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AUTUMN 2020 | ISSUE 05



A warm welcome to Starbank School


Getting connected and leading learning




Keeping the Star family safe

Pandemic sparks digital revolution



WELCOME TO STARLIGHT Welcome to the autumn term edition of Starlight magazine, our magazine that celebrates the uplifting and inspirational activities taking place across the Star family. This edition is an antidote to despondency. 2020 may not have been the year that any of us envisaged but the Star family has refused to surrender its positive spirit in the face of significant adversity. I hope that you will feel inspired by the articles you read and reassured that the STAR values are as indomitable as ever. Our schools have responded with creativity, resilience and humility to the pandemic. Routines may have changed but our aim to nurture today’s young people and inspire tomorrow’s leaders remains at the fore and is undiminished. At a recent meeting of the Star Pupil Council, representatives from primary and secondary schools told us that the COVID-19 crisis had made them feel ever more grateful for their schools and teachers. They were excited when schools reopened their doors to all pupils in September and they recognised their own responsibility for keeping themselves, their classmates and their families safe. The bonds of trust and mutual support that bind our communities have been further strengthened by the pandemic. We know that members of our Star family have suffered great anguish and hardship and so we continue to focus on wellbeing in our schools, a theme that pupil leaders have embraced. Unfortunately, many pupils and staff have had to experience a period of self-isolation during this term, but teaching has continued regardless using a blend of online learning and offline activities. We remain committed


to providing all our young people with a high-quality curriculum and continuous learning irrespective of whether they are in school or self-isolating at home. As the term has progressed, we have become increasingly used to navigating our way around Microsoft Teams and learning new skills, which will equip us for academic excellence and digital citizenship. Poet and polymath Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that: ‘Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.’ Online learning is so much more than a solution to the exigency of the pandemic. It opens a world of possibilities and has the potential to transform learning forever. Realising the power of technology to support and shape pedagogy in ways that deepen rather than diminish human interaction is a challenge that our pupils relish. Thank you to all staff, pupils and parents for keeping our schools safe and open. I am immensely proud of you.

Together we are strong. We are Star.

(MUFTI) HAMID PATEL CBE Chief Executive, Star Academies




STAR NEWS Star named ‘UK Business Hero’

Spreading festive cheer in our communities



Exam achievements celebrated across Star family

Keeping the Star family safe




Trust-wide news and updates


Getting connected and leading learning


Stories from across Star schools


Pandemic sparks digital revolution

Star Family Hubs help vulnerable in times of need


Read past issues of Starlight online at staracademies.org/ publications Star schools celebrate Black History Month AUTUMN 2020 ISSUE 05



A warm welcome to our new Star family member Earlier this term, Star Academies welcomed its latest addition to the Star family – Starbank School in Birmingham. Starbank School is a 2,160 place all-through school with nursery, primary and secondary provision for pupils aged 3 to 16. The school is based across three sites close to the boundaries of the Bordesley Green, Small Heath and Yardley areas of Birmingham. The conversion of Starbank School strengthens Star’s presence in Birmingham, where the Trust already runs four secondary and two primary schools. Starbank School has now completed its first term with Star Academies and is already enjoying the benefits of joining the Star family. The Star team has been working closely with school leaders to develop processes and schemes to enhance the curriculum and support improved outcomes for pupils. The school also received support to ensure that it was able to

reopen safely in September and continue to provide a highquality education to its pupils. Leaders at the school welcomed Star Academies’ support and expressed their excitement at the new collaboration. Gaetano Ferrante, Headteacher at Starbank School, said: “We are very excited to join Star Academies and we have already begun to reap the considerable benefits from having ready access to the expertise, approaches and support that have enabled Star to deliver outstanding results elsewhere in the country. I am confident that our continued collaboration will help to improve outcomes for our pupils and that, to me, is the most important goal.”

STAR NAMED ‘UK BUSINESS HERO’ FOR CIVIC RESPONSE TO PANDEMIC The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has recognised Star Academies’ outstanding contribution to society during the coronavirus pandemic by naming it a UK Business Hero. The BCC’s national campaign recognises the achievements of organisations which have demonstrated resilience, adaptation, community spirit and a selfless approach to the challenges presented by the crisis. Star Academies received recognition for its emergency civic response, which saw it spearhead two national projects – StarLine and the Reopening Schools Toolkit – to support pupils, parents and schools nationwide to reduce the impact of widespread school closures on the academic progress of children and young people. StarLine, the home learning helpline, reached more than 1.5 million parents during the pandemic and helped to provide support to parents and children who were struggling with the demands of home learning. The Reopening Schools Toolkit was a comprehensive online resource provided free of charge to schools, multi-academy trusts and local authorities across the country to help them plan for the safe reopening of their schools in line with government guidance. The Trust’s civic response also led to the creation of Star Family Hubs in Star schools nationwide, which not only provided over £400,000 worth of food, toiletries and PPE to vulnerable members of the Star family but to the wider communities in which its schools are located. STARLIGHT


TEACH BIG Closing the Vocabulary Gap

‘The Big Teach’ helps teachers develop exceptional skills Teachers and school leaders from all 29 Star schools - over 1,000 colleagues – participated online in Star Institute’s first Big Teach event of 2020/21.

that can help to ‘Crack the Academic Code’ and shrink the literacy gap to ensure pupils access and use sophisticated academic language.

The Big Teach session was delivered by literacyexpert Alex Quigley, author of Closing the Vocabulary Gap. A former English teacher and school leader, Alex has gained a reputation nationally as an authority on successfully developing literacy in schools.

The events are organised by Star Institute, Star Academies’ learning and development arm, as part of the Trust’s ongoing professional development for teaching staff. A further three Big Teach events are planned for spring term 2021. They will boast a host of leading education experts, including Tom Sherrington, best-selling author of Rosenshine’s Principles in Action, and Doug Lemov, an internationally acclaimed American educator and author who has become a household name in teaching circles following the success of his book Teach Like a Champion.

Alex led an interactive session, especially for Star teachers and school leaders, that explored how introducing pupils to formal and sophisticated language early can unlock long-term success for every child. Participants explored a range of tools and techniques

Bay’s Chair of Governors awarded OBE Matt Hood, Chair of Governors at Bay Leadership Academy, has been awarded an OBE for his services to education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Matt was awarded his OBE as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his work as the founder and Principal of the online classroom, Oak National Academy. Oak National Academy was created in April 2020 as a rapid response to the coronavirus outbreak. More than 40 teachers and colleagues, including teachers from Star Academies’ schools, came together to support schools’ efforts to keep children learning. The online learning platform has since developed nearly 10,000 free video lessons and resources to support remote and in-school learning. More than 4.7 million people have accessed around 20 million lessons from Oak. It also hosted national assemblies featuring the Duchess of Cambridge, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Prime Minister and even the cast of the Lion King. Star Academies is proud to have been an early supporter of Oak National Academy. Since its launch, Star Academies’ teachers and experts have shared their experience and knowledge to contribute to the development of Oak’s curriculum and to deliver online video lessons. AUTUMN 2020 ISSUE 05



Star experts at the forefront of education Star Academies’ senior leaders continue to work at the forefront of education on a national stage. During recent times of uncertainty and challenge, their knowledge and experience has helped to provide guidance to other professionals working in the field of education. This term, our team of experts has been called upon by the Department for Education (DfE) to provide advice and guidance on staying safe and keeping schools open. As part of the DfE teaching blog series, Steven Taylor, Deputy Principal at The Valley Leadership Academy, wrote about the importance of modelling socially distanced behaviour as a teacher and the part all school staff and pupils have to play in reducing the risk posed by COVID-19. In his blog 7 ways we’re maintaining bubbles to continue learning, Chief Executive of Star Academies, (Mufti) Hamid Patel CBE, shared the protective measures Star schools have taken to successfully avoid sending an entire year group home when an outbreak occurs, while ensuring all pupils and staff are safe. Enass Al-Ani, Principal at Small Heath Leadership Academy, took part in the DfE’s national school safety social media campaign sharing video messages about the school’s approach to managing bubbles and catch-up intervention. Enass also appeared in the DfE’s film to mark World Teacher Day, which celebrated and thanked teaching staff nationwide for their exceptional contribution to society.

School breathes new life into historic Hackney building Reception and Year 1 pupils at The Olive School, Hackney were welcomed into their new school building this term. The Grade II listed building, on Lower Clapton Road, was previously home to a police station but has since been renovated and extended to provide a striking permanent home for pupils at the primary school. The Reception and Year 1 pupils were excited by the historic building and its facilities, which will help to support their learning and growth. Pupils will benefit from additional playground space, larger communal areas and state of the art technology throughout the school.



A unique experience to engage online with live exemplary practice Star Institute selected to deliver prestigious Exemplary Leadership Programme Star Institute, the training and development arm of Star Academies, has been chosen by the Department for Education (DfE) to provide a prestigious and ground-breaking, national programme for school leaders. The Exemplary Leadership Programme is designed to help school leaders establish a strong school culture (routines and behaviour management), deliver effective teaching founded on direct instruction, and create aspirational outcomes for pupils through a knowledge-rich curriculum. It follows a series of ‘see it, name it, do it’ cycles so that participants can explore the approaches and are supported in implementing them in the context of their own school improvement priorities. Star Institute has been inundated by applications from primary and secondary leaders nationwide. 240 senior leaders from 124 schools are now enrolled on the programme, which began in November. The programme uses the Uncommon Schools and Leverage Leadership pedagogies, following Star Academies’ own successful experience using these teaching approaches in its schools. The Exemplary Leadership Programme enables Star to share these successes with the wider school community. Participants will attend training delivered by international experts in the USA, participate in virtual school visits and workshops to support them to implement their learning back in school. Star will host virtual school visits at The Olive School, Blackburn, Eden Boys’ School, Birmingham and Small Heath Leadership Academy. Star Institute is collaborating with a consortium of leading educational partners to deliver the programme. These include Dixons Academies Trust, Outwood Grange Academy Trust, Inspiration Trust and the internationally-renowned Leverage Leadership Institute, part of the Uncommon Schools Charter School organisation which was founded in 1997 in New Jersey, America. AUTUMN 2020 ISSUE 05



Exam achievements celebrated across Star family In August, pupils celebrated their exam achievements during what had been a turbulent year for many. Exams were cancelled after the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of schools across the country. For the class of 2020, results day was a little different but, despite some uncertainty, pupils and teachers across our schools still found they had much to celebrate. Teachers say that Khadija Hussain, a pupil at Eden Girls’ School, Waltham Forest, worked hard and was fully committed to her studies. The pupil, who is registered Severely Sight Impaired, achieved an excellent set of GCSEs including six grade 6s, and has gone on to study A Levels in Maths, English and Business Studies at a specialist school for pupils with a visual impairment.

