SSAT senior relationship manager Ejike Agubor explains the “vital and engrossing” role he plays along with his fellow RMs in supporting member schools
“You’ve travelled from where?!” is often the shocked reply when I meet a headteacher or member of SLT at their school. Even after all the schools I have visited over the years, this reaction still brings a smile to my face. For me, it demonstrates the importance every school has to the SSAT network, and the effort we make to include them.
For reference, SSAT is based in London and my role as relationship manager takes me all over the country. The role is also diverse. I am ‘my’ schools’ main point of contact, and I support them in their ongoing journeys by understanding their priorities and the most suitable opportunities to support their growth and development. I help them connect with other schools, from which they can learn best practice. While responding to their feedback, I enable them to be part of the national picture, giving them a presence and a voice in the constantly changing educational landscape.
Every school has something special
During 2018 I visited 32 schools, ranging from state schools and academies to grammar and free schools, in areas including Cumbria, Suffolk, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Devon, West Midlands, Kent and London. Needless to say, travelling to many different towns and cities several times a week can be tiring and pose a logistical challenge (especially when trains get delayed). However, despite the hundreds of schools I have visited over the years, what always strikes me is that every school has something special about it. Whether it’s a leadership approach, an innovative T&L programme developed in-house, middle leaders integrating CPD with mindfulness, or students overcoming the odds, every school has a unique story, which makes their contribution to the future of education invaluable.
I recently visited an internationally renowned school and learnt that much of its success, and that of its students, is based on strong pastoral care. This was clear when speaking to a student who said that feeling secure and happy at school had helped her to excel at her academic studies. This might not sound like rocket science, but I often speak to schools that are still trying to strike the perfect balance between wellbeing and academic success. Schools can certainly use an approach they have seen work in another school, though they should use it more as inspiration rather than verbatim. No two schools are the same, after all.
Whether it’s a leadership approach, an innovative T&L programme developed in-house, middle leaders integrating CPD with mindfulness, or students overcoming the odds, every school has a unique story, which makes their contribution to the future of education invaluable.
Understanding which schools to connect to
Apart from meeting inspirational school leaders and teachers, and listening to talented students, one of the most fulfilling parts of my job is helping schools to connect with other schools and resources that will be most relevant and helpful to them. I am always keen to emphasise on visits that the SSAT network is there to benefit schools, so they should explore such opportunities as much as they can. Understanding more about where a school is focusing its efforts, its strengths and things that would make life easier, enables the relationship management team, and SSAT generally, to provide the most appropriate support and opportunities where they are most needed.
Perception of the needs and opportunities varies. The very nature of schools means people are so busy with their day-to-day work they are often not aware of the innovation or best practice they are actually demonstrating. On the other hand, school leaders and staff often tell me they have become isolated and would like to extend the networks of schools they can learn from. Connecting schools to share excellent practice is a part of my job I thoroughly enjoy – especially when it results in measurable impact, such as the principal who said that a section of their positive Ofsted inspection report had resulted from a connection we had enabled them to make.
On a visit to Richard Challoner School, SSAT CEO Sue Williamson summed it up when she said: “We can’t say we’re a schools organisation if we’re not in schools.” It’s this belief and vision that drives the relationship management team.
Ejike Agubor Senior Relationship Manager
SSAT member schools have a dedicated Relationship Manager who listens to your priorities and ensures you are accessing the right information and taking advantage of all of your SSAT membership benefits. If you do have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your Relationship Manager.