News from The Kings of Wessex Academy

Interview with Mr Ball, Executive Headteacher at The Kings of Wessex Academy

28th September, 2017 by The Kings and Queens News Team

As one of their first assignments for the new term, The Kings and Queens News Team were pleased to get a scoop interview with Mr Ball, their new Executive Headteacher at The Kings of Wessex Academy in his first few weeks in post.

Mr Ball joined Kings after five years as Principal at Frome College and described himself as a local boy, who attended Somervale School and now lives near Bath. Mr Ball began his career working for a bank in Frome. But it was not exciting enough and against the wishes of his father, who considered it to be a steady career, he went to university to read Geography and Economics. He graduated in the 1980’s in the era of Mrs Thatcher when a shadow was cast over teaching due to the teacher strikes about unpaid lunchtime supervision.

So instead, Mr Ball entered the world of retail. But soon realised in his mid-20’s that he could not see a long-term career in selling. The itch continued. Psychometric tests revealed teaching as his top career match and he found himself at Bristol Polytechnic (now UWE) where he completed a PGCE in Business. His first post took him south to Ferndown near Bournemouth, where he ran a Sixth Form programme. His next promotion was nearly back on home turf in Chew Valley as Head of Business and Vocational Studies. 20 years ago now, he then moved to Kingdown School in Warminster where he was Director of Post-16 Education and a Senior Leader (Assistant Head). Now in his next decade, his next big post was at Gordano School as Deputy Head (Curriculum) with a year on secondment as Associate Head across North Somerset, until his appointment as Principal at Frome College in 2012.

At Frome, Mr Ball really cut his teeth and worked hard with his team to cut £2 million from the budget, and this summer he left them with a surplus. With his positive and forward-thinking energy he pulled up Frome from the Ofsted judgement of Satisfactory to Good. And that’s only the headlines of his story at this fellow Somerset school. Above all, he left a happy school where students take pride in being a Frome student.

The Team were impressed with Mr Ball’s interesting and dynamic background; but close to their hearts, they wanted to know his plans for Kings.

A self-professed visionary, Mr Ball explained he has a five-year plan, because it’s essential a school keeps moving or it risks falling behind. The new man for the job clearly wants to celebrate all the achievements of Kings and for it to shine for its great exam results. But he also believes there’s more to schooling than academic success. It’s everything else that makes up a student and he wants to hear what students think and what motivates them and get everyone involved. You could call it a “3D School”.

In our modern times, one of Mr Ball’s big foci is student welfare. He wants students to feel loved, cared for and safe and part of this will be making the services already available at Kings better known. This naturally turned thoughts to the important topic of teenager’s mental health and what would Mr Ball do to aid students with any issues. Mr Ball recognises Kings is a 13-18 years school and there are issues for our young people of today. But he knows it is about developing strategies early on in the education system and the number one thing is developing resilience. A lot of people have mental health problems because they are overwhelmed. So it is invaluable for them to build resilience so that they can cope. This will be one of the advantages of working with the other First and Middle schools in the Wessex Learning Trust.

After all, Mr Ball understands education is about helping people and helping them build coping strategies and this can be woven into the curriculum. The students agreed, but were also mindful of pressure in the curriculum when they need to be preparing for exams. But Mr Ball encouraged them to think beyond and the need to balance.

Then there are his plans for the Sixth Form – making it more fit for purpose, with more vocational courses and exploring apprenticeships to serve the area and students. When asked about changes to the curriculum, not least the change from Drama to Performing Arts, Mr Ball explained Government funding makes it hard to run small subjects. His priority will be to grow the Sixth Form with more study options and ultimately more students with more funding for courses.

In a few months, Mr Ball will be bracing himself for his first Charities Week and from the students’ mischievous twinkles he has an inkling of the fun-fundraising on the horizon. He reported on a previous school in Warminster where their charity events were filmed by Channel 4, which caused great excitement. So he has high expectations of this extravaganza week at Kings.

And how would Mr Ball describe his leadership style? Empowering and collegiate. He clearly believes you need to work out what you need to do and do it. It is also apparent there is going to be a sea change at Kings with some different ways of working and thinking, with lots of spinning plates. Things have to change, but the key focus will still be learning, which is young people’s passport for life. But Mr Ball wants to make Kings even greater.

To conclude the interview, the team asked Mr Ball what are his three main objectives at Kings and with no hesitation he replied: Pride, Welfare and Extension of Curriculum.

The Team decided their new Executive Headteacher Mr Ball is definitely worth watching and thanked him for his time and insights.

An article from the Mercury online can be seen here.