Bay Leadership Academy pupil, Keean Arnold, worked diligently during his A Levels to secure an A in Chemistry, A in Physics and a B in Mathematics in spite of a diagnosis of a rare brain tumour. Teachers at the school praised the young pupil’s determination to succeed saying his “intrinsic motivation and enthusiasm ensured his success.” The inspiring pupil is now looking to pursue his dream career with the Navy.

I am incredibly grateful to my family, my teachers, and in particular the school’s SENCO, Miss Attas, who have all encouraged me to aim high. I am so glad that I will be able to go onto the next stage of my studies and am very excited about starting my A-Levels. I would say to anyone who is facing additional challenges during their education to always believe in yourself, have faith in your own abilities and make friends wherever you can. I have made so many friends at Eden Girls’ School and their support has meant the world to me.”

I am really happy with my results and I am glad to leave Bay Leadership Academy on a high. I have had an amazing time at the school and have received a large amount of support from all the teachers. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given and particularly for the trip to Le Santa and for the Star Awards celebration event, which I will always remember.”

Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School pupil, Muhammad Sadik Patel, who achieved the top grade 9 in nine subjects, was one of a number of highperformers at the school. Muhammad said: “I’ve worked really hard for these grades over the last few years and I am so glad that my hard work has been recognised. The teachers at my school have very high expectations and I always knew that they would help me get to the next level.” Muhammad will go on to study A Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Maths. He hopes to secure a future in Medicine.

Across the country, Star pupils celebrated their achievements. At Laisterdyke Leadership Academy, Tasbeehia Saha achieved three grade 9s and five grade 8s at GCSE. Mahriya Zahid, a pupil at Eden Girls’ School, Waltham Forest, achieved ten GCSEs grades 9-7, including grade 9s in English Literature, Language, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. At Eden Boys’ School, Bolton, Daniyal Ditta secured ten GCSEs at grade 9 and two at grade 8. Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School and Sixth Form College pupils excelled once again. Munira Khanjra achieved the top grade 9 in thirteen subjects. She will be going on to study A Levels in Psychology, Chemistry, Biology and Sociology at the TIGHS Sixth Form. STARLIGHT


Marking the Prophet’s (PBUH) Birthday During late October and November our faith schools marked the Prophet’s (PBUH) birthday, which falls in the Islamic month of Rabiul Awwal. This is a time when Muslims across the world spend time reflecting on the generosity of the Prophet (PBUH) towards their community and humanity. They thank God for the Prophet’s (PBUH) life and contemplate whether their own lives are sufficiently faithful and spiritual, following the Prophet’s (PBUH) example. Our faith schools have marked this sacred month in creative and reflective ways. Some have enjoyed poetry workshops inspired by the life of the Prophet (PBUH). Singing nasheeds and tasting the foods that the Prophet (PBUH) would have eaten have also been popular. In some schools, children made a character tree (with each leaf showing a different aspect of the Prophet’s character) whilst others created journals of love based on pupils’ reflections. Some schools redoubled their efforts to provide food for their local communities during Rabiul Awwal. All of these dynamic activities supported our pupils in recommitting to their faith and developing their own character.

Living Wage commitment gives comfort to Star’s pandemic heroes Star Academies is celebrating its second year as an accredited Living Wage employer. The Living Wage commitment has meant that employees and contractors working at the Trust receive an income that reflects the national cost of living. This commitment has gained even greater importance during the turbulent times of the pandemic and beyond. Staff working at Star Academies receive a minimum hourly wage of £9.30 (£10.75 in London). This is significantly higher than the government’s minimum wage for over 25s, which currently stands at £8.72 per hour. As a result, Star Academies spends an additional £160,000 per year to meet the cost of paying a Living Wage to 230 employees and externally supplied contractors. This means that, on average, each Living Wage earner is £700 a year better off than if they were paid the minimum wage. The real Living Wage is the only rate calculated according to the cost of living. It provides a voluntary benchmark for employers that wish to ensure their staff earn a wage they can live on, not just the government minimum. Accredited employers pay the Living Wage rate, which is updated annually, on a voluntary basis. Since 2011, the Living Wage movement has delivered a pay rise to more than 150,000 people and put more than £600m extra into the pockets of low paid workers.





Star redoubles community support during festive season The winter period is a time of hardship for many in our communities and the prevalence of those experiencing adversity is increasing. This has been exacerbated by COVID-19, with the inequality gap in our communities becoming even more pronounced during the pandemic. For many people, the giving and receiving of gifts will be a world away from the harsh reality of the loneliness, ill health or poverty they may be experiencing. In the midst of the pandemic, our annual Festive Winter Gift Programme holds even greater importance. The campaign, which runs from November to Christmas, focuses on supporting those in our communities – young and old – who are vulnerable, elderly or living in care, and those experiencing homelessness, loneliness or food poverty. The programme will see Star schools participate in fundraising and volunteering activities that will touch the lives of thousands of people this winter. Some of our schools will be running enterprise activities to raise funds to purchase gifts to be distributed within their local communities, whilst others will be thinking of ways to safely interact with individuals living close to their schools who will be spending the festive season alone or apart from loved ones. Pupils at Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School and Sixth Form College (TIGHS) have been gathering food and hygiene packs to help support vulnerable people in Blackburn. This year, they will continue their work supporting the homeless with ‘winter warmer packs’, which will be distributed through Blackburn Community Spirit. Staff and pupils at Tong Leadership Academy are holding a collection of items for hampers to help people in need in Bradford. At Eden Boys’ School, Preston, pupils raised more than £1,100 as part of their ‘wear a coloured Jubbah day’. This will be used to buy toys for the children’s ward at Royal Preston Hospital. Our Star family will also offer companionship to those facing isolation this Christmas. Pupils from High Crags Primary Leadership Academy will be sending cards containing kind messages to residents at a local care home. At Eden Girls’ School, Coventry and The Olive School, Hackney, specially recorded songs and stories have been made to spread the gift of friendship during the festive season. As part of this year’s charitable drive, all Star Schools came together for our ‘Food for All Week’. From 7th to 13th December, our Festive Winter Gift Programme focused on the production and distribution of food parcels and meals to those experiencing food poverty. We aimed to deliver over 50,000 food parcels and hot meals to our schools’ local communities during this single week. At Star Academies, we pride ourselves on making a positive difference to society. As well as benefitting vulnerable people in our communities, our pupils will also gain from their involvement by experiencing first-hand the positive impact of helping those less fortunate. As well as linking to each of our STAR values – Service, Teamwork, Ambition and Respect – the Festive Winter Gift Programme brings our schools’ leadership specialism to the fore as pupils get involved in planning and participating in a range of charitable and volunteering opportunities. Follow our Twitter account @StarAcademies to read updates about all of the heartwarming activities taking place across the country as part of this year’s Festive Winter Gift Programme.



Star schools shortlisted for prestigious national awards Highfield Leadership Academy and Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School and Sixth Form College (TIGHS) were both selected as finalists in the highly-regarded Tes Schools Awards 2020. Highfield Leadership Academy’s ‘Highfield Helpers’ programme was shortlisted for the Community and Collaboration Award. The Highfield Helpers are well-known throughout Blackpool for their work helping to support vulnerable people, protecting the environment and raising funds for local charities. Throughout lockdown, the group of community-spirited pupils alleviated suffering in the local community by reaching out to lonely and vulnerable people with messages of friendship and small gifts. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the group also worked extensively to help local people develop technology skills so they would feel less isolated. TIGHS was shortlisted for the Secondary School of the Year Award. TIGHS has topped the national league tables for Progress 8 every year since this measure was introduced in 2016, achieving a record score of 2.16 in 2019. Pupils’ academic success rates are consistently strong and progress made by sixth formers on vocational courses is also well above the national average at +0.75.

As well as receiving an outstanding education, girls at TIGHS make a huge contribution to their local communities. Through extensive volunteering activity (amounting to over 31,000 hours in the last year alone) and substantial charitable giving (over £150,000 over the last 5 years), TIGHS has a well-deserved reputation of caring for neighbours of all ages in Blackburn, nationwide and internationally. Tes editor Ann Mroz said: “It is always a highlight of the education calendar to see the best ideas and people lauded at the Tes Schools Awards. But this year, it felt more important than ever to run an event that showcased and celebrated the hard work that teachers and school staff do for children and their local community every single day. This has been one of the most difficult years in education, but – as ever – teachers continue to rise to the challenge. “We had a record number of entries this year and the standard was very high, so all those shortlisted should be very proud: it’s an extraordinary achievement to be on this shortlist.”

