Pursuing the issues of disadvantage, social justice, and the school’s place in the wider community

Lesley King
Lesley King, Chair of governors, Ormiston Venture Academy; former SSAT director

Certain themes have absorbed me over the last 30 years: disadvantage and social justice; the school’s place in the wider community; the importance of arts education. Since 1996 I have been involved with the SSAT in many roles, from member to trustee and finally a strategic director, and it has offered me immense opportunities to pursue these ideas.

Where else could I have been involved in large student performances in Tate Britain, the Royal Opera House, Birmingham Symphony Hall, the Imperial War Museum of the North and Brighton Pavilion? Links with the BBC, Arts Council England and the Royal Opera House brought expertise, passion and mutual benefit. The SSAT confirmed and developed my view of the vital importance of a broad education in the arts, and the huge capacity of young people to be involved as quality performers, artists and informed audiences, rather than trainees for these roles. Drawing expertise and passion from the wider community is transformative, encouraging students into opportunities and experiences they can build on.

Drawing expertise and passion from the wider community encourages students into opportunities and experiences they can build on

SSAT introduced me to committed academics from home and abroad who provided insights based on rigorous research and close contact with schools. I worked with supportive and inspirational colleagues at all levels there, whose values informed their work. Even more important were my links with other schools and their staff. Even now when I travel around, I map the country using schools where I learned something which made me a better teacher or head.

From my association with SSAT I take sure knowledge: we need to work together and learn together, rather than wait for external instruction. The affordance of equal value and determined optimism about every child’s success and fulfilment is best achieved by schools working with and for each other.

A highly successful member organisation, SSAT has facilitated this cooperation for thousands of schools and teachers over the last 30 years. Long may it continue.

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