Barry Day: My plans to help Sinfin Community School pupils get the best education possible
Barry Day has 15 academies in the East Midlands under his control. In May, Sinfin Community School will become the 16th. Here, the chief executive of the Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust explains why he believes it will help standards soar at the Derby school.
THE Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust was formed in 2009 by the governing body of the outstanding Greenwood Dale School in Nottingham where I was head teacher. We were one of the first schools in the country to be allowed to set up our own foundation to sponsor academies.
We now have 15 academies within our group and are educating over 10,000 pupils aged from three to 18. We are also a major employer in the region with more than 1,500 staff.
We were approached by the Department for Education to see if we would consider sponsoring Sinfin Community School to become an academy because we are a highly regarded and very experienced multi-academy sponsor which specialises in working with schools in challenging circumstances and/or in an Ofsted category such as special measures.
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I am delighted with the Secretary of State's decision to convert Sinfin School into an academy with ourselves as the sponsor. We look forward to welcoming Sinfin into our trust.
We believe firmly in partnership working and will continue to work closely with, and consult, staff, pupils, parents, local primary schools, other local schools and colleges, unions and professional associations and Derby City Council in the lead-up to academy status.
As a not-for-profit trust, we are only interested in ensuring that our pupils receive the best education possible and achieve the highest levels of success. We work really hard to make this happen, as do all the staff who work in our academies.
Our approach at Sinfin will be straightforward. Working closely with staff, we will identify existing best practice and ensure that it becomes outstanding. We will also identify areas where improvement is needed, using our experience and capacity to bring this up to standard.
We will also introduce features that exist in our other academies and that we know have a major impact on raising standards. A year seven base will be in place from this September and we will bid to the Department for Education to add a sixth form to the academy from September 2014.
We want pupils, no matter what their age or ability, to be proud to belong to the new academy and be proud of their achievements. Whatever pupils' backgrounds, we want to ensure they reach their full potential, with no limit to what they can achieve. Our aim is for pupils at the new academy to be in the best possible position to move on to a successful life beyond school – whether it is in education, training or employment.
Parents should be reassured that the academy will remain at the heart of its local community and that pupils living closest will have the best chance of getting a place. There will be no selection by ability. Our academies serve all the pupils in their local communities.
All staff who wish to will transfer to the new academy and be employed by the trust. No one will lose their job or lose pay in the move to academy status. There will be a new principal, however, as the present head teacher is stepping down due to ill health. I and all my team wish him the very best for the future.
There are a number of different ways in which we support our academies. For example, we have executive principals who are responsible for a number of different academies, setting challenging targets and arranging support where it is needed. All our executive principals have previously been outstanding head teachers.
Martyn Turner will be the executive principal supporting the new academy and he has already been working closely with staff.
In addition, our academies benefit from the expertise of our central team which offers outstanding levels of service in areas such as finance, human resources, ICT, procurement, data, catering and educational support.
The central team exists to take away the bureaucratic burdens that stop staff getting on with the job of teaching.
Our academies each have an academy council to provide local governance. They are similar to the governing body of community schools but have different legal responsibilities. We will advertise vacancies for the academy council for the new academy in the summer term.
We take support for pupils with special educational needs very seriously. We have two directors of SEN on our central team to ensure our academies offer outstanding practice. All our academies have well-staffed and well-equipped SEN and learning support departments and we prioritise staff development in this area.
Two members of staff from Sinfin have already benefited from the trust's SEN training and development programme. We pursue opportunities where we can add most value to young people's lives and we will look to develop an extensive programme of extended opportunities at Sinfin, to complement the academic and vocational curriculum, in order to broaden pupils' experiences and enhance their studies.
It is important to us that we invest in pupils to enable them to thrive and develop into purposeful citizens who are well qualified, confident and highly employable.
The Duke of Edinburgh's Award is a central part of what we do. It is therefore very pleasing that Sinfin already runs a thriving award programme.
We believe in traditional values and so pupils in our academies wear a smart and affordable uniform and are expected to behave to the highest standards. We will consult pupils, staff and parents to decide what the uniform for the new academy will be. We will ensure that parents are not financially disadvantaged due to the introduction of any new uniform.
Our academies adopt the same holiday pattern as other schools in the local authority areas they are in.
This means that the new academy will continue to follow the pattern set by Derby City Council so as not to disadvantage parents with children in more than one school.
We have a proven track record of helping children reach their full potential. For example, we brought the Weston Favell Academy in Northampton out of special measures within two terms of becoming the sponsor. This was despite Ofsted's view that the school was "deeply into special measures" and would be difficult to improve.
In addition, GCSE results at our Nottingham, Nottingham Girls' and Skegness academies all hit record levels in 2012 despite many schools nationally reporting significant falls in standards.
At the Nottingham Girls' Academy, in the one year we have been the sponsor, results for five or more A* to C grades, including maths and English, rose from 36% to 56%.
I am absolutely confident that with the trust working in partnership with staff, pupils, parents, local schools, unions and the local authority, this new academy will start to provide the outstanding education the community expects and that the pupils deserve.