A headteacher has spoken out for the first time since it was announced that his school has been earmarked for academy status.
The controversial plans for Hove Park School have been criticised by parents and residents who have come together to set up campaign group Hands Off Hove Park.
Now headteacher Derek Trimmer has spoken for the first time and exclusively to The Argus about the proposals.
In a letter to the paper – which includes details expected to be sent out to parents later this week – Mr Trimmer details the benefits of becoming an academy and what it would mean for the school.
We have now finished our consultation evenings with parents and it feels like the right time to present some of the reasons why we are considering the possibility of converting to an academy at this stage of our journey. Hove Park is a dynamic school committed to excellence.
It’s a great place to learn and work. We are really proud of the achievements of the school over the last few years and it is great to see the recognition of that work at all levels within the community and across the school.
Over the last few years we have seen exam results rise way and above the national picture and for the last two years we have been positioned in the top 1% of most improved schools across the country.
We are confident that this year will see another big step forward in terms of these standards and as a consequence, even more children will leave the school or enter our sixth form with improved life chances.
It has also been great to see how this year the use of iPads in the school has had a dramatic impact on the quality of preparation for years 10 and 11 in the run-up to their exams.
This personalised approach to learning has led to a much deeper and sustained level of understanding.
In 28 years of teaching, I don’t think I have ever seen a year group better prepared for their exams, largely down to a relentless and exceptional level of very high quality teaching that has utilised all of the resources available.
We are proud of the dedicated work done by staff in every area of school life to provide support and nurturing for the students.
So with all this success behind us why are we considering academy status? Firstly, we need to be specific about the type of academy conversion that we are considering.
We are considering the possibility of becoming a converter academy, not a sponsored one. There are some significant differences.
As a converter academy we would not be subject to a sponsor, nor would we be introducing a new uniform. We would not restructure our staffing, ask staff to reapply for their jobs or change their pay and conditions.
We would not be seeking to change timings of the school day or term dates. We would be honouring the admissions criteria that exist across the local authority and our vision of raising standards for all students.
Our determination to remain a local school serving our local community would remain unaltered and at the very core of our purpose.
One of the misconceptions of proposed academy status is that if we went ahead we would be opting to withdraw from local partnerships and operating against the interests of our partner schools.
As for claims that we would be ‘leaving the local family of schools’ – it is worth pointing out that we would not be leaving.
On the contrary, as well as continuing with our current local partnerships, we would seek to establish the framework for a multi-academy trust where potentially, at a future date, other academies would be able to join us as part of a family of schools committed to true partnership.
A partnership in which resources and expertise could be fully shared and where everybody had the same interest in ensuring that all children from all of the schools in the partnership had the same access to a world class education.
It might include sharing of resources, collapsing timetables for specific days between the schools, joint staffing posts, joint classes, tailored curriculum models, joint field trips, co-ordinated study support and intervention, joint department meetings, shared services and shared knowledge.
In this model, which is used with great success across the country, schools would not be competing against each other, but rather working with one another to improve standards for all.
It would be less about maintaining the status quo of varied standards across the schools in the city and more about ensuring a sharp focus on raising standards for all children in the trust.
By increasing opportunities for enhancing the quality of leadership at all levels, by improving teaching and introducing the best possible curriculum, we believe we would be able to deliver an overall improvement in provision.
When you improve provision, just as we have done over the last three years at Hove Park, you improve student outcomes and give children a better start in life through increased progress and better success rates in their exams.
Academy status aims to give more control over decision-making directly to the school. In short, academies have greater freedom to achieve best value for their students.
As an academy we would have greater control over the way in which we spend our budget and the types of project that we would like to engage in.
This ranges from being able to apply more directly to central Government for funds relating to building projects, to choosing the types of school improvement partnerships we want to develop.
One example of the latter is the work that has come out of our partnership with Perry Beeches Academy in Birmingham, which has had a direct impact on the reading levels of a significant number of our Year 7 students.
Through this project we received funding for one year to employ six new literacy coaches in our school and this has led to some amazing improvements in reading for some of our students.
In some cases children have made between two and three years’ reading progress in less than 10 months.
Such projects as these are easier to establish if we have a greater control over how we choose to spend our partnership money.
Whilst considering academy status we have been mindful of the national picture and the educational landscape across the country.
We know that about two-thirds of secondary schools are now either academies or in the process of converting and the significant majority of them are converter academies which have made the decision to make the move of their own free will.
A quick trawl through the Department For Education list on the website shows that the vast majority of these are in fact very successful schools.
In fact 89% are currently judged by Ofsted as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, with less than 1% deemed to be seen as failing.
This is no surprise considering that the requirements for conversion are indeed quite rigorous.
Will this change our school? Our school has already experienced rapid, positive recent changes and our present success has been built on a commitment to partnership and a sense of shared goals.
Our success has flowed from our ambition for all of our pupils to succeed in the world – as young people and in later life.
We are still committed to those same values and our determination to put achievement first and to narrow the gap between our most disadvantaged students and those who come from more advantaged backgrounds will always permeate all of our decisions and our actions.
We believe that in order to create the world class provision that the students deserve, we need to consider moving forward as an academy within a local multi-academy trust so that we can bring the best practice nationally to support our drive towards outstanding outcomes for our community.
What happens next? The consultation process has been about listening to a range of views, on a personal level, not merely the loudest or those in the media.
Now, it’s important for governors to reflect on what they’ve heard and read as part of the consultation and decide on the next chapter for our school.
Whatever the outcome of the process, you have our assurance that our continuing journey to excellence will not stop.
We will ensure that our core purpose – to provide an outstanding level of education for all of our students – continues throughout this process and beyond.
Thank you for your continuing support for our school.