The end of our 4th Year

As we approach the end of the Academy’s 4th Year we have much to celebrate and much to reflect upon.

Last week I had the privilege of working with Year 9 during Activities Week – and what a great bunch of young people they are. Hardly a moan or sore foot throughout the hike I took them on around Dartmouth and the SW Coastal Path! It reminded my why I came into teaching and so enjoy working here at the Academy.

This year has seen further improvements in students’ and children’s progress and we anticipate further improvements in the summer! Clearly we also have experienced a massive, and hugely positive, change in their learning environment. The new Academy buildings have finally made us feel and live the all-through vision we have described to others for over four years but not lived until this term.

When we return in the autumn Leadbitter will have left and the car park (phew!) will be completed, as well as new playground space for the students and children to enjoy. Personally I am delighted with the way in which everyone has managed cooped up on the site for this term, with their play space reduced.

For the next twelve months we will still see Leadbitter staff on site as they ensure the snags are ironed out and everything is left functioning as intended.

When we return in September we will be a part of a new multi-academy trust, working with Kingsbridge and Our School Federation and look forward to the wider opportunities and benefits joint working across the South Hams will bring, to young people, the community, and colleagues alike.

As always at the end of the year we say farewell to another generation of students, to whom we wish the very best in their futures. Again, as always we say goodbye to staff who will be developing their careers elsewhere. However, this year we will also sadly lose a number of colleagues for budgetary reasons.

This is never a positive experience for all affected, both those who are staying and those who leave. What I do promise is that the staffing reductions have been made with the focus on minimising any negative experience for our learners. As we go forward we need to continue to seek smarter ways of working so that we can achieve more with fewer resources. One element of this drive for greater efficiency will be increasingly close working across the multi-academy trust, where economies of scale will allow all members to operate more efficiently.

I would like to wish all readers of the Newsletter the very best for the summer and I look forward to continuing our work with you in September.

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So proud!!!!!!!!

Our Year 11 students had their final day in the Academy today, their second GCSE Maths exam in the morning, followed by a leavers’ assembly, shirt signing and collection of Year Books.  They clearly enjoyed their last day but the manner in which they conducted themselves made me feel so proud of them – especially the way in which they thanked colleagues who have supported them over the past 5 years and their celebrations, which were appropriate throughout.

I look forward to seeing them all again on July 4th at their Prom at the Royal Naval College.

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What’s going on at Dartmouth Academy?

It has been a long time since I last posted on my blog – too long and there are no excuses. While we have ben very busy here this is actually all the more reason to keep our community up to speed with what is going on.

There are three areas I want to cover in this blog:

- the children and their learning
– the change of sponsor, and
– the move into our new buildings.

For many of our children the summer term brings stresses and crucial assessments. Colleagues ate working hard with those in these groups (Years 2, 6, 11, 12 and 13) and, I know from speaking to students and children, that the week before Easter was very helpful to them in their preparation for SATs, GCSEs and A Levels.

Year 11 and 13 have 14 days left until their examination leave starts but even before this real exams have begun with Art, PE, Photography and Textiles all started and underway. Real written exams start one week today!

For the other year groups staff continue to work together to offer the best they can t these future generations of Dartmouth Academy students. Indeed, if your child is in Year 10, watch out for a letter home outlining how they will be ending their year, ensuring they are well prepared for Year 11.

The change of sponsor is taking longer than the Department of Education hoped but in line with the more realistic expectations of those involved. The planned new sponsor has approval to become our sponsor and we now need to work through the practical issues of the structure of the trust board, the novation of contracts, agreeing budgets, etc.

Those involved have agreed to “go public” once the structure of the new trust has been agreed. I am meeting, again, tomorrow, to work this through and I hope that in the very near future we will stop talking about “the new sponsor” and actually start using their name.

Phase 1 of the new build is now over, except for snagging issues, and we have moved into our wonderful new home.  In the first week there were irritating issues to do with access to ICT and printers but through the hard work of staff at the Academy these were quickly solved and by last Monday we able to operate as intended.

We are learning to live in our new building and have had to adjust a number of our plans to make sure our environment works to the benefit of all.  Simple changes such as were Early Years and Year 1 students eat, the rule about walking on the left, and the need to be more considerate of others when walking through the new open spaces.

However, despite all these little issues, the overwhelming sensation is that we have created something special here, something that is genuinely all-through.  Only last Tuesday I was in the Library and witnessed Year 2s being read a story by Liz Wilson, Year 10s having a “Library Lesson” with Kayleigh Durman, Sixth Form students getting on with their private study, and alongside all of them, staff working too.

This is what we were hoping to achieve and, while it is early days, looks like we are well on our way to creating.  Several visitors have commented on walking in that is feels like a university.

The View is certainly proving popular with children and staff as a place to eat and work.  The food is getting great reviews and the environment is being used for staff to meet and work.  I am barely in my office any more, choosing to be out in one of the fabulous light and airy open areas.

Nick Hindmarsh

Principal

A busy lunchtime

A busy lunchtime

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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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