Council offers insight to shape pupil experience New members of Star’s Pupil Council met for the first time in November to help shape the future of the Trust by sharing their views on behalf of the pupil body. Each year, two pupils from every school are elected to the council to help enhance pupil experience. Star Pupil Councils meet termly with separate meetings for primary and secondary pupils. Meetings are chaired by a member of the Trust’s Senior Leadership Team who facilitates a discussion on a range of topics, as well as responding to pupils’ questions about the Trust. At the Autumn term meeting, Star Pupil Council members shared their experiences of how their schooling has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including their views on the provision of remote learning. The pupil representatives also described how staff and pupils in their schools are supporting one another’s mental health and wellbeing, and shared some of the initiatives available to support pupils. Pupils also discussed their school’s plans and ideas for this year’s Festive Winter Gift Programme and explained how the activities would be adapted to ensure they can be carried out safely within the current COVID-19 restrictions. During the discussions, pupils expressed a desire for all Star schools to unite by raising funds for a single charity. As a direct result of these discussions, the Trust has introduced ‘Food for All Week’ to this year’s Festive Winter Gift Programme. During the week, pupils and staff across all Star schools will join forces to produce and distribute hot meals and food parcels to vulnerable members of their local communities. Plans for the next Star Awards celebration event were also discussed and pupils put forward their suggestions for how the success of 2020’s event could be built upon. The proposed ideas included capturing team photographs of schools and displaying slideshows to showcase individual school achievements. Star will consider pupils’ feedback when planning the Star Awards in 2021. The next Star Pupil Council meetings will take place in February 2021.




GETTING CONNECTED AND LEADING LEARNING With STAR values at its core the Ed Tech revolution is transforming learning in our schools The closure of school doors to the vast majority of young people in March 2020 did not mean that learning was put on hold, just that it was accessed through different routes. As the country moved increasingly from direct physical interaction to socially distanced communication, teachers and pupils rose to the challenge of learning via different media. Lessons migrated from the physical classroom to Microsoft Teams sites to accommodate the restrictions of self-isolation. Safeguarding protocols were adapted to protect everyone in the online environment and codes of conduct designed to ensure that exemplary punctuality and behaviour remained the norm, with online etiquette replicating the standards expected in school. Establishing the infrastructure to enable online learning has required partnerships on many levels, not least with parents who have provided fantastic support to their children throughout this turbulent period. Online learning is not new. Star schools have been using various digital approaches successfully for some time, whether to capture early learning through Tapestry, improve fluency in multiplication via Times Table Rock Stars or to enhance vocabulary through Bedrock or develop scientific understanding with Tassomai. The pandemic has galvanized a change that had already begun, and this has demanded a growth mindset to meet challenges and seize opportunities. The unpredictable spread of COVID-19 has led to pupils – and staff – working at home at very short notice, a challenge that requires high levels of personal organisation. Schools have prepared for


various permutations. Where some pupils are self-isolating and other classmates are in school, simultaneous learning takes place, in which the teacher delivers to the whole class at the same time, irrespective of their locations. There’s also a flex model – where the teacher streams a lesson from their home to pupils learning in the classroom. Finally, schools are prepared for a fully online model in the event that everyone is at home. Star teachers are determined that remote learning should be as knowledge-rich and interactive as learning in the classroom, and they have been exploring ways in which technology can enable this. Simultaneous learning does not mean that pupils are glued to screens. For younger pupils, short bursts of online activity are followed by asynchronous off-line work before the class reconvenes to review their learning. The ‘brain breaks’ that are used in ‘normal’ lessons are recreated in the remote setting and children are encouraged to take plenty of exercise. The excitement of simultaneous learning was epitomised recently at The Olive School, Bolton, where Year 2 pupils read Little Red Riding Hood as one of the traditional tales in their curriculum plan. When the impressively dressed Big Bad Wolf visited the classroom, many pupils were selfisolating at home. They were delighted to meet him online and all joined in the hot-seating activity where they posed questions about the wolf’s perspective on woodland events. Pupils then planned collaboratively for a courtroom scene in which his motives, and those of his potential victim, were


explored. On another occasion children were excited to go on a ‘virtual school trip’ to Modena in Italy as part of their religious education work. Technology offers the opportunity for collaboration that inspires teachers’ creativity and fires children’s imaginations, and as familiarity with the digital approaches grows, so does confidence to experiment. In secondary schools, all classes in all subjects have their own separate MS Teams sites through which teachers can share resources and pupils can upload work, making home study much more manageable. Many of our older pupils were already well versed in using digital applications. Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School (TIBHS) has been at the forefront of developing online pedagogy. Pupils at TIBHS are used to receiving and responding to feedback on their work through digital inking, a skill that has repercussions far beyond the classroom. Their research skills have gained in sophistication and, as one pupil commented, ‘technology has no limits and we are learning how to use it to make a positive difference to ourselves and society.’ Pupils and staff at the school are gaining certificates by following the Microsoft Certified Educator pathway.

and dedicated support staff is crucial to their wellbeing. The Ed Tech revolution offers amazing possibilities; the skill lies in putting pedagogy first and using technology to support it appropriately.


Some pupil councils are using MS Teams sites for collaboration in school. Video conferencing enables the safe sharing of ideas and development of pupil leadership. Enthused by the post-COVID-19 possibilities of the cyberworld, Star schools have not lost sight of the fact that pupils need to continue to develop their skills offline too. The Star Readers challenge has been relaunched: it is imperative that children read widely and often. No matter how speedily a child can draft and edit online, they still need to develop fluent, cursive handwriting. Irrespective of how engaged they feel in the online classroom, the experience of being with friends or being in the same room as skilled teachers




KEEPING THE STAR FAMILY SAFE Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Star Academies schools have worked to maintain the most stringent safety standards. Keeping pupils and staff safe has been an unequivocal priority for senior leaders at the Trust. From the very outset, as news of the pandemic broke, a senior team was tasked with ensuring that pupils and staff were able to learn and work in a safe, COVID-19 secure environment. As plans to fully reopen schools were announced, the Trust consulted some of the country’s leading education and public health experts to ensure that its schools would be able to make the best decisions to support the wellbeing of their communities. Specialists at the Trust worked to ensure that schools were kept abreast of the latest Government guidance so that Star schools were able to fully comply with safety measures as they were announced. The Trust’s work on the safe reopening of schools was later published and shared with schools across the country in the form of its Reopening Schools Toolkit. Every school has its own unique context and there is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution. However, all Star schools implemented a hierarchy of appropriate protective measures designed to complement their own unique COVID-19 risk assessments.

LIMITING THE RISK OF TRANSMISSION A key consideration when ensuring that schools remain free from COVID-19 is that pupils and staff who might have COVID-19, or have been in close contact with someone who has, do not attend school. At the beginning of term, Star Academies commenced an information campaign to inform pupils, parents and staff about the key symptoms of COVID-19 and when pupils and staff are expected to remain at home.

ENHANCED CLEANING AND HYGIENE Cleaning is being carried out more often and more thoroughly in classrooms and all communal areas, such as toilets and corridors. Tables, chairs and frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, are wiped down regularly throughout the day. A new and common feature of Star schools are hand sanitising and cleaning stations, which can be found at most entrances and at key points around schools. The introduction of hand hygiene stations was combined with awareness campaigns about the necessity of hand washing and respiratory hygiene so that pupils and staff are able to take personal responsibility for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in their school. As per government guidance, staff across all school settings and pupils in Year 7 and above, are now expected to wear facial coverings in communal areas. Additional measures, including the ventilation and the replenishment of air around school buildings have also been introduced.

SOCIAL DISTANCING AND MINIMISING CONTACT Schools have been working to minimise contact between individuals and groups and maintain social distancing where possible. Schools have introduced measures, such as staggered start and finish times, ceasing whole school gatherings including school-wide assemblies and limiting the movement of pupils and staff to specific areas within schools. Schools also use protective bubbles to help manage risk and prevent unnecessary contact. A bubble is a group of pupils who spend their day together, away from other bubbles. STARLIGHT

STAR COMMUNITY PROTECTING THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY If a pupil or member of staff develops one or more of the symptoms of COVID-19, they will be sent home and asked to book a test. If a person tests positive, the school will act swiftly to identify any close contacts and will report the positive case to the appropriate public body, such as the local authority, Public Health England or the Department for Education, and follow their guidance. If a child has to self-isolate, schools will inform parents and advise when the child can return to school. You can read about how Star schools are supporting pupils who are selfisolating to continue their learning at home on page 12-13.

PUPILS SHOULD NOT ATTEND SCHOOL IF: They develop symptoms of COVID-19 or have a positive test

Anyone in their household or support bubble develops symptoms of COVID-19 or tests positive

The school has told them to self-isolate due to being a close contact of someone who has tested positive

Please inform the school immediately if your child, or anyone in your household, develops any COVID-19 symptoms, if they are awaiting a test or test result, or if someone in your household tests positive.

Tea and treats raise thousands for cancer charity In September, the Star family joined forces to raise over £9,000 for Macmillan Cancer Care. COVID-19 restrictions meant that for many, this year’s Macmillan Coffee Mornings were a little different, but thanks to the incredible support from our school communities, events were still filled with friendship, fun and fanciful culinary creations. At Highfield Leadership Academy, parents were asked to join Principal Andrew Galbraith for an online cup of tea and a chat at their virtual coffee morning. Pupils also held a bake sale where tasty treats were sold to raise money for the national charity. Staff from Star Academies’ central services added their own fundraising twist to their coffee morning by hosting a bake-off and cake-themed quiz at their virtual event. Across the country, pupils at Star schools raised phenomenal amounts. At Eden Boys’ School, Birmingham, pupils raised more than £1,800 through their bake-off challenge and bake sales, and pupils at Eden Boys’ Leadership Academy, Birmingham East generated a further £1,000.



