Transformative Education: Harvey Sarai’s Impact on Bantock Primary School and the Penn Fields Community

Published by Gary Ellis on June 11th 2024, 12:09pm

Bantock Primary School is within the Penn Fields area of Wolverhampton, a landscape with socio-economic challenges. But at its helm is Bantock's Headteacher, Harvey Sarai, who recognises the school's role as not only an educational institution but as a pillar within the community.

Sarai’s tenure at Bantock began 11 years ago, but her connection to the school runs much deeper. “This was my primary school,” she reveals, a fact that played a significant role in her decision to apply for the headteacher position. “A headteacher’s job goes beyond the school. It's a service to the community the school is within,” she explains.

Located in one of the most deprived areas of the country, the school is home to a diverse student body, with over 40 languages spoken and a high number of EFL pupils. But despite these challenges, Sarai’s leadership has been transformative. She has navigated the school through numerous changes, including a merger and a shift in student population.

Sarai’s approach to leadership is rooted in understanding the context of the school and its community. “You can’t make changes unless you know the context of the school,” she states. This ethos has led to the implementation of numerous initiatives aimed at addressing the specific needs of their students.

One such initiative was the employment of two parent ambassadors from the Roma community, a significant demographic within the school. This move not only helped bridge the gap between the school and the parents but also provided valuable insights into the community’s needs.

Under Sarai’s stewardship, Bantock Primary School has also embraced the digital age. Recognising the increasing importance of digital literacy, the school has become a Microsoft Showcase School, a distinction held by only about 80 schools in England. “Everything is becoming digitised, so we focus on providing something for our pupils so they have that life skill when they leave primary school” Sarai muses.

The Ideal Leader in Education

Leadership is not a one-size-fits-all role in education. It requires a multitude of skills, a deep understanding of the community, and the ability to wear many hats. Harvey embodies such a multifaceted approach.

She sees her role as a facilitator, a social worker, a counsellor, and an HR person, among other things. “You’ve got to have enough knowledge and skills before you impart something or somebody else to make that change,” she says, highlighting the importance of continuous learning and adaptability in her role.

Sarai’s leadership style is rooted in understanding and addressing the specific needs of her school and its community. She believes in the importance of knowing the context of the school and its students, and she emphasises the need to work with external professionals and staff to facilitate change.

One of her significant initiatives was the employment of two parent ambassadors from the Roma community, a move that helped bridge the gap between the school and the parents. Harvey also recognises the increasing importance of digital literacy in today’s world. Under her leadership, Bantock Primary School has become a Microsoft Showcase School, a distinction held by only about 80 schools in England. To achieve this, she trained one of her leadership team members to be the school’s digital lead, a role rarely found in primary schools.

In Harvey’s view, the ideal leader in education is one who is not afraid to learn, adapt, and think outside the box. They must be able to facilitate change, build strong relationships with their community, and wear many hats. Above all, they must be committed to serving their community and making a difference in the lives of their students. As Harvey demonstrates, being a headteacher is about much more than just teaching, but also leading with empathy, understanding, and innovation.

Harvey Sarai: Navigating the Challenges of Leadership

Leading a school is no small task, and for Harvey the challenges are manifold. From staff retention to managing finances, she has had to navigate a complex landscape to ensure the success of her school.

“Staff retention was the first biggest thing when I first came into the role,” Sarai reveals. She quickly realised that to make the right decisions for the school, she had to absorb a lot of information very quickly and actively listen. “You have to listen carefully to a lot of members of staff, children, and parents,” she says.

Another significant challenge for Sarai was getting everyone on board with her vision for the school. “I needed people who understood the type of ethos I sought after,” she explains. This ethos, she believes, is crucial to creating a harmonious school environment, which she has successfully achieved. However, Sarai acknowledges that creating such an environment is not without its challenges. “To get staff on board, you have to have the money to pay and know your finances,” she says.

Leaving a Legacy

Harvey never thought she would be a headteacher. Yet, here she is, leading a school and making a difference in the lives of her students, staff, and the Penn Fields community. As she looks to the future, Sarai envisions a legacy that goes beyond her tenure at the school.

“We are going to academise which will hopefully be open in September 2025” she reveals, explaining that they are starting a new Multi-Academy Trust (MAT). Harvey believes that this move will allow them to do things differently from the existing MATs in Wolverhampton.

As for her legacy, Harvey believes it is not just about the school’s structure, but also the people within it, “that leaves a legacy of people behind who are following in my footsteps,” she explains.

Harvey’s commitment to her school and her community is evident, and she remains dedicated to navigating the complex landscape of educational leadership. It’s clear that for Sarai, challenges are just part of the journey. And as she navigates this journey, she is leaving a legacy that will undoubtedly impact Bantock Primary School and the Penn Fields community for years to come.

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Authored By

Gary Ellis
Senior Editor
June 11th 2024, 12:09pm

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