There’s a new sense of purpose at the March Neale-Wade Community College as it revs up to becoming an academy on April 1.
Work is progressing apace at the school, which was put into Special Measures by Ofsted inspectors last autumn after an inspection found fault with teaching standards and pupil achievements, and the progress is no small part down to the drive and enthusiasm of Principal Jason Wing.
It is Jason’s determination together with the help and support of the Active Learning Trust’s CEO Clive Bush that the college is slowly emerging from the embarrassment of being labelled a failing school towards achieving the accolade of ‘outstanding’.
The Active Learning Trust is sponsoring the Neale-Wade’s metamorphosis into an academy and Clive is as enthusiastic and determined as Jason to see the March school flourish.
Staff and pupils are also playing their part in the revolution currently being wrought at the school, and Jason is quick to acknowledge it is a team effort that is driving the changes and he is confident the move to become an academy will only enhance that progress.
He praised Clive’s support and said his 19-year’s experience as a headteacher has proved invaluable in helping move the Neale-wade away from Special Measures.
Student attainment is on the up and Jason is quietly confident the school could achieve some of its best ever results this summer, although he is quick to point out this is down to the determination of staff and pupils to improve.
“I want this school to become not only outstanding, but a flagship for other schools. Obviously there is still some way to go but we are making excellent progress. We have identified priorities and we are working hard to address them.
“Becoming an academy will help the school to progress. It means we have support and can draw on experience and expertise that is not always available to schools on their own.
“I also have someone with experience to help bounce ideas off and give me pointers,” said Jason, who continues to carry out daily ‘learning walks’ around the school where he pops unannounced into classes to see what is going on.
One of the new innovations, which met with a mixed reaction from staff, pupils and parents when it was first mooted, is the ‘No hands up’ policy.
Pupils are no longer required to put their hand up to answer a question posed by a teacher, instead the teacher targets questions at individuals chosen at random using a ‘lollypop’.
It means the teacher can identify whether or not a pupils has understood what is being talked about and there is no sitting quietly in the corner for pupils unwilling to participate.
“Obviously pupils can still put their hands up to ask a question of the teacher if they don’t understand or need clarification, but the targeting of questions is working really well and has proved a huge benefit,” said Jason.
Another, quieter campaign is the one geared to encourage more book reading among pupils with every teacher required to post the name of the book they’re currently reading.
“It has sparked interest among pupils and will hopefully see more of them picking up a book to read,” said Jason.