7 Questions with Jenni Richards

Name: Jenni Richards

Current title: Primary Education Director

Current organisation: Aquinas C of E Multi Academy Trust

I have been teaching since 1996 and have experience in a wide variety of school contexts and holding different levels of leadership.

As Primary Education Director, I have been given lead responsibility across the Trust for Education Policies, Well being, Equality, Inclusion and Diversity. In addition, for our primary academies, I hold the responsibility for Curriculum, Quality Assurance/Standards and Integrated Curriculum Financial Planning (ICFP). Through each of these, I support and advise leaders in order to make a positive difference and impact to fulfil our Trust vision and values underpinned by Life –Transforming - Learning.

I strongly believe in teaching and learning which values the whole child, whilst providing effective learning and giving the best possible life chances for all learners. I advocate building faith, character and resilience and the well being of the whole trust community. I value and believe in equality, diversity and inclusion and the positive impact that this has on staff and pupils and I feel honoured to lead this across the trust.

Through my role as Primary Education Director I focus on developing the skills, knowledge and ability of all leaders and staff to support their own development and improving school outcomes, whilst taking into account each individual school's vision and values alongside those of the Trust. Support is given through leading, coaching, mentoring, advising and role modelling to enable the leaders to develop their own skill set

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1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?

The most challenging part of being a Christian School Leader currently is keeping your school community steadfast in hope, peace and faith. In times of trouble, loss and crisis where belief and faith by some is questioned, it is vital that you hold this for yourself and others.

2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

On waking once dressed and ready for the day I have coffee! I then have the pleasure of checking all is well with my husband and two children. My son is currently in year 11 preparing for his exams n the Summer, so checking in on his well being and making sure he has enough food for the day is essential for any teenage boy! My daughter and I then leave for work, she has just begun her first year as a Secondary Religious Education teacher so our trip to work is usually based on talking about how things are with her and her students and listening to some great up lifting music to prepare for the day ahead.
Once in the office my day is mostly unpredictable, especially at the moment with the pandemic. I have great colleagues and we always do try and find time for joy and laughter, although on some days this is tough. Once work has finished it is home to family duties and time; I also try and find time for the gym 3 - 5 times a week, this really helps. I listen to music whenever possible and in the evenings I try and get some down time watching some good programs.

3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

That you should only really worry about the things you can do something about and not those you can't. Also, with faith, love and hope anything is possible!

4. What one book has had the most profound impact on your Christian school leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

'Hit the ground kneeling' by Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York. It is a truly wonderful, inspiring book that helps you reflect on taking time and thought in your Christian leadership. Each chapter begins with a bible verse and draws on Christian tradition throughout. For any Christian Leader it is a great read!!

5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?

Naturally, Christian teachers are drawn to faith schools so it is wonderful to discuss their faith when they come for interview. However, we also have non-faith teachers and it is also wonderful to see how they support, develop and embed the values of Christian belief and faith in our schools even if it is not their own. Keeping our teachers is about supporting and developing not only their professional growth but their spiritual growth too.

6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?

Well being is all about dedicating the time, providing the support, role modelling and living this out daily in your practice and school community.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a Christian school leader so far?

The bringing together of our school community where our families are from different faiths or non. A Muslim parent who thanked me because our school teaches her child to love 'God' and embed faith and belief. Families who follow our core Christian Values and what they bring to their lives even if they have no faith and the joy of embedding and developing our Christian families faith.