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In this series, academy headteachers and principals talk about how they are using academy freedoms to innovate and raise standards.
This week, Mr Daniel Burns, headteacher of Bolton Brow Primary Academy, talks about turning these schools around. Previous academies in focus articles can be accessed from this page.
If you would like to share your thoughts on any of these, please visit the Department for Education Facebook page.
I was the Deputy Headteacher at Bolton Brow Junior, Infant and Nursery School from 2003 until 2009, before leaving to become headteacher of a voluntary aided primary school in a neighbouring local authority. I took up my post as headteacher of Bolton Brow Primary Academy in the summer term of 2013. The school converted to academy status in September 2011 and I’ve seen some really interesting changes since coming back. In particular, becoming an academy has opened a lot of doors for our school and created the energy amongst the staff and governors to start to drive through some really exciting developments.
We are one of an unusually high number of local primary schools that have taken the opportunity to convert to academy status in Calderdale, many within the Calderdale Academy Chain. We now meet regularly as a group to share good practice and offer advice and support to each other. Two of the academies have formed the first Teaching Schools Alliance in the local area. As a result of the academy links, Bolton Brow is benefiting from being an alliance partner and we are now involved in offering Schools Direct teacher training places.
Since becoming an academy, we have retained some local authority services but we are starting to procure a wider range of services, including human resources and cleaning, from other providers. We are also looking to change the arrangements for catering, payroll and how we offer wrap around care for our children and families.
In September 2013 we launched our new curriculum, which has really inspired the children and staff. As an academy, we are able to be selective in how we adapt the curriculum, to ensure that it continues to excite and engage our children and staff whilst ensuring every child makes good progress. As part of this we have been developing our own academy forest school provision, which the pupils have named the ‘Wild Space’. Many of our pupils don’t get the opportunity to spend time in this kind of environment, and it’s great to see them learning and developing through the new experiences that they get outside.
We are currently in the process of taking over the catering for our school. We are very lucky to have a group of governors with a good understanding of catering and they have developed an excellent business plan setting out how we will take this on. We are also planning to develop this further so that in future we can be in a position to provide school meals for other local schools. Two members of our staff are undertaking further professional development in teaching cooking and we will have the facilities to teach groups of children from April 2014.
A £725,000 programme of refurbishment to our magnificent Victorian building, built in 1896, is currently underway. This will enable current and future generations of Bolton Brow children to benefit from 21st century classroom spaces. Once this work is done, we will be looking to provide wrap around child care for our children and families from September 2014. As a school with a very mixed intake we feel that we will be able to create a unique service that will cater to the needs of our children and further enhance our extra-curricular provision.
Since becoming an academy, we have been able to recruit an outstanding early years practitioner who is transforming the practice in this phase of education. They are a former advanced skills teacher and local authority early years foundation stage moderator, and they have an exciting vision for developing our early years provision.
I am extremely pleased that our key stage 1 results and phonics screening results have improved year on year for the past 2 years. The percentage of pupils achieving level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths at our school has also gone from 70% in 2012 to 80% in 2013.
Looking to the future, we are currently reviewing our staffing structure in order to build capacity for developing teaching and learning to an even higher standard. We will also be looking to further develop our sports and physical education by putting together plans to develop our facilities to an even higher standard.
Mr Daniel Burns
Bolton Brow Primary Academy
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