sound perfect but being a teacher or a headteacher can sometimes make those ideals difficult to hang on to unless every child and colleague feel exactly the same way about themselves and their futures. Colmers deserves staff and a Headteacher that believes bigger and higher and longer than anyone else so that families can be assured that when they leave their children with us we will match or even exceed their expectations.

 

My Five Basic Beliefs

I began my headship at Colmers in April 2011. Despite being born and bred in Birmingham, it was the first time that I had worked at a school in my city and inevitably it was fairly daunting to arrive as headteacher in a school where I was a stranger to every student and every single member of staff. Fortunately there is nothing like the passage of time to erase such anxieties and like so many of my current and former colleagues at Colmers, I believe that it only takes a matter of weeks before a newcomer feels like they have been at the school for years.

Arriving at a ‘new’ school with one thousand young people, 140 staff and thousands of family members, forces any new headteacher to be clear about their core values and beliefs. Whilst everyone wants a newcomer to have a little bit of time to settle in, within days, if not hours, I was forced to make important decisions that affected young people’s lives.

Every day there can be dozens of decisions to make; some big decisions and some small decisions. In my very first meeting with my new colleagues I said that mistakes were inevitable but the one thing we could control was our motivation. As long as our motivations are pure then we can forgive one another for mistakes along the way.

That is why, for me at least, having really clear motives, values and beliefs are really important. The privilege of leading a school is not like running a football club. Football is really just an entertainment industry obsessed with profits with only one or two winners and the rest losers. The consequences of winning or losing a game are, in the end, not very important at all. But education is very, very different. Leading a school means that my colleagues and I must have a very clear bunch of motivations, values and beliefs that drive every decision.

So, what do I believe?

1) I believe that education is the only thing that can really set you free in life.

Children died in the South African township of Soweto because they demanded to be educated. They knew that ignorance leads to hardship and slavery of one form or another. They knew that education leads to liberation, choice, happiness and fulfillment. If I could summarise in one sentence the most difficult part of my job and the most difficult part of any teacher’s job, it would be to try and convince a young person that the most important thing in their life ought to be education; learning and passing examinations so that they can open more doors in their life.

 

2) I believe that children’s behaviour and their attendance partly reflects how they feel about themselves, their education and their future.

I don’t defend poor behaviour or poor attendance, but I choose to see these as things that can be improved if the child, their family and the school work together to build that child’s self-esteem, self-confidence and expectation of success.

 

3) I believe that being poor or disadvantaged makes it harder to be successful at school but it does not make it impossible.

Plenty of evidence exists to show that being economically disadvantaged is more likely to lead to poor outcomes at school. But there are overwhelming examples where this is not the case, where disadvantaged young people overcome the effects of poverty through a determination to take advantage of their school life and lead a different kind of life with greater choices and more opportunities. This is my own experience.

 

4) I believe that our intelligence and therefore our futures are not fixed.

History and my own personal experiences of friends, family and students I have taught convinces me that our intelligence isn’t determined by our DNA and that with the right kind of education every child can be a much better version of themselves.

 

5) I believe that it takes a community to educate a child.

In my experience it is very rare to find a disadvantaged child who surpasses all expectations without having benefitted from loving, supportive and ambitious parents and carers working alongside passionately committed teachers with an affection for their subject and an enjoyment of working with young people

I am willing to be held to account for these beliefs and be challenged if these words do not appear to match my actions or decisions at all times.

 

My Vision for Colmers

How good are we at Colmers?

The School Improvement Plan: 2017 to 2020

I hope that you have arrived at this part of the website having read the ‘How good are we at Colmers?’ section because the two ought to be read side by side. Like humans, Colmers is imperfect. We are the sum of our parts and our strengths and weaknesses reflect my own, my colleagues, the students and you as the families. Every problem and every solution at this school can be understood or solved through a more sensible understanding that no child, no teacher, no parent or carer is ever simply to blame. We don’t like the word ‘blame’ at Colmers, we prefer words like ‘explanations’ or ‘reasons’ that get us away from feeling at fault or stigmatised and instead embrace a different way at looking at our shortfalls and mistakes. The School Improvement Plan is a massive document that spans three years and drives the day-to-day actions and decisions of all the employees at the school. However, it is possible to summarise that document for you, below, so that you can see the major themes we are working on between September 2017 and August 2020.

Achieving Excellence

Part One:

The Lower School (Years 7 and 8)

Part Two:

The Middle School (Years 9, 10 and 11)

Part Three:

The Upper School (Years 12 and 13

We shall design and then implement a brand new curriculum and leaner experience known as The Bridge with a signifantly increased focus on establishing GCSE-ready skills in oracy, literacy and numeracy, whilst better addressing the social and emotional needs of young people as they move from primary to secondary school. We aim to create a curriculum that enables much more rapid progress in the first years of education at Colmers so that students are better prepared for the significantly more challenging GCSE and A-level examinations.

We shall embed a new three-year GCSE curriculum that gives all students more time to deepen and broaden their knowledge and skills in every GCSE course they follow. By maintaining a very broad and balanced curriculum we will continue to give all students genuine choices so that they can follow post-16 pathways of their own design. Students will make more progress and attain higher grades than ever before as a result of more time to prepare for those examinations, but also enthusiastically engaged in a full range of interventions and boosters that support a student when they are falling behind and enable them to achieve high GCSE grades that are always better than similar students in other schools.

