It is the last day of term for both Townley Grammar School and King Henry School (formerly Erith School). I am sat in the office at King Henry School reflecting on the year and the last term.

Desmond Deehan CEO/Executive Headteacher Odyssey Trust for Education

When we featured in the BBC2 documentary Grammar Schools: Who will Get In? we couldn’t have foreseen the journey we would embark upon as The Odyssey Trust for Education; two schools working together. The documentary ended with the question of whether my “gamble” of forming a MAT with Erith School to turn it around would pay off. It’s too early still to answer that with any certainty but as I sit here having done the rounds of King Henry School I have reason to feel optimistic.

The school has a new name, a new uniform and a new outlook. Behaviour is markedly different with polite students saying good morning and opening doors, taking coats off with a look and standing as you enter the room. More importantly it feels different; calmer and more respectful. People smile. Teachers seem happier too and it’s not just the demob happiness of the end of term. It’s perhaps the feeling of being valued, of being cared for and invested in. Perhaps it is also the feeling of hope that comes with a sense of purpose and raised expectations. Instead of the tired old excuses of funding or intake or those mean old Grammar Schools taking all the “good” children there is the gradual realisation that we have everything we need to be better. We are masters of our fate, captains of our soul.

We have a way to go but it begins here, with a belief that it’s possible and a belief in the abilities and futures of the young people who enter our doors. For me, as for the countless other Townley staff who have given their time in service to this cause, it is also an explicit reminder of the transformative power of education. It is here that we can see how much of a difference an education can make to so many individuals. By education I refer to the entire experience of school. Every small interaction as well as the every new thing learned.

What has this meant for Townley? For me it has been the addition of a very special thread to the rich tapestry that is Townley Grammar School. As a school that valued innovation and diversity we have been given a gift to broaden the experiences of our young people and their teachers. Even the few interactions between students we have seen so far have been inspiring, whether that be King Henry music students performing at Townley’s Christmas Concert or the shared Year 7 STEM day. It has also been the shared training days for staff where colleagues with the same goals came together to learn and grow.

So as students and staff at both schools look forward to the Christmas holidays I look to the New Year and the next stage in our shared Odyssey.

Desmond Deehan

CEO/Executive Headteacher

Odyssey Trust for Education