16 STAR COMMUNITY TIBHS entrepreneurs launch innovative school uniform enterprise Pupils at Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School (TIBHS) are celebrating the successful launch of their new uniform upcycling enterprise. ‘Uniformity’ was launched in August, after pupils hit upon the idea of re-selling ‘pre-loved’ uniforms to help the environment, save parents money and raise funds for charity. So far, more than 100 items of uniform have been upcycled through the scheme, which parents are praising as a cost-effective and creative initiative. Generous parents have already donated 150 items of TIBHS uniform that their children have outgrown or that are no longer needed, which can be used in exchange for a discount on other items. All items are professionally dry-cleaned and quality checked before being re-sold. Pupils developed a new Uniformity website and app which enable parents to donate, purchase and exchange items of uniform with ease. In just a few weeks, the inventive team of pupils developed a fully functioning e-commerce platform where parents are able to check stock and buy items online. The project stemmed from the school’s Careers Enterprise Programme, which aims to educate pupils about the power of socially-conscious entrepreneurship. Pupils at the school receive specialist mentorship so they are equipped with the skills and know-how to help them develop business and leadership skills. All profits from the social enterprise scheme are donated to Shine Charity, which aims to transform the life chances of children, young people and their families in areas of disadvantage and deprivation. So far, more than £1,300 has been raised for Shine, Star Academies’ sister charity. The ingenuity behind the enterprise scheme has been recognised by leaders in the field of recycling. Pupil Adil Ughratdar presented the Uniformity project as part of the Big Deal Competition at the University of York, which was sponsored by the Biorenewables Development Centre. The project won The Big Deal’s Sustainability Award and Adil was also selected as the Big Deal 2020 Vlogger. Pupil Uzair Patel helped to lead on the project and used his remarkable talent to devise the Uniformity website. Uzair has since been awarded the prestigious Arkwright Engineering Scholarship for a separate project, designing a 3D printer that corrects common issues with 3D printers. The scholarship will mean that Uzair will receive £600 to help further his engineering studies and will also receive specialist mentoring and access to events.

Starbank School launches Star Readers The Star Readers initiative has been launched at Starbank School – the latest school to join Star Academies - to help promote the joys and benefits of reading to pupils. Pupils were treated to special unveilings of Star Readers bookshelves and reading areas in their classrooms which were brimming with a range of exciting and magical texts to explore. The reading initiative gives pupils access to a recommended reading list of ageappropriate books across a number of genres. The books represent the very best of classic and contemporary children’s literature and provide pupils with a breadth of challenging and interesting tales. Books are aligned with Star Academies’ leadership specialism and have been hand-picked to give pupils a window into other people’s worlds, promote discussion and build reading resilience. All pupils have been given a copy of the Star Readers reading list to take home and parents and staff are now encouraging children to read as many of the books as possible. Pupils have also been given the Star Readers Challenge which rewards pupils for reading at least 10 books from the recommended reading list over the course of the academic year. Pupils monitor their progress through a reading record and those who complete the challenge will be awarded a Star Readers certificate in recognition of their achievement. The Star Readers initiative has been welcomed with enthusiasm by pupils at the school and it is hoped that pupils will enhance their literacy skills and vocabulary as they continue on their reading journeys.


STAR COMMUNITY Olive Birmingham pupils are sustainable travel experts An online ‘Travel Tracker’ tool has spurred the pupils and parents at The Olive School, Birmingham to consider more sustainable travel options. In November 2017, the school joined the WOW Walk to School Challenge run by Birmingham City Council to promote sustainable travel. Pupils, parents and staff were encouraged to choose healthier modes of travel to school to help reduce the detrimental impact of vehicles on health and the environment. Over the last three years, regular surveys have tracked the progressive change as pupils encourage parents to park their vehicles further away from the school in order to include a walk of at least 5 minutes to school. An online tool, called the Travel Tracker, is used on a daily basis by children to log their mode of travel. The data generated gives a clear picture of how children are travelling to school. As an incentive for walking or riding to school, children are awarded a monthly badge. This initiative has prompted an exciting buzz at the end of each month as children eagerly await the award of their next badge. The school is now aiming to achieve the Modeshift Silver Award having gained the Bronze Award last year. As a result of the initiative, there has been a steady growth in the number of pupils riding a bike or scooter to school. Pupils have been offered the opportunity to improve their cycling skills and safety by participating in courses run by Bikeability. The school has elected Junior Travel Ambassadors who play a pivotal role in monitoring the Travel Tracker, handing out the monthly badges and representing the school at meetings with Birmingham City Council. Just before lockdown, the Ambassadors attended the Birmingham Travel Plan School Summit, where children from across the city talked about what was working well and shared ideas of how to make Birmingham safer for travel.

Waltham Forest scholars programme inspires brilliance A programme designed to encourage pupils to consider university as their next step has been helping to inspire pupils at Eden Girls’ School, Waltham Forest. This term, pupils from KS3 and KS4 took part in the Brilliant Club Scholars Programme, which gives pupils the opportunity to experience university-style learning. The Brilliant Club is an award-winning university access charity, working across the UK, that aims to increase the number of pupils from under-represented backgrounds progressing to highly-selective universities. Over the course of the Scholars Programme, pupils work closely with a PhD Tutor in a series of small group university-style tutorials to study a ‘super-curricular’ course that explores topics not usually included in the school curriculum. Pupils are encouraged to work above their current key stage towards a final 2,000 word essay, which is scored against University marking schemes. For KS3 pupils, their essay topic was ‘Disease Detectives’, whilst KS4 tackled ‘Treading Murky Waters: Perspectives on Migration, Integration and Mental Health’. Pupils Ahlam Benamara and Muna Ali both achieved a First on their paper on Treading Murky Waters.




BARKEREND PUPILS UNITE AGAINST BULLYING Pupils at Barkerend Primary Leadership Academy joined forces with over a million other pupils to take a stand against bullying as part of the Big Anti-Bullying Assembly 2020. The virtual assembly was hosted by a cast of popular TV stars and singers including singer Peter Andre, Blue Peter presenters Katie Leung, Mwaksy Mudenda and Richie Driss, and dance duo Twist and Pulse. Celebrities shared the message that ‘it is ok to be different’ and put their hands up to take a pledge to end bullying. Pupils and teachers from schools across the country also shared their experiences and thoughts on bullying. Anti-bullying ambassador, Peter Andre, described his own experience of being bullied, which included racism and name calling, and eventually descended into violence. Peter shared his experience to encourage pupils to develop a culture of mutual respect and to seek help in times of need. As part of the assembly, pupils at Barkerend were asked to identify their own support network of five people they could go to if they had worries or concerns. Pupils created handprints and used the fingers to name five people who could help. The artwork has been used to create a whole school display to help reinforce the anti-bullying message. Pupils also took the pledge to end bullying in their school.

The Big Anti-Bullying Assembly was created by the Diana Award, a national anti-bullying charity. The Diana Award works to encourage change in attitudes and behaviours for young people by young people. Their mentoring schemes are in place in several Star schools and help to guide change for some of our most vulnerable young people. Last year, anti-bullying ambassadors at Highfield Leadership Academy received the Diana Award for their work in creating a ‘culture of kindness and respect’.



STAR FAMILY HUBS CONTINUE TO HELP THE VULNERABLE IN TIMES OF NEED The Star family is continuing to offer support to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the Trust, Star Family Hubs, which operate from school sites, have been working to ensure that they can support vulnerable people in need. From deliveries of food and hygiene parcels to providing technology or resources for learning, our hubs have been working hard to alleviate suffering throughout these challenging times.

Staff at the Star Family Hub at High Crags Primary Leadership Academy in Shipley have continued to run their foodbank to help families in need. Each Wednesday, the foodbank opens to vulnerable people in the area to provide high quality food and hygiene products. When lockdown measures were first announced, staff at the school saw first-hand the impact this was having on local families and residents. Many were struggling with food poverty. People were losing their jobs or were unable to work due to illness or childcare issues, others found their businesses were floundering. Hardworking people were suddenly entering crisis situations through no fault of their own. In response to this growing need, and with support from Star Academies, the Star Family Hub at High Crags established a foodbank. The foodbank has been open since May and regularly helps around 40 families. Charitable donations from FareShare, Morrisons, Asda, local retailers and Shipley Rotary Club, alongside other local supporters, have been integral to maintaining stock levels at High Crags’ foodbank. To date, the foodbank has provided more than 1,000 food or hygiene hampers to those in need.

who receive free school meals to help them to continue to eat well at home. A foodbank is also in operation at the school where those in need are able to access food and hygiene products. As part of their enrichment activities, pupils at the school have also been helping to pack food parcels for those in need and have distributed more than 380 parcels in the local community. Eden Girls’ School, Waltham Forest staff have also been working to ensure pupils receiving free school meals continued to have access to food during the half-term break. Staff at the school, packed and delivered parcels to help families in need to ensure that they continued to remain nourished and cared for during the holiday. Kind-hearted pupils at the Star Family Hub at The Olive School, Birmingham held a collection to buy winter coats for people in need. In order to remain COVID-19 secure, donations of coats were not possible this year so families made donations instead. The school managed to raise an incredible £500 which was used to buy 37 coats. In recent years, the school has organised several successful collections of coats, which were donated by pupils’ families. Local charity, Narthex, helped to distribute the coats and arranged for donations to be sent to the local community and to discharged patients from the Children’s Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The plight of children who receive free school meals during the holidays was highlighted by Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford, who shared his own experience of receiving free school meals as a child. As half-term approached, many expressed concern about how children in receipt of free school meals would continue to be fed during the holidays. Across Star Academies, the Star Family Hubs drew together to offer support. At the Star Family Hub at Eden Girls’ Leadership Academy, Manchester, pupils and staff remained committed to helping families who were struggling. During the holidays, the school provided 60 boxes of healthy food ingredients to pupils

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause hardship for families and vulnerable people across the country, our Star Family Hubs remain committed to making a difference during these extraordinary times. Our hubs will continue to serve our communities, and society more widely, providing essential items and spreading messages of kindness and empathy through their charitable work. Together, we can ensure that nobody faces these times of hardship alone.



