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I am the headteacher of Dulwich Hamlet Junior School, situated in the heart of Dulwich village in South East London. I am proud to have led the school since 2007 and am delighted that we were the first primary school in Southwark to become a stand-alone academy in April 2011.
The school has always been very autonomous, so when we had the opportunity to take advantage of the many additional freedoms academy status offers it seemed the natural next step. Some said it would make more sense to let others go first, but I was confident we had the knowledge and skills needed to be masters of our own destiny. Academy status means we can chart our own course and it was definitely the right decision for us.
Before becoming an academy the local authority retained 13.5% of our funding to provide a number of services; since conversion, however, we receive this funding direct. This enables us to procure more tailored, high quality services, for example, educational psychology services and speech and language therapy that best meet the needs of our pupils while delivering better value for money. We now only pay for the services a child needs rather than an unwieldy package.
To support the next stage of the school’s development, we have recently introduced a new pay scale to provide a clear path of progression for our teachers. This reflects our high professional expectations of teachers at every stage of their career, from newly qualified teachers developing outstanding classroom practice, through outstanding teachers leading curriculum development to curriculum leaders developing further to lead teachers and learners. The new pay scale links pupil outcomes more closely to teacher performance and there are opportunities for accelerated career and pay progression.
One thing I’m pleased to say has not changed since the school became an academy is our strong commitment to the local community. Since conversion we have continued to work very constructively with Southwark Council and local schools, both state and independent, to provide the best possible opportunities for children in the area.
Our pupils benefit from high quality facilities at local independent schools, for example swim safety lessons at James Allen’s Girls’ School and the use of the concert hall at Alleyn’s School. In turn, we help the community and other local schools. Recently we have agreed with the local authority to take an extra year 3 bulge class in 2014 to help meet the demand for additional primary school places in Southwark.
The school has a strong musical tradition. Tuition in over 16 instruments, from steel pans to the French horn, is offered and unsurprisingly the vast majority of pupils participate. Budding musicians benefit from weekly lessons and free loan of the school instruments.
I am keen to help other primary schools to make an informed choice about academy status and share our experiences. As a Primary Associate, I talk to headteachers and leadership teams of schools that are considering converting to academy status and help them decide whether it is right for them.
Dulwich Hamlet Junior School is continually developing and, looking forward, the freedoms academy status brings are integral to our vision for the future.
Mrs Sonia Case
Dulwich Hamlet Junior School
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