Subscribe to our free newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news from the academy, free school & UTC sector

Q&A: Dr Hilary Macaulay

We talk to one of the country's longest-serving academy principals, Dr Hilary Macaulay, about her new role in Bristol

Posted by Stephanie Broad | April 29, 2016 | People, policy, politics

Congratulations on the new role. What attracted you to the role? 

I was actually contacted about Merchants’ Academy when it was first opening as an 11-18 academy in 2007 but at the time I was very involved in my role as Principal and CEO of West London Academy and, as one of the original 12 academies, I wanted to see a full cohort of students through and develop the academy for the local community.  

Having had a home in Somerset since 2003, I have always kept a close eye on the progress and development of sponsored academies in Bristol and the South West and when I was contacted again in late August 2015 about the new Executive Principal role of Merchants’ Academy Trust, I was very interested indeed. Having led a very large all-age academy for nearly eight years, growing it from a 1.5 form entry primary to a heavily oversubscribed three form entry primary, increased the sixth form substantially, and taken in a large adult education and community sports centre, all under one roof, I felt that I could contribute something significant to the launch and development of the new Merchants’ Academy Multi Academy Trust. 

I feel equipped with a depth of understanding and breadth of experience of what Outstanding really looks like, and crucially, how to achieve it

Having also held senior leadership roles in three Outstanding schools, including my most recent headship as Principal of Harris City Academy Crystal Palace, I feel equipped with a depth of understanding and breadth of experience of what Outstanding really looks like, and crucially, how to achieve it. Without a doubt the truly exceptional role that the sponsors play has been central to my decision. The Society of Merchant Venturers and the University of Bristol bring so much hands-on expertise, time and support to the academies within the MAT that it is unprecedented in any sponsored academy I have worked in before. Being able to combine all of this with the opportunity to move home to the South West is fantastic.

Your career started in the Army - how did you make the move into education? 

As an undergraduate I was sponsored by the Royal Army Educational Corps. (RAEC) which was the all-Officer, all-graduate teaching corps of the Army and I then went to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. I realised that I wanted to continue my work in an educational context but really ‘fell into’ civilian teaching because I knew someone who had finished their short service commission and was doing a PGCE at Oxford University, so I applied and was offered a place. The rest is history, as they say (although my subject is secondary school English!)

What are your future plans for the Trust?

The Society of Merchant Venturers is very clear about its role in education and its ambitious vision to ensure that many more children and young people can benefit, as the students at Merchants’ Academy and Venturers’ Academy currently do. Being co-sponsored by the University of Bristol brings with it another very powerful dimension in the form of research and the very best training and development for staff, together with unique, frequent opportunities for our children and young people to participate in many exclusive events and activities within the university and beyond. 

I look forward to being able to develop productive professional relationships with others in Bristol, to the benefit of the city’s children and young people as well as staff 

The strength of governance the co-sponsors bring is impressive, as is their commitment to remain with the Trust. This continuity is a very important aspect in securing the success of the MAT. My role as the Executive Principal is to translate that vision and passion into a reality. [Opening] the first all-age school in Bristol specifically for students with autism reflects the breadth of provision that our two sponsors are committed to achieving through the new MAT. Venturers’ Academy is already hugely oversubscribed even before opening in September. I am spending my first couple of months meeting with headteachers, principals and executive principals of the schools and academies in Bristol. I have always enjoyed working in genuine partnerships and I look forward to being able to develop productive professional relationships with others in Bristol, to the benefit of the city’s children and young people as well as staff. Having Primary, Secondary and Special schools in the new MAT opens up enormous opportunity for productive dialogue. 

As one of the longest-serving academy principals, what are your thoughts on the future of the academy sector?  

This is certainly an interesting time for education generally, not only in the schools’ sector but more broadly. Over the past 11 years as an academy principal leading different types of academies, I have seen so much development and change. Ultimately we all want the very best for our children and young people and we want to have the freedom to be able to achieve that. There is no ‘one type fits all’ with the academies sector and I think that we still have the opportunity to create our own destiny. One significant change from my involvement in the early days of the academies programme as Principal and CEO is that there is far greater willingness and openness today with regards how we work in partnership with others, and there is generally a lot less hostility to what we are trying to achieve with the freedom that we have. I can speak only from my experience in leading sponsored academies and the drive and energy that comes with that. 

I never cease to be inspired by the way we learn from sharing the best aspects and practice between academies and school leaders. Their Governors recognise this and choose to work with us to benefit from being part of a sponsored academy trust, so that everyone contributes to system-wide improvement and enhanced opportunities and outcomes for our children and young people.

 

Subscribe to our free newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news from the academy, free school & UTC sector

Related stories

BESA in conversation with GL Assessment

Improvement planning: get it write

Education for the Soul

Caught in the middle: managing workload as a middle leader

Event review: Marches Academy Trust Festival of Education

The inspiration behind The Marches Festival of Education

Quality on a tight budget: the challenge for academy leaders

Strong leaders are like good wine, they improve with age

Academies and VAT - to register or not to register?

Merchants' Academy appoints new Principal

Market place - view all

Fujitsu

Fujitsu provide information technology solutions for businesses inc...

Meru networks

Meru began with a vision that sooner rather than later most enterpr...

Red sky

We’re the UK’s leading independent solar installer, hel...

Sodexo

Our positioning in the services industry is original and unique. It...

Britcab

Need a portable cabin or modular building?

We sell and hire ...

Rhino

Rhino is one of the leading rugby brands in the world and has beco...