20 STAR COMMUNITY Bolton brothers amongst first in UK to complete maths programme Two talented brothers from Eden Boys’ School, Bolton are among just a handful of pupils in the UK to complete an online maths learning programme in its entirety. Deputy Head Boy Sharull Hossain, who is a Year 11 pupil, and his younger brother Ibnul, in Year 10, answered more than 20,000 questions correctly between them as part of the Hegarty Maths learning programme. Sharull, completed 167.5 hours of work, the equivalent of a full 24 hour a day week, and scored 100% across 925 skills. His brother, Ibnul, completed the programme in 123.6 hours matching his brother’s 100% success across all 925 skills. Teachers say the pupils had always shown exceptional interest in the subject and worked diligently to expand their knowledge and stretch their skills. The mathematical whizzes were pleased to receive a letter from the founder of the programme, Colin Hegarty, congratulating them on their remarkable achievement. Hegarty Maths is used by thousands of teachers and pupils in classrooms across the country every day. The programmes have helped more than one million pupils in the UK and are used to help support the teaching and learning of maths across many Star schools.

Highfield pupil’s ‘lockdown’ diary shortlisted for prize A talented pupil, who captured the spirit of lockdown for people who were shielding, has been shortlisted for a prize in a prestigious writing competition. Highfield Leadership Academy pupil, Emily White, entered the ‘Lockdown Diaries’ competition to share her own unique experience of living through lockdown with a rare genetic disease. In 2017, the inspiring 15-year-old was diagnosed with Fabry Disease, an enzyme deficiency which affects the nervous system and can cause organ damage. Her condition meant that she was forced into complete isolation whilst she shielded for 12 weeks during lockdown. Faced with weeks of separation from friends and family, the bubbly Year 11 pupil decided to channel her energy into her passion for writing. She set about writing her story, The Great Ascendancy, which was one of only 10 entries to make it onto the shortlist. The competition, which was organised by Lancashire FutureU, asked teenagers to write 500 words which captured their experience of lockdown.

Her dazzling tale describes the experience of a firefly that has been captured in a glass jar and is unable to interact with the outside world. The firefly eventually gains its freedom and ascends into the sky. For writer Emily, such freedoms could only be imagined during the heights of lockdown. Emily, who has aspirations of becoming an author, told how the competition was a welcome distraction from the harsh realities of separation from her friends and family. The competition, she said, gave her focus and a sense of freedom to connect with the outside world. Emily was finally allowed to leave isolation during the summer on her birthday which she spent horse riding. Emily’s story has been published in The Lockdown Diaries Anthology, a collection of stories written by teenagers across Lancashire.



nce it was unscrewed, thousands of bright lights were released, we were free from the tiny jar at last. It was as if stars were shooting up into the air, settling above the forest. A silent symphony of fireflies illuminated the night sky. I shone the brightest. Flying up high into the abyss, the wind whispered in my ear to the sweet sound of her soft voice: ‘Unable are those who are loved to die, for love is immortality.’ That was it. We were gone.


STAR COMMUNITY Olive Hackney pupils’ love of reading aided by book scheme Young pupils at The Olive School, Hackney are discovering the joy of reading thanks to a unique collaboration with a local independent bookshop. Staff at the school have joined forces with the owners of Stoke Newington Bookshop to help pupils develop their passion for reading. The scheme enables pupils to select a book from a list which they are then able to keep and enjoy at home. Pupils were also gifted vouchers so they could experience the enjoyment of browsing titles and buying books in the shop. The book scheme, which has been introduced to help support the school’s existing literacy scheme, Star Readers, is funded and supported by school governors. Literacy and pupils’ enjoyment of the written word is promoted across all Star schools. This collaboration is one of several schemes in place, including Star Readers, which aim to encourage and develop pupils’ literacy and engender a love of reading.

Bay pupils spread peace and hope The staff and pupils at Bay Leadership Academy have been busy spreading messages of hope and peace this term. As part of the UN International Day of Peace celebrations, pupils and staff decorated a tree with inspiring messages. Pupils were asked to find a quote that helped them to reflect on the ideals of peace, created a tag with this inscription and placed it on the tree to create a visual reminder of their vision for peace. The International Day of Peace is observed by countries across the world each year on 21st September. The 2020 theme for the International Day of Peace is ‘Shaping Peace Together’. People across the world were asked to celebrate the day by spreading compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the pandemic. Pupils also leant their support to local charity, Boxes of Hope, Cumbria, the humanitarian aid charity which helps deprived children in Eastern Europe. Generous pupils and parents helped to fill more than 103 shoeboxes with toys, games, hygiene and educational supplies, which will be distributed to children in Romania. Boxes of Hope, Cumbria has worked with local children and communities since the early 1990s to collect donations for its shoebox project. Each year the charity sends thousands of brightly coloured, gift-filled shoeboxes to bring magic into a child’s life.




CREATIVITY IS THE FOCUS FOR PRESTON PUPILS Art and Computing teachers at Eden Boys’ School, Preston have been exploring new ways to enhance creative learning in the curriculum. To focus efforts, it was decided that ‘Creativity’ should be launched as a brand-new curriculum subject. Amy Pilling, subject leader for Art, and Simon Witcher, teacher of Computing, wanted to enthuse pupils about taking creative risks and getting their hands on the technology to exploit it. Amy said: “We knew that we wanted to teach photography as it would work well as a standalone subject and also facilitate a deeper understanding of our individual subject areas of art and creative iMedia.” All Year 9 pupils now study Creativity for one hour a week. The curriculum content uses a combination of theoretical and practical work to help pupils understand the key concepts of photography. It also gives pupils the opportunity to plan and take high quality photographs by developing a toolkit of professional techniques. Both Amy and Simon have a wealth of experience in teaching and have led art and media studies departments before joining Eden Boys’ School, Preston. Their experience has been essential to planning the course. The teachers quickly realised that in order for the course to remain accessible, it would need to use a minimal amount of resources so that it could be taught in standard classrooms with just a set of iPads, a measure which has proved invaluable during the current COVID-19 safety restrictions. The teachers are now looking at next steps for the course and hope to be able to explore more technical approaches to photography using specialist equipment in the near future. Pupils on the course produced outstanding pieces of creative work and were able to quickly grasp key creative concepts. Pupils’ verbal and written literacy has also improved and they are now able to eloquently critique the work of professional artists, as well as their own, using a rich vocabulary enhanced by their creative learning.


STAR COMMUNITY Eden Girls’ inspires Manchester’s next generation of sports leaders Inspired by the heritage and achievements of its city’s famous football and cricket clubs, Eden Girls’ Leadership Academy, Manchester is developing the next generation of sports leaders through the SLQ Sports Leaders Programme. This term, Year 8 pupils at the school began to work towards their Level 1 qualification in Sports Leadership. Last year, 248 Year 8 girls completed Level 1 of the programme, which qualifies them to lead a sport session under direct supervision. Qualifications in Sports Leadership enable young people to learn and demonstrate important life skills such as effective communication and organisation, whilst leading basic physical activities for younger people, their peers and older generations within the community. The qualification involves both guided and peer-to-peer learning and supervised leadership to ensure that learners have all the skills they need to lead basic physical activities. As part of the programme, pupils are tasked with designing and creating session plans in a sport of their interest. Pupils then work through the programme, which promotes the qualities of leadership necessary for sport but also wider areas of life, including safety, access to equipment and presentation skills. Teachers are looking forward to the pupils leading their sessions, where they will initially practise working in small groups and ultimately progress to working as an individual leader, directing groups taking part in the sport.

Super Tudor day for Blackburn pupils History was brought to life for the pupils at The Olive School, Blackburn after the school was turned into a Tudor court for a special ‘super learning’ day. Year 4 pupils dressed in Tudor clothing and spent the day engaging in Tudor-themed activities, including an art project where pupils drew Tudor inspired pictures. A highlight of the day was a lavish Tudor banquet. It was hosted by King Henry VIII (Mr Bailey) who was called to lunch by the school’s very own Jester (played by Mr Astly). King Henry VIII was welcomed into the school canteen by the children whilst lutes played a Tudor medley in the background. Lunch was soon served and pupils enjoyed a feast of chicken drumsticks, pies and berries. King Henry VIII proclaimed himself to be on a diet and pronounced that he would therefore only be able to eat 14 chicken wings and five pies! Pupils also experienced Tudor punishment when the stocks were wheeled out containing Mr Bailey. Mrs Walsh ensured that all the pupils had extra wet sponges to ensure Mr Bailey was duly punished. Pupils and staff had a wonderful and fun day filled with laughter and excitement and are planning to hold another super learning day in the near future.




Healthcare heroes share insight into NHS careers The COVID-19 pandemic meant that for many pupils, careers fairs and work experience placements were not possible this year. But staff at Eden Girls’ Leadership Academy, Birmingham looked for new ways to help inspire pupils with potential career opportunities. This term, Year 11 pupils attended virtual NHS careers sessions where medical professionals gave pupils an insight into the wide range of NHS career pathways. Pupils were given the opportunity to meet a variety of NHS professionals to discuss their field of specialism and what they enjoyed about their role. For many pupils, the sessions helped to reveal the sheer breadth of opportunities available with the NHS, which is Europe’s largest employer. Medical professionals shared their personal career journeys and talked about how hard they had had to work to succeed, which helped to invigorate and encourage pupils to strive for success. Pupils were inspired by a talk on midwifery from a senior midwife during the sessions. After her session, many felt passionate about midwifery and were confident that it would be the perfect career. Another session was led by a motivational young pharmacist. Her positivity helped pupils to realise that success is not simply reliant on how much studying you do, but also on how passionate you are about reaching your goal. Listening to these NHS professionals, pupils felt motivated to strive for excellence and it encouraged them to focus and to look after their physical and mental health. Overall, the online careers’ event was an insightful experience in which Year 11s gained a great deal of knowledge about life outside of school and how a career with the NHS could help to maximise their goals and life opportunities in the future.



