Andy Burton, who returns to Ousedale School as head this month, looks forward to his new role. “It is about visibility,” he says “to be as much as possible part of the community of students, staff and parents.”
Adaptability is the key quality required for headteachers in schools today. The pandemic has left an unprecedented legacy in terms of lost education, missed exams and mental health of students, staff and parents.
But Andy Burton, who takes over as Head of Ousedale School in Newport Pagnell and Olney when the new academic year begins in September, is relishing the challenge of taking an already well performing school and making it even better.
Andy knows the school well, having been Senior Deputy Head for nine years before he left in 2015 to run the Kingswood Secondary Academy in Corby. Now it’s back to the future for Mr Burton, who is clear on his priorities when he takes over from previous Headteacher Sue Carbert.
“I don’t think anyone can underestimate the impact the last couple of years have had on students,” he says. “The biggest challenge is recovering from that and there is a lot of work to do. Some students will return and get on with it but others will require more intense support because they have missed so much education and we need to be able to provide that support. That must be our priority at Ousedale and nationally as well.”
Mr Burton returns to Ousedale after six years away, firstly at Kingswood in Corby – a struggling school that underwent a total of five inspections by Ofsted, the Department for Education and the Regional Schools Commissioners. Three years on and his work to improve the school earned it a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating for the first time in its history. “It is the highlight of my professional career so far,” he says.
The achievement earned him the Headteacher of the Year award at the Northamptonshire Education Awards in 2019. He returns to Ousedale after time as Director of Curriculum and Senior Education Adviser at the Greenwood Academies Trust, of which Kingswood was part.
He has good memories of his previous time at Ousedale, working under Headteachers Ken Lever and Mrs Carbert. “I was always very struck by Ousedale’s very strong sense of community among the parents and staff. Ousedale played a very important part in my life and there were not many opportunities that would have drawn me away from Greenwood.”
September and the new academic year will be an interesting time. “We do not yet know what the education landscape is going to look like,” Mr Burton says. “I do not envy anyone who has to make those decisions because it is a changing picture all the time but we will be better prepared to make the shift this time.”
He welcomes the move towards a curriculum based around the students’ needs for their future. “I would like to see it go further. There is a place for traditional exams but I think it is not that realistic. There are not many professions in the world where your performance is measured at the end of a two- or five-year period. The emphasis is how you perform on a day-to-day basis so a shift to more vocational pathways is welcome but we will not get away from the academic base.”
Mr Burton was appointed at the end of a recruitment process by Ousedale’s Board of Governors that began in March. Chair of Governors Dave Moulson is delighted with the board’s choice. “I am really pleased that Andy will start at Ousedale School in September and I am sure that under his leadership the school will continue to prosper and be an exciting place for children in the community to be educated,” he says.
Mr Burton intends to be a Headteacher at the heart of his school. “For me it is about visibility, to be as much as possible part of the community of students, staff and parents,” he says. “I am not a Headteacher who is office-based. I will be there at lunchtime and at the school gate at the end of the day. Headteachers are there to lead and Ousedale is a good school doing good things so there is no need for radical change. It is about moving the school forward.”
His message to students, staff and parents: “I appreciate that the appointment of a new Headteacher is an anxious time for a school community. But Ousedale is already a great school so, while I have many ideas and experiences regarding school improvement, I am mindful to balance the need to keep and develop the existing strengths, while building and improving on this fantastic legacy.
“I look forward to meeting all staff, pupils and parents, over the course of the next academic year.”
For more information, visit www.ousedale.org.uk