It’s a Funny Old Game

25 Oct 2019   |   Phil Hutchinson, Executive Principal, Sevenhills & Phoenix Park Academy

It’s a Funny Old Game

Hailing from North East Lincolnshire – the geographic region of footballing excellence, my blogging debut sets out to draw parallels from our nation’s most popular sport and our working environment.

In my lifetime as a ‘Mariner’ spanning thirty something years I have embraced the highs of four promotions, the agony of four relegations, six awful years of non-league football but also the pride of nine Wembley appearances, however, only four of those occasions were enjoyed!

Let’s kick off with:
1) Manager
The leader. Accountability and responsibility. A few poor results and the manager is sacked. Coaching the team to achieve improvements is a very satisfying part of a leaders job. Alarmingly, in my locality I am the longest serving Secondary Principal due to the high stakes of accountability and league tables. Those in leadership know too well that journeys have ‘ups and downs’ the good times and the challenging ones but we recognise the need for stability and continuity and as leaders we retain our strong belief in our values. Effective leadership is crucial to achieve your aims.

2) Squad
The staff team is vital, as a Trust Wellspring are strong advocates for staff wellbeing and this is appreciated by the teams. I have not experienced anything that comes close to matching the support available to all and the moral purpose exhibited by leaders. The more together the staff teams are the better they will function. Communicate well, be interested and approachable, listen and get to know them – they are your biggest asset so work with them.

3) Tactics
In football much is made of styles, patterns of play, formations, set pieces and how they contribute to results. Pundits are paid handsomely to voice their opinions and fans debate and dissect post match but in our organisation we have a clear set of core values that keeps it simple. Being ethical, inclusive, caring and socially responsible exist in all our work each day.

4) Attendance
Attendance matters. When teams are playing well the stadium is sold out, when it’s a struggle attendance drops. The current non-chairman at Grimsby Town knows the exact attendance figure to be achieved to break even each match. We must make our schools and work environments ones that students and staff want to come, create that positive culture.

5) Transfer Window
Get recruitment right! Plan it well, allow yourself time to get it right, values based interview questions ensure you get the right person with the values to join your team and follow safer recruitment practices throughout. At each recruitment opportunity I endeavour to add something different to our teams so we keep evolving.

6) VAR
Technology is a hot topic of conversation at the minute and it is something never far from teachers thoughts followed by sheer panic. I received feedback from SLT during my first teaching post – ‘would have been better if technology had been used.’ Excellent, I’m teaching in a temporary wooden hut the other side of the field with electric heaters being the closest thing to technology! iPads, Iris, google classrooms, immersive spaces etc. absolutely have a role to play in creating engaging learning and developing our teaching practice – but only if quality time is invested to explore and understand how it can be best used and improve users confidence and individuals (like me) competence.

7) The FA, EFL, UEFA, FIFA
The policy makers and Governors of our beautiful game. The lack of connection to real life, the players, the fans, the officials with each and every tweak of a rule. I have played and coached the game, can I explain the latest offside rule? DFE and OfSTED set many criteria for us in education through various frameworks and inspection handbooks. Although there is a perception of being more open to consultation with our sector I often ponder how it could be different if Ofsted didn’t exist. I like the messages we support across our Trust that we do what is right for our students and we don’t do things for Ofsted.

8) Europa League
This link refers to transition which from Alternative Provisions can occasionally be back to mainstream. Our reward for students that do really well in our settings is to send them back to an environment they didn’t like and were not welcome. Similar to those clubs finishing 5th and/or 6th in the Premier League in that they are rewarded with a competition meaning extra fixtures, often long trips all over Europe on a Thursday night and which ultimately leads to clubs trying to exit the competition as early as possible. The Europa League (after Baku, Azerbaijan hosted the final last season for two London teams in a half filled stadium) and student transition both need further work to ensure their success.

To summarise this blog a quote that highlights the importance of our work and the difference we can make to our students, families and communities,
‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.’
Bill Shankly (Grimsby Town manager, 1951)

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