Primary pupils devise fundraising challenge for local hospice Pupils at The Olive School, Bolton surprised staff at the school by undertaking their own spontaneous fundraising activity. Pupils Safiyyah Patel, Umaymah Patel, Rehan Hafeji, and Zara Hafeji decided to raise funds for Bolton Hospice after hearing that the local charity was struggling to raise funds during the COVID-19 pandemic. The kind pupils organised a series of socially distanced fundraisers in their neighbourhood, including setting up a lemonade stand and selling a range of tasty treats from stalls including sweet and marshmallow cones, cupcakes and mocktails. The pupils raised £205 to help the hospice continue to care for local people in need. Teachers first learned of their pupils’ work when they received a letter from Bolton Hospice thanking the children for their donation. The young pupils told teachers that they had been inspired to start their own fundraiser after taking part in several similar initiatives at the school. Pupils were rewarded with certificates celebrating their achievements from the Bolton Hospice and a special Principal’s award for outstanding kindness. Sabina Saeed, Principal at The Olive School, Bolton said that their generosity of spirit and desire to help others was truly inspiring.

The Valley pupils take on poetry challenge A poem by William Earnest Henley was the focus of a poetry challenge at The Valley Leadership Academy. Pupils in Year 7 and 8 were asked to learn the poem Invictus by heart as part of a spoken word poetry competition at the school. Henley wrote the poem at the age of 16 in 1875 during a period of convalescence following surgery. The young poet had previously had one of his legs amputated. The poem was chosen by the school because of its highly motivational message of strength and perseverance in the face of adversity. The title of the poem Invictus means ‘unconquered’ in Latin. Pupils spent time during form discussing the meaning of the poem and helping each other to recite passages. The competition was staged in the categories of individual, quartet and form in the final week before the halfterm break. In a closely fought competition, the eventual individual winners were Brad Derbyshire in Year 8 and Lacey-Lee Loney in Year 7. The Year 7 winning quartet from form 7V feature in a new video promoting the school where they can be seen reciting the poem.

Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole , I thank whateve r gods may be For my unconque rable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not wince d nor cried alou d. Under the bludge onings of chance My head is bloo dy, but unbowed . Beyond this plac

e of wrath and te ars Looms but the H orror of the shad e, And yet the men ace of the years Finds and shall find me unaf raid .

It matters not ho w strait the gate , How charged w ith punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.




Star schools celebrate Black history, achievements and culture In a year which saw the murder of George Floyd in the US and the subsequent global #BlackLivesMatter protests, there has never been a more important time to educate our pupils about the positive contribution of Black people in Britain and the persistent reality of racism. Against this backdrop of protest and unrest, Black History Month and our responsibility to educate pupils about its significance gained even greater importance. Pupils and staff at Star Schools across the country embraced Black History Month as an opportunity to explore and develop a greater understanding of Black history, heritage and culture. From science lessons about influential Black inventors, to form activities where the achievements of major figures from the Civil Rights movement were discussed, pupils and staff dedicated the month of October to furthering their knowledge and challenging social inequality. The pupils at Eden Boys’ Leadership Academy, Manchester experienced a month filled with activities and learning designed to enhance their understanding of racism and the issues facing people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds in modern day Britain. Activities provided opportunities to learn about civil rights activist Rosa Parks, the Windrush generation, and the influence of Martin Luther King Junior in the UK.

Pupils also attended a workshop with the Young Revolutionists (pictured bottom left) to gain more insight on Black history, using interactive games, drama, art, drumming and music. A visit from the TAP Project, which seeks to promote social inclusion by working with people of African origin in Manchester, helped to challenge pupils’ perceptions of Black history. Paul Obinna led the session using his personal lineage timeline, which unfurled into a 10ft long scroll detailing 8,000 years of African and World history. Activities culminated in a school assembly featuring the celebrated spoken word poet and TedX speaker, Samuel King. Samuel’s focus was to explore identity through the importance of knowing and creating your own history. His empowering assembly called on pupils to reflect upon their ideas, thoughts and identity and to take ownership of the construction of their own narrative. Pupils then created their own spoken word poetry, which explored themes raised in the assembly. At Highfield Leadership Academy, PE lessons took on a new twist thanks to an interactive display to help promote Black History Month. Mr Johnson, Deputy Director of Learning for Science and PE at the school, designed a display featuring prominent Black athletes and sportspeople who had accomplished incredible achievements in the face of adversity including Jesse Owens, the four times gold medallist who competed in the 1936 Olympics during the Nazi regime. The display was used to help encourage a conversation about historic examples of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination and the current challenges facing people from BAME backgrounds.



Pupils at Eden Boys’ School, Preston created poetry and art as part of The Black and Muslim in Britain Project. The project was launched in 2016 to further the representation of Black Muslims during Black History Month in the UK. This year, pupils wrote poems to help challenge negative stereotypes of British Muslims that often feature in popular culture and news. Pupils were asked to write a narrative of their personal stories – the struggles, and challenges, their family traditions and the unique cultural perspective that comes from being a Muslim in modern day Britain. As part of the Black History Month activities at Bay Leadership Academy, pupils took part in a wide variety of assemblies and class topics throughout the month which posed a series of ethical questions prompting debate. Themes of equality and unity, and the forms this should take, were among the topics discussed. In History, pupils also learnt important lessons from the Atlantic Slave Trade, the subsequent UK abolitionist movement and the Civil Rights Movement in the USA. Teachers at Eden Girls’ School, Slough used the focus of Black History Month to continue to educate pupils about the role that Black people have played in shaping the fabric of our British identity and way of life. Pupils learnt about key figures such as John Blanke, one of the earliest recorded Black people in post Roman Britain, Charles Ignatius Sancho, a British writer and composer who was the first Briton of African heritage to vote in an 18th-century general election, and Walter Tull, a professional footballer and soldier who is recognised as the first black officer to lead white British soldiers into battle. Alongside their Black History Month activities, pupils at Eden Girls’ School, Slough raised funds for the anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card (pictured right).

Black History Month was originally founded to recognise the contributions that people of African and Caribbean backgrounds have made to the UK over many generations. It has since expanded to include the history of not just African and Caribbean people but all Black people.



REMEMBERING OUR FALLEN HEROES Pupils have been remembering the service and sacrifice made by members of the Armed Forces community as part of this year’s Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day activities. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many official events were cancelled or scaled back this year, but pupils and staff at Star schools still found meaningful ways to honour the fallen. The remembrance activities gave pupils the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices made to uphold liberty and maintain the values that underpin our daily way of life.

Armistice Day was commemorated at Small Heath Leadership Academy during a special ceremony to remember those who had sacrificed their lives to defend our democratic freedoms. At 11am pupils across the school fell silent whilst trumpeter, Aaron Diaz, sounded the Last Post which was broadcast throughout the academy. Members of the school’s Combined Cadet Force (CCF) took part in a poignant ceremony where the CCF’s Contingent School Staff Instructor, Jason Till, led pupils to lay a wreath. Cadets decorated the school’s wishing tree with their reflections to share their thoughts with the school community and serve as a tribute.

At The Olive School, Hackney, young pupils learnt about the significance of Remembrance Day and the poppy appeal. Pupils across the school were tasked with creating visual tributes to commemorate those who lost their lives in conflict. Pupils created striking window displays filled with painted, paper poppies. Talented pupils also wrote poetry and pieces of creative writing as a mark of their respect.

Pupils and staff at Bay Leadership Academy were united in their silence on Armistice Day. Chris Larder, a music teacher at the school, played the Last Post which was live streamed to classrooms around the school. Bay Leadership Academy pupil, William Spooner, who attends 445 Squadron Air Training Corps in Morecambe, wanted to ensure that vital funds would continue to be raised for the Royal British Legion. Together with his father, the pair helped to sell poppies, pins and other appeal items to the local community in a COVID-19 secure way so the work of the charity could continue.



Armistice Day at Highfield Leadership Academy was honoured with a special Act of Remembrance, which was written and delivered by KS4 Pupil Leaders. Although the school community was unable to unite physically, they united in spirit to pay their respects to brave members of the Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives in active duty. The Combined Cadet Force (CCF) cadets at Highfield Leadership Academy took part in a special history project as part of their Remembrance Day activities. Year 9 cadets researched the stories of former pupils who had died in active service. The cadets made crosses for each of the fallen and these were used in the Act of Remembrance. Cadets also participated in a local BBC project - Remember Together – where photographs of local people who died

in active service were made into a giant mosaic that will be displayed at REME (Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) museum. CCF leader Ian McCleary located the graves of these local soldiers and laid flowers on behalf of the academy community. The school’s Pupil Leaders and Highfield Helpers made poppy gift bags for people living in isolation and for pupils at a local primary school. Each bag contained an illuminated jar to help inspire hope with a copy of the poem Flanders Field and the school’s Act of Remembrance. Digital packs were also sent out with a full audio recording of the school’s Act of Service, videos of the Last Post and war memorials around England and a photo gallery linked to Armistice Day.

Pupils in the Combined Cadet Force at Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School took part in a special Armistice Day ceremony at the school. Pupils marched in a parade as the Last Post played in the background. As the cadets came to a halt in front of their school flagpole, they removed their berets and bowed their heads as they remembered members of the Armed Forces who had lost their lives in conflict. A display was created in the central foyer of the school to provide a sombre reminder of the sacrifices given by others for our freedom. The whole school also took part in Armistice Day activities, which included writing messages of remembrance for those lost in conflicts and reciting the poem For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon, which was read by Year 9 pupil Salahuddin and later broadcast on BBC Radio Lancashire.

