MAKING the Thomas Clarkson Academy the school for Wisbech is the ambition of its newly appointed Principal.
Clare Claxton, who took over the reins just before the summer break, admits changing people’s attitudes to the school will be one of her biggest challenges.
“At the moment our pupil distribution is skewed towards the bottom because many parents choose to send their children to other schools so we don’t get out fair share of brighter pupils.
“That is something I want to change and I will be working with our primary schools to see how we can work together to change that and encourage parents to think of the Thomas Clarkson as the place for their children to go,” said Mrs Claxton, in her first interview since taking over.
She admits her role in trying to raise standards at Thomas Clarkson is a real challenge, but she is determined that by the time the next Olympics are held in Rio in four years time the school will be at the national average for achievement.
At the moment the school has around 24 per cent of pupils achieving the required five GCSEs at C or above including maths and English.
It needs to be almost double that if it is to achieve the national average of 40 per cent.
“I think this is an achievable target. I don’t want to set an unrealistic target. Everyone needs to believe we can do it otherwise we will be setting ourselves up to fail,” said Mrs Claxton.
She is confident the school’s new academy status as part of the highly successful Brook Weston stable of academies will help.
“They have a very successful track record in turning around poorly performing schools. They treat each one as an individual entity and don’t try to create a string of clones.
“We will be able to draw on their expertise to help us achieve our targets and as an academy we also have more flexibility,” she said.
Mrs Claxton has already identified areas for immediate improvement starting with the basics such as pupil appearance.
From September students will be wearing blazers and ties following the introduction of a new uniform.
“I think a more businesslike appearance will help create a better environment for pupils to work and learn,” said Mrs Claxton.
And every one of the 1,600 plus students will be decked out in the new uniform courtesy of the school’s academy status.
Every child from year 7 to 11 has been provided with a free school uniform for the coming year. The school hall was turned into a mass fitting room as students lined-up to receive their blazers and ties. Vouchers for shirts, blouses, trousers, skirts and PE kits have also been provided for use in a local supermarket.
Sixth formers will no longer be allowed to wear casual clothes such as jeans, but will be expected to wear outfits suitable for an office.
And the school also has a newly appointed head of sixth form in the shape of Paul Musson, who will be developing the school’s bond with the College of West Anglia to provide a broader sixth-form curriculum.
Truancy and bad behaviour will also be targeted.
“We have to eradicate bad behaviour. We don’t have high levels of seriously bad behaviour, but low-level misbehaviour is an issue and pupils need to know this will not be tolerated,” said Mrs Claxton.
Her plan is to create an ethos of respect, starting with developing more positive relationships between staff and pupils.
She hopes to see standards rise to around five per cent below the national average within two years so that the Thomas Clarkson is on course to meet the Rio Olympics target.
“I’m not just setting myself a target, I’m setting a target for Thomas Clarkson, the school, its parents and the community. It is not an airy fairy target, it is achievable. We just need to work hard to reach it.
“We need more parents to change their views on the school and to send their children here. I want Thomas Clarkson Academy to become the school for Wisbech,” concluded Mrs Claxton.