Doubling up on experience to lead primary school near Sutton Coldfield

Two talented educators who have taken over the running of a village school near Sutton Coldfield say they want children there to experience the ‘best of both worlds’ – getting a broad education in a small, friendly school.

Curdworth Primary School’s head of school Jas Kang and executive headteacher Helen Hastilow with pupils
Curdworth Primary School’s head of school Jas Kang and executive headteacher Helen Hastilow with pupils

Since Easter, Curdworth Primary School, which is part of the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership (ATLP), has been run jointly by head of school Jas Kang, 33, and executive headteacher Helen Hastilow, 39.

The two are piloting a new way of working, which brings together the know-how of an experienced mentor with the talents of a skilled classroom educator.

Above all, they want to ensure children continue to benefit from the unique learning experience that can only be found in small, community-based school.

Jas said: “Curdworth is a small school, with just 114 students in mixed-age classes and 18 staff members, but I don’t see that small size as a negative. I want us to celebrate that, and make the most of the fact it’s an intimate, friendly school that has a really strong relationship with our community. After all, that’s what makes us unique and special.

“I don’t want people to say ‘but we’re only a small school…’ I want them to say ‘as we’re a small school, our children thrive and exceed their potential'.”

Helen said: “Because this is a village school there is a real sense of family, where the children really look out for each other.

“That’s something that should be celebrated and embraced.”

However, being part of the ATLP, which has six secondary schools and 13 primaries, means that despite its small size, Curdworth can call on real support to ensure the children get a first-class education.

Helen said: “There is real strength in being part of the partnership, as it provides a level of support and expertise that is invaluable for a school like Curdworth.

“We love the fact that Curdworth is a small, but that does mean that the staff here sometimes have to wear a lot of hats. Being part of the ATLP provides a broader support that ensures that we have the resources we need, when we need them.”

Jas agreed: “It allows us to have the best of both worlds, being a small and friendly school that has the support of this very large organisation behind us.”

Like a lot of schools, Curdworth is now reconnecting with its community after the enforced restrictions of the pandemic.

Jas said: “We have just had our first post-Covid lockdown event, a mother’s day which got all the female parents back into school for the first time since pre-lockdown. They got to spend time with their children, in school, for the first time in ages, which was wonderful to see.

“In fact, some parents had never stepped inside the school before, because their children joined at the start of the pandemic, so that was a very special time for them to actually see what the school was like inside!

“We’re now looking to get parents in much more often with quite a few events listed, from assemblies and our sports day to a talent show.”

Just a few weeks after taking over, Jas and Helen are building a solid bond that makes the most of their different skills.

Helen explained: “We really complement each other. Having me here as executive headteacher allows Jas to focus on the things that really matter; which is teaching and learning, community and children, while I’m doing a lot more of the behind-the-scenes stuff.

“This is a new role that the partnership doesn’t have anywhere else, so we’re modelling something new and exciting here at Curdworth.

“We’re very similar people, with the same values, and we have even started finishing each other’s sentences!”

Jas added: “We’re just using each other’s skills to make sure we do right for the school, the staff and the children.”

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