Although, like many events, this year’s Remembrance Day activities were adapted to meet current COVID-19 safety requirements, pupils and staff were still able to pay tribute and show their respect in new ways. Despite months of lockdown, self-isolation and social distancing, the Star family was able to show its true spirit of unity as it joined as one during its acts of Remembrance. AUTUMN 2020 ISSUE 05

30 STAR COMMUNITY Pupils clean up to help local Coventry community Public spirited pupils from Eden Girls’ School, Coventry are cleaning up the local area thanks to a new litter picking project. Pupils joined forces with young people from Gurdwara Guru Nanak Parkash, Coventry UN Society, Coventry City Council and Police Officers from West Midlands Police to help restore Swanswell Park’s natural beauty. Armed with bin bags and litter pickers, the team were eager to tidy up the park as part of this year’s Great British September Clean. The clean-up campaign urges people to care for their local area by organising litter picks and helping to create safe, clean spaces for the entire community to enjoy. The team of 20 people had a productive day and cleared almost 20 bags of litter from the area.

Eden Boys’ Bradford say ‘hello yellow’ for mental health charity The pupils at Eden Boys’ Leadership Academy, Bradford chased away pandemic blues by filling their school with bright visions of yellow. On World Mental Health Day, pupils at the school were asked to say ‘hello yellow’ and wear yellow coloured clothing and props in aid of mental health charity, Mind. The school’s Hello Yellow appeal raised more than £200 for Bradford Mind, which has been working closely with the school throughout the term. Mental health advocates from the Bradford branch of Mind have been promoting positive approaches to mental wellbeing and helping pupils to identify effective coping strategies. The charity also delivered an online assembly on Online Safety and Digital Resilience. Staff from the charity are now set to work with pupils to provide additional support, as part of the school’s continued focus on health and wellbeing. The activity is just one example of a mental health awareness drive which is taking place within the school. As pupils returned to school in September, they were asked to focus on their feelings about returning to school post lockdown. Pupils explored the power of positive affirmations to challenge negative and unhelpful thoughts. There was also a focus on creating friendships for Year 7 pupils and re-establishing friendships for those in Year 8. Pupils were asked to plan their own wellbeing toolkit to help them through difficult or challenging times, a message which was supported in PSHE lessons throughout the half-term. Heather Hook from Kooth, which runs an online mental wellbeing community, also helped pupils find new ways to access help. They explored a range of articles and forums, as well tips on how to self-refer. This will be followed by a session for staff and parents on how to help pupils and children manage their emotions. Robina Naznine, Principal at the school, said: “The focus on wellbeing has been hugely important in helping to support pupils through the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also have a longer-term impact by equipping pupils with knowledge and coping techniques to navigate personal challenges throughout their lives.”


Pupils at Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School (TIGHS) took part in a special David Attenborough inspired documentary-making competition. As part of their study of The Pearl by John Steinbeck, Year 8 pupils explored descriptive writing, including the vocabulary and language used to create settings in the novel. One of the resources used to support pupils was a David Attenborough nature documentary. To help inspire pupils to think creatively, teachers announced a David Attenborough wildlife documentary competition as part of an enrichment task. Pupils were asked to select an animal of their choice and create a short documentary-style script. They were encouraged to write and perform their script in the style of the next David Attenborough to gain a place in the finals. Pupils were said to have thoroughly enjoyed the activity with many displaying natural presentation skills.

STAR COMMUNITY Pupils spark social change in Slough Year 7 pupils at Eden Girls’ School, Slough are taking part in an exciting initiative designed to help them learn about social issues in their local community and to inspire them to effect social change. The First Give initiative encourages pupils to become active citizens and learn about the causes of local social issues. Pupils then use their creativity to develop campaigns to help financially support and raise awareness of local charities who help with these issues. A facilitator from First Give delivered an assembly to all Year 7 pupils at the school explaining the initiative, its importance and how it supports the wider community that exists outside of the school. In their next session, pupils will be tasked with identifying charities working in their community and choosing a charity to represent. At the end of the programme, one group will be chosen to represent each class at the school’s First Give Final where the projects are presented for judging. The class with the best project will be given a First Give grant of £1,000 for their charity. Through the scheme, pupils are given the opportunity to develop important skills for life both as individuals and team players. The course of eight lessons aims to ignite a spark of social conscience in young people and help them to develop key professional skills such as teamwork, research, public speaking and leadership.

Eden Boys’ Birmingham pupils learn important lessons at interfaith assembly Rabbi Margaret Jacobi, of the Birmingham Progressive Synagogue, paid a virtual visit to the Year 7 pupils at Eden Boys’ School, Birmingham to talk about the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. During the assembly, Rabbi Margaret spoke in detail about the unique period of 10 days within the Jewish faith known as the ‘High Holy Days’. This begins with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Yom Kippur. The theme of this period centres around atonement and repentance. Rabbi Margaret went on to speak about some of the practices and observances adopted by Jewish people during this holy period, including ‘The White Fast’. This involves fasting for 25 hours from food and water and refraining from other activities which give pleasure. The wisdom behind fasting is that it is a way of saying sorry and exercising discipline. Jewish people also take this opportunity to seek forgiveness from people they have wronged – believing that only then will God forgive them. It also provides an opportunity for reflection to think of those who are hungry and less fortunate. Pupils also learned about how people of the Jewish faith spend the day in prayer at the Synagogue where it is customary to wear white. Pupils learnt about the similarities between Yom Kippur and significant days in the Islamic calendar like Laylatul Qadr, which is regarded as being the holiest night in the Islamic calendar. On this night Muslims make an earnest effort to seek forgiveness from God and from people for all the wrong they have committed. They also learned that fasting holds a similar purpose in both the Islamic and Jewish faiths: to develop self-discipline, empathy for those less fortunate and a closer attachment to God. After the assembly, pupils reflected on their learning and the many aspects of both faiths that call for peace and unity. They saw that respect for people across all faiths was an essential part of living a harmonious life.



32 STAR COMMUNITY Laisterdyke pupils and staff unite against bullying with odd socks day A celebration of diversity and the special qualities that make us unique was held at Laisterdyke Leadership Academy. In November, pupils and staff participated in Anti-Bullying Alliance’s Odd Socks Day as part of Anti-Bullying Week. Odd Socks Day is celebrated each year by pupils, staff and parents across the country who want to unite to stop bullying. This year’s message focused on our collective power and how this can be used as a force for good and positive change. From parents and carers, teachers and politicians, to children and young people, we all have a part to play in making a difference. At Laisterdyke Leadership Academy, pupils and staff wore brightly coloured odd socks to highlight the cause and raise funds for the charity. Throughout the day, pupils took part in workshops exploring the role that they can play in preventing bullying. Pupils also viewed the official Anti-Bullying Week film before making their ‘Anti-Bullying Pledge’, which set out their collective determination to reduce and prevent bullying in the school and in the community.


Messages of hope inspire Department for Education leaders The creative writing skills of pupils at Eden Girls’ School, Coventry were commended by leaders in the world of education during a special visit to the school. In September, the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education (DfE), Susan Acland-Hood, visited Eden Girls’ School, Coventry, along with Regional Schools Commissioner, Andrew Warren. Pupils at the school shared their messages of hope by reading poems they had composed for the visit. Susan Acland-Hood was so impressed by the poems that she asked for copies. The DfE later shared these poems with its 400,000 Twitter followers as part of its celebration for World Poetry Day.

There is a glass box. Invisible, raw Its evened walls of infallible law. Its ceilings stretch above the skies, The floors are built on floor-less lies. You are inmate thirteen. Your fingers scratch Against the endless, calloused latch. Hammers are soft, to the walls you pound The people in daylight that don’t hear sound. It’s hard to breathe in the endless glass cage, Like a canary that sings, for lives that wage. You are not like them. The people in day. Born with freedom, Snatched away. It takes three tries, and a burning flame, In a system of comfort, fear and disdain. The ceiling is melting, twelve inmates that claw, In a glass box built on human flaw. The ceilings break. You rise like a westward sun, liberated. And see the world clearer, accentuated. There’s still a system; tangible and alive To a higher ascension, you strive and strive. But outside the glass box, They hear sound Of stories and tales, Of freedom - found. By Ayman Zaman (Year 11)


STAR COMMUNITY Major General visits cadets at TIBHS In October, Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School (TIBHS) welcomed a visit from Major General Eastman MBE, the General Officer Commanding of the Army Regional Command. The highly influential Major General Eastman MBE led the UK’s military response to COVID-19. During his visit to the Blackburn school, he met with members of the school’s Combined Cadet Force and leaders from Star Academies. Head Boy, Adam Mohmed, was given the opportunity to meet with Major General Eastman MBE via Microsoft Teams. The Major General presented Adam with a commemorative coin as a token of appreciation.

Thornbury pupil scoops prize at local education awards A Thornbury Primary Leadership Academy pupil has won a highly prized local education award. Hanzala Mansoor won the Star Student award in the Telegraph and Argus Bradford and District Education Awards. The 11 year-old was awarded the prize after going above and beyond to succeed in his education. Hanzala was described by his teachers as “an all-round cracker” who exemplifies perseverance and tenacity. The mature young pupil described how he wants to help the world through his job when he grows up and would like to pursue a career in engineering. Hanzala, who has bilateral sensori-neural hearing loss and wears two hearing aids, says he enjoys studying maths and helping teachers and other children. This includes providing support for younger hearing-impaired pupils in the school. Hanzala models positive practices in both wearing his aids and accessing a full curriculum. Inspiring Hanzala expressed his surprise on hearing that he had won the prize at the virtual online event in November, with teachers cheering on the pupil online. He told how he felt proud to have been nominated for the prize. He said: “I think it’s important to help other people, so they can learn more and make a difference in their work. It makes me feel proud that teachers are saying these things to me. It makes me feel good.” Hanzala was also named ‘Inspirational Learner of the Year’ in Star Academies’ Star Awards 2020 for his commitment to learning.