 

We shall firmly establish our relatively new sixth form by continuing to raise levels of attainment and progress and therefore sending increasing numbers of students to universities and higher-level apprenticeships. By carefully broadening our curriculum offer, we shall appeal to a greater proportion of Colmers and local students and become the sixth form of choice for local students wishing to attend university and / or enjoy a highly rewarding professional career. Upper School students will enjoy the very best teaching and learning experiences locally and receive unparalleled support and intervention when there is a risk of underachieving, or when the social and emotional pressures affect their self-confidence and self-esteem.

 

For more information please contact my senior colleague, Mrs Emma Wilks (Deputy Headteacher and Head of Lower School). For more information please contact my senior colleague, Mr Steve Morris (Deputy Headteacher and Head of Middle School). For more information please contact my senior colleague, Mr Tom Charlett (Assistant Headteacher and Head of Upper School).

Belonging Together

Part One:

Behavioural Inclusion

Part Two:

Academic Inclusion

Part Three:

Social and Emotional Inclusion

We will continue to reduce the number and impact of serious misbehaviour at the school whilst being more effective at ending incidents of low-level disruption that irritates students and teachers alike. Through a mixture of inspirational teaching that fosters rapport with every child, combined with a clear and popular rewards system, we will make our school and our lessons a place where every child wants to behave because they are happy, feel safe, enjoy their learning and at the end of every day feel that bit smarter and more confident than the day before. Where students are unwilling to behave and consider the impact of their choices on others we shall be more effective in mentoring them and working with their families to eradicate anti-social behaviour and enable them to become more mature and considerate of others.

We shall refine existing interventions and introduce new strategies to enable every child with an academic disadvantage to make more rapid progress and overcome conditions that can hold them back from realising their potential. Through a mixture of improving one-to-one and small group interventions and better quality differentiated teaching, we will be ever more sensitive and responsive to individual needs. Consequently, we shall hold and extend our reputation for embracing students of all abilities and disadvantages – whilst challenging them to be increasingly ambitious and determined.

 

We shall signifantly advance our social and emotional interventions, expertise and specialised staffing to accommodate the growing number of students who are unable to make sufficient progress at school because they are burdened by social and emotional hardships that makes their lives more difficult than others. By being a more emotionally intelligent, increasingly compassionate and empathic school, we shall ensure that every child whose self-esteem and self-confidence is damaged feels that they belong at Colmers and that they will receive never-ending compassion and support at all times.

 

For more information please contact my senior colleague, Mrs Linda Wilcox (Assistant Headteacher and Head of Behavioural Inclusion). For more information please contact my senior colleague, Mrs Ruth Bennett (Assistant Headteacher and Head of Academic Inclusion). For more information please contact my senior colleague, Mrs Sarah Finch (Assistant Headteacher and Head of Social and Emotional Inclusion).

 

Challenging Mind-sets

Part One:

Enrichment

Part Two:

Staff Development

Part Three:

School Site and Financial Stability

We will introduce and then embed an enrichment programme for students in Years 7, 8 and 9 that enables them to immerse themselves in new skills and experiences within the five fields of performing arts, personal development, the natural world, design & making and health & fitness. Ultimately, the goal of this rigorous and vigorous programme must be to deepen and broaden students’ exposure to learning and the development of those soft skills that form the basic skills of every successful learner and citizen. These soft-skills are summarised under the acronym of TARDIS: team worker, adventurous, resilient, discussion, imagination and social skills.

 

We shall continue to invest in one of the most precious resources the school possesses – the expertise and talents of its teaching and associate staff. In an era of very rapid change and growing demands on the profession, all members of staff risk being overwhelmed by the pace of change and the escalating expectations placed on them to enable all young people to leave Colmers with the very best grades, experiences and overall outcomes. Developing all staff takes many forms and is not simply about becoming better teachers but reflects the broader need to be ever more inclusive and responsive to the full range of academic, behavioural, social and emotional needs and demands of all young people in our care.

 

Colmers will not stand still in its provision of first class facilities for its students and the wider community. On top of its established annual programme of refurbishments and improvements, we shall deliver radical improvements to the site, most notably the reconstruction of West as our new Lower School and along with that create brand new specialist facilities and basic facilities like toilets and changing rooms to accommodate a growing number of students and ensure we remain the most modern and attractive school site in the region. Meanwhile, we shall be ever creative in finding cost efficiencies and therefore maximising the use of school income to ensure class sizes and educational experiences never suffer and instead we ensure our best days always lie ahead.
For more information please contact my senior colleague, Mr Craig Boardman (Assistant Headteacher and Head of Enrichment). For more information please contact my senior colleagues, Mrs Teresa Shortland (HR Manager) and Mr Martin Brookes (Assistant Headteacher and DSL). For more information please contact my senior colleague, Mr Kevin Tranter (School Business Manager).

 

Getting In Touch with me

Just like in primary school you can find me or one of the Deputy Headteachers (Mrs Wilks and Mr Morris) outside the school gate every morning from 8:15am until the 8:42am bells sounds. This is perfect for a quick catch up or some informal advice.

Alternately, you can email me directly on bdoherty@colmers.school. I always respond to emails within 24 hours and will personally deal with any matter that you bring to my attention if one of my colleagues is not better placed.

Naturally, you can agree a time to meet with me personally and this is arranged by contacting my PA, Mrs Teresa Shortland on tshortland@colmers.school or ringing her on 453 9771.

I am always at every school event and all of the various target setting and parents/ carers’ evenings for those brief or informal conversations.

Naturally I hope that my colleagues can resolve any questions or concerns you might have but if not please do not hesitate to meet, call or write to me so that I can put your mind at ease or look into something that is worrying you.