A busy couple of weeks

Since I last wrote on my blog we have had a range of interesting news about a change of sponsor, as many of you will already be aware.  If you are not then I would suggest you read the news and background to the story at http://www.dartmouthacademy.org.uk/news/news-about-e-act/

The good news is that we are making rapid progress towards finding a new, local, sponsor, one with whom we will be able to accelerate the pace of improvement at Dartmouth Academy.  I cannot say anything about the new sponsor yet but we expect to be able to make an announcement before Easter.

The key message is that the children at the Academy will see no immediate change, being taught the same subjects by the same teachers in the same rooms.  Well, the same rooms until next term because the other factor that is not changing is our move into the new part of the Academy.

We take possession of Phase 1 at midnight on Monday 31st March and start moving equipment and facilities across between April 1st and 22nd; all in time for the children to return on St George’s Day, Wednesday April 23rd.

The final week of this term, when we will only have children in Year 2, Year 6 and Years 11-13 in attending lessons mean we are able to reinforce their teaching and allow staff time to pack and move.

We are currently in the process of writing a guide for parents about how to access and use the new buildings, which will be issued before we break up.  In addition there will be open days in the second week of the Easter holidays to allow you to see the building for yourself in advance of the new term.

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Ground floor corridor from the quad to the Library

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Entrance to the Gateway Barn from the Gateway corridor

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A Pathways classroom

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The view from the restaurant – The View

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The View

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The View

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The Interface Barn

During a tour yesterday, dedicated to looking at furniture, new kitchen equipment, pin boards and whiteboards, I took the opportunity to take some more photographs.  3 weeks to go and still a lot of work to be done – I have every confidence it will be!

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5 weeks to go

The coming term is a momentous one in the life of Dartmouth Academy and for the young people of Dartmouth.

5 weeks today we take possession of Phase 1 of the build and begin the move.

The students and children will start using the new building on April 23rd, 6 school weeks away.

While this is exciting it is also potentially stressful for all those involved. To minimise this we are finalising our plans over the next few days. This will allow all affected, parents, children, staff and the community, to better understand the impact on them.  Some of the key issues we will be taking decisions on are:

Communication with:

  • Staff
  • Parents
  • Students
  • Governors
  • The community

Open Days

  • Staff, Student and Parent induction

In addition we will be finalising the plans for how we live in and use the building,  Most of this will be relevant to the children and staff but we will share what is necessary with parents, such as where to drop your child off.  Before this all starts all parents will receive a booklet outlining how the changes will impact on them and their child(ren).

If at any time you should have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact us through our Communication Manager and my P.A, Suzi Wooldridge, at suzi.wooldridge@dartmouthacademy.org.uk.

I have included some photos below, to show you how the building was looking on Friday last week.

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A Reception Classroom

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Library

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Years 2 – 4 play area looking towards Library

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The Gateway Barn, the entrance for Years 5-8

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The view from the new restaurant – to be named “The View”

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A Key Stage 4 classroom

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The “Interface Barn”, an area for the use of Pathways, and Gateway

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The interior of the restaurant – “The View”

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Stairs up from the library to the restaurant, the Interface Barn and the first floor classrooms.

 

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New Performance Measures published by the Department for Education

As you may be aware the latest league tables have just been published by the Department for Education.

This year they have added a new element to the tables, one that takes into account the different populations the schools serve. Thus it adjusts for prior attainment on entry and other demographic factors.

All primary schools are now ranked within a group of 125 schools with similar intakes, across England.

For secondary schools they are ranked in a group if 55 secondary schools with similar intakes, across England.

The lower the number the better.

The data shows many things and below I have shared how this reflects on us.

Within E-ACT, who has provided us with the same data for 2012, we are the second most improved in the primary phase and the most improved in the secondary phase, across their 34 academies.

We recognise there is still have some way to go to achieve our ambitions, however, it is good to see that official data is starting to recognise the impact of the exciting work we are doing here in Dartmouth.

This means we are in the middle third of Devon Secondary schools, judged on relative performance.  Relative performance in the Primary phase is better still, placing us in the top 10% of local schools.

If you want to know more about the secondary school data see: See – http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/group.pl?qtype=LA&superview=sec&view=aat&set=12&sort=&ord=&tab=503&no=878&pg=1

If you want to know more about the primary school data see: See – http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/group.pl?qtype=LA&superview=pri&view=aat&set=10&sort=ks2ssc_13.rank1&ord=desc&tab=504&no=878&pg=4

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A new year and what an exciting year it will be!

I have been delighted with the attitude and approach of our exam year groups at the start of 2014, Years 6, 11, 12 and 13 all appear to be reacting positively to the need to “crack on” and face the challenge of the next 12-14 school weeks remaining, before their exams and tests.

By the time they reach these we will have moved into our new building. Plans are well advanced for the move but we are still awaiting final confirmation from Leadbitter, a Bouygues UK company, of the handover date. Work on the building is making rapid progress with over 70 contractors working on site today.