34 STAR COMMUNITY Talented Highfield athlete sprints his way to success A Highfield Leadership Academy pupil is sprinting his way to success after a remarkable win in an athletics competition. Year 10 pupil, Charlie Auty, was ranked the second fastest runner in the North West after competing in a 100m race at Trafford Athletics Club. The talented 14-year-old completed the race in just 11.74 seconds – only 2.16 seconds slower than Usain Bolt’s world record – managing to stave off competition from athletes in the U17s and U20s age groups. Charlie’s success came after months of lockdown restrictions made it difficult for the runner to continue with his training schedule. But where restrictions allowed, the dedicated schoolboy took part in virtual training sessions over video calling platforms to continue his progress. Charlie only started competing in 2019, when he took part in the Lancashire County Championships where he finished 6th in the 100m final with a time of 12.2 seconds. Charlie began to compete in indoor athletics events in 2020 and his performances saw his positions in the UK Rankings soar to 31st in the 60m and 18th in the 200m. Charlie said he was pleased with his recent achievements and was keen to train more to achieve even greater results. Charlie’s success was celebrated across the school and pupils and staff are looking forward to cheering him on as he continues in his sporting career.

Olive Small Heath pupils say ‘yes we CAN make a difference’ Pupils at The Olive School, Small Heath are learning how small acts of kindness can make a real difference to people in need in their local community. Pupils at the school are taking part in Sadaqa Monday, or Gift Monday, where each pupil brings a can of food to donate to local foodbanks. Sadaqa Monday is part of the school’s ‘Yes we CAN make a difference’ project, which aims to help pupils serve their community and learn about the collective power of teamwork. The project has been so popular that the school is able to send two vans filled with donations to local foodbanks every month. Teachers at the school said they were very grateful for the way pupils and parents had embraced the scheme. Representatives from the Bethany Community Outreach Foodbank in Small Heath visited the school to thank pupils for their work and to help them understand how their donations were helping local families. During the visit, pupils were told how thousands of local families were now receiving food thanks to their efforts.

Hackney Choir ‘light up a life’ for local hospice Talented performers at The Olive School, Hackney are lending their voices to help a local cause close to their hearts. Year 4 pupils will appear on a special DVD singing This is my wish by Jordin Sparks, which will be sold to raise funds for St Joseph’s Hospice. The pupils will be joined by other local performers and speakers. The DVD will be launched at the Hospice’s annual Light Up a Life service, which takes place each year in December to commemorate loved ones. Although this year’s service will be held virtually, organisers were keen to ensure that it would still be a special event for those taking part and hope that the DVD will help them to achieve this aim. Staff at the school have been working to strengthen their relationships in the local community and are looking forward to working closely with the hospice on future projects.


STAR COMMUNITY TIGHS Sixth Form pupils inspired by careers seminar series Year 12 students at Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School and Sixth Form College were given an inspiring glimpse into the world of work through a specially curated careers seminar series. The seminar series aims to engage students with a range of vocations and employers to help them consider the full range of career options available. Throughout the series, students will meet leaders from the world of business, research and other settings to help inspire students to pursue their career of choice. This year, students have been introduced to the careers available with GCHQ and met representatives who told pupils about the range of opportunities available at the national intelligence and security organisation. A KPMG representative helped students to learn about careers at the multinational professional services firm. The breadth of opportunities available in engineering and publishing were introduced to students through specially selected Alumni students who returned to the school to share their insights. The seminar series is just one element of the school’s wider careers plan, which will provide Sixth Form students with the opportunity to meet employers, training providers and university representatives throughout the year in differing formats.

Olive Preston’s Africa Super Learning Day goes with a ‘bang’ Pupils at The Olive School, Preston have been expanding their knowledge of the world by taking part in a fun-packed Africa Super Learning Day. Staff at the school staged a special day filled with music, brightness and fun to help pupils explore aspects of culture from across the African continent. A highlight included a special African drumming workshop where pupils were able to learn about rhythm as part of their day of discovery. Parveen Yusuf, Principal at The Olive School, Preston, thanked parents and staff who helped pupils enjoy the day. Learning about cultures and experiences from the wider world is an integral part of the curriculum and is routinely taught to pupils across Star schools.




Tong pupil finds hope in new-found artistic talent Tong Leadership Academy pupil, Edie Pilkington, has discovered a new passion for art as she learnt to battle her anxiety during lockdown. Edie began to suffer from anxiety after she was separated from friends and her normal school life during lockdown. Faced with months of disruption, loneliness and boredom, the inspiring 14 year-old decided to look for a positive way to cope with her anxiety. Brave Edie found that body art helped to relieve her anxious thoughts. Edie spent hours scouring social media looking for inspiration, experimenting with new materials and practising her new talent. What began as a casual activity soon became a fully-fledged artistic talent for body art. Edie shared her experience on social media to help others who might be struggling during the pandemic. She told how finding a focus helped to distract her from the changes taking place and her concerns about returning to school after months of being away. Working on her body art, she said, helped her to cope with her anxiety. The talented artist was even praised by Bradford born make-up artist, Ellis Atlantis, winner of the BBC TV make up competition Glow Up. Dan Styles, Principal at Tong Leadership Academy said: “Edie is clearly a very talented pupil. Discovering this talent during what has been an incredibly turbulent and difficult time for many, really demonstrates the depth of her resilience. “The impact of the recent disruptions on our young people should not be underestimated. At Tong Leadership Academy, we are providing the very best support we can for our pupils through these unprecedented times so that they can go on to achieve the very best they can.“ Edie hopes to continue her studies so that she can one day take up a place at Leeds Art University.

Birmingham pupils wear white to collect food for local charities A harvest collection at Eden Boys’ Leadership Academy, Birmingham East saw pupils gather more than 1,000 items for local charities. Churches, foodbanks and Barnardo’s received donations from the school’s harvest collection which helped to alleviate food poverty in the local area. Staff and pupils at the school wore white to signify new beginnings in the hope that their donations would help people in need find their own fresh start.



Pandemic sparks digital revolution ANDY MARTIN, Head of ICT Solutions In our latest Star People interview, we talk to Andy Martin who leads our ICT team. Based in Blackburn, Andy has worked for Star since 2015. As Head of ICT Solutions, Andy ensures that the Trust and its schools have access to cutting-edge technology to support our staff to work effectively and efficiently and for our pupils to experience a first-class education, whether they are in the classroom or learning at home.

What has been the greatest challenge of supporting ICT and hybrid learning during the pandemic? Sourcing hardware quickly at the start of the pandemic and in lockdown was a major challenge. With Star requiring additional laptops and other items for both staff and pupils to be able to work remotely, it felt at times as though we were an IT reseller hunting down equipment to try to satisfy demand. Star was lucky to have ordered most of its requirement of laptops, desktops and interactive screens for September 2020 just prior to lockdown as part of the annual Kit Drop process. This was ahead of most other organisations in the UK, which helped to put us in a good position in terms of access to new equipment. Keeping staff connected and communicating was also a priority. Close to the start of lockdown, over 300 additional staff were added to Star’s cloud telephony platform and set up to be able to make and receive external phone calls to support pupils. The use of Microsoft Teams has accelerated the digital journey for Star, both in terms of learning and teaching as well as the workings of the organisation away from the classroom. The Central ICT team hosted daily CPD sessions for teachers to learn how to use this and other products and made changes behind the scenes as Microsoft made new features available to ensure that safeguarding concerns were met.

Key Appointments

Microsoft Teams has now become the default conferencing and collaboration platform across the organisation. Teaching staff needed to know how to deliver a lesson with pupils in class, at home, a combination of the two or even with the teacher not physically in the classroom. Our ICT team worked with others in the wider Central Office to come up with a new toolkit and further CPD for schools.

Before lockdown there were around 500 users of Microsoft Teams across Star. By October, more than 14,600 staff and pupils were actively using Teams with over 8,500 meetings organised.

With the lockdowns and working away from our buildings, a previous fallback option of using pen and paper was not really an option. The pandemic has started a large-scale change within the organisation, one which I expect will continue for many years.

Who was your favourite teacher as a child and why? Mr Gross, who was my Maths teacher. I was not the most studious of pupils when I started secondary school and used to get in a bit of trouble now and again. Mr Gross sat me down one day and went through the benefits of concentrating on my school life and of being better behaved. He managed to get me on the straight and narrow and I ended up performing far better in my exams than was originally expected.

What aspect of your job gives you the greatest satisfaction?

What interests do you have outside of work?

Satisfaction comes from the team completing a piece of work, which gives improvement to a single member of staff or pupil, or even the entire organisation. It is important to me that our team works well together and supports one another. They always put a lot of effort into resolving issues or delivering a new piece of work.

I do a lot of hiking, especially around the Ribble Valley and Lake District in my spare time. When I can, I enjoy sailing on the south coast. I also enjoy DIY projects and somehow managed to decorate half the house during lockdown.

How has COVID-19 impacted on the ICT team? The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the use and reliance on ICT at Star more than any other event during my time working within the organisation.

What are you currently reading? Permanent Record by Edward Snowden, the American whistle-blower who leaked information from the National Security Agency. His biography covers his childhood, getting his first job, through his time of whistleblowing and now living in Moscow.

KEY APPOINTMENTS Andrew O’Brien has been appointed as Executive Principal.

Craig Dillon has been appointed as Executive Principal.

Babar Mirza has been appointed as Principal at The Olive School, Hackney.

Anand Patel has been appointed as Principal at Eden Girls’ School, Coventry.


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Profile for Star Academies

Starlight - Issue 5 (Autumn 2020)  

Starlight is produced for parents, carers, governors and friends of the Star community. In the Autumn 2020 issue, you can read about how w...

Starlight - Issue 5 (Autumn 2020)  

Starlight is produced for parents, carers, governors and friends of the Star community. In the Autumn 2020 issue, you can read about how w...