The pictures below were taken today and show the busyness of the site and the scale of some of the spaces being created. Once we have moved in we will be arranging open days and evenings to allow parents and the community to visit and see the new Academy buildings.

Our priority remains to minimise disruption to the education of our pupils, with a particular emphasis on Years 2, 6, 11, 12 and 13, who are involved in the exams and tests I refer to above.

Despite the move there will be the usual range of revision activities taking place during the Easter holidays, with details coming out in early March.

I expect to be able to write to all parents next week with the plan for the move from the Milton and Yorke sites, into the new buildings. Clarity will be needed and we must not create uncertainty by misinforming anyone about possible plans. All I will say is that the majority of the move will take place around, and during, the Easter holiday.

The latest data we have on the progress of our students indicates that we can expect a third successive year of better examination and test outcomes. Staff are working hard, with your children, to ensure that over the final few weeks we will translate this potential into reality.

Activities Week for Years 7-9 will be taking place over four days in the summer term from the 8th – 11th July, following the Academy Sports Day on the 7th. Information about the programme for this week will be available before Easter, including details of trips and residential activities.

During the week Year 10 will be taking part in work experience; should you have any questions about this please contact Mr. Bowles who has oversight for this programme.

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The new “Small Hall”

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The new “Small Hall”

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A view from the Library towards Reception.

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The Springboard play area with a view towards first floor classrooms.

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A view from the Restaurant

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Looking towards the serving area and Kitchen in the Restaurant.

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One more term to go!

build

 

 

Next term will be our last in the wonderful Yorkons, English, and ICT blocks, not to mention the Milton site. The new build is moving from the conceptual to the real and with it detailed operational plans need to be agreed and shared.

In terms of the operation of the building we will start with a range of great ideas and schemes, many of which will work, some will prove superfluous and others will be simply wrong. I am not wedded to any particular means of living in the building except that whatever we do settle upon must work for the learners and all working in the Academy. I am looking forward to seeing the outcome from the group of volunteers who have started to tackle some of these issues.

Detailed move plans and holiday details will be circulated as soon as we have agreed these with Leadbitter, to do so now would only lead to potential misinformation, which I am sure you will agree, is unhelpful.

The intention is to arrange a series of staff and student tours of the new build to allow them to orientate themselves and really understand how these spaces will feel. This will only happen very close to our being handed the building at the end of March.

Looking round the building yesterday the size and scale of the place is TARDIS like, good-sized classrooms, barns and corridors – and masses of natural light.

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Stamina

One of the very tangible changes that have taken place at the Academy can be seen now at the end of a long term. As I pop into lessons and walk the site the behaviour of the students and the learning going on in lessons is as it was in September. Gone are the Christmas video and other “winding down” activities.

At the same time staff are, working with the children, planning for seasonal celebrations with four taking place this coming week:

The Foundation Unit nativity
The Milton Carol Service – at St Clements
The Yorke Carol Service – at St Saviours, and
The end of term assembly with a surprise performance from the rock band!

Last week we saw the children and colleagues taking part in Candlelit Dartmouth and a successful careers day with older students taking part in mock interviews. Overall the feedback from those who helped the Academy set this up and make it happen, was hugely positive. Thanks to all who helped.

While the careers day was happening I had the privilege of joining Dartmouth Caring lunch club as they were hosted by our Year 7, who cooked a fabulous Christmas dinner, with all the trimmings, and laid on the entertainment.

The difference now is that these events take place with learning taking place, not instead of learning happening.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

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Movember comes to an end, Christmas approaches fast!

Those of you who have had the misfortune of meeting me recently will have noticed a small grey squirrel had appeared on my top lip. Along with a number of male colleagues I have joined the Movember fundraiser, aimed at raising the profile of male cancers.

It seems like an age since we were visited by Ofsted, since when we have been busy addressing the points they raised with us and acting on their advice.  What they recognised at the time about the Academy was that we had already highlighted almost all the issues they identified and had already started to act on these. One of the key actions for us is to improve the incidence of reading in the Academy as we seek to accelerate the literacy progress of all learners but particularly those on the Secondary phase.

Work has already been started on this with the Star Reading Programme now rolled out to Years 7-9, and in place in the Primary phase.  Today we interview for a full time librarian to manage the library and plan for our move into the new library next year, alongside designing, with us, the way in which the library will be used and available to all as much as possible, and be an environment where reading is valued and encouraged.

This raises the topic of the new build. We take over the building at the end of March and plan to move in over Easter.  This is a critical time for those taking exams in Years 10-13 and Year 6, and as I have always promised I will do all I can to prevent the building process interfering with learning.

Moving into a new build is not unlike moving into a new house.  It will require a great deal of additional work for staff and will require many to work over their holidays to enable this to happen without disrupting the examination and assessment season.

When schools go through this process they are allowed additional closure days to make this happen, we will be taking these but not at the time of the move for the reasons explained above, instead we are likely to break up a few days early in July to repay the days staff will have worked in the Easter holidays to avoid disruption.

Please look out for future communications, early next term with details of how this will affect you.

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