Staff were key to improving Basildon Academies, says the outgoing principal (From Basildon Recorder)
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Staff were key to improving Basildon Academies, says the outgoing principal
6:00am Wednesday 30th October 2013 in News
WHEN a school’s reputation has hit rock bottom, many people shy away from working there.
For Bev Bell, it was just the challenge she was looking for.
The principal of Basildon Academies was drafted in as part of a crack team to turn around the fortunes of the failing upper and lower schools.
In March 2012, they were facing their darkest moments. Having just been put in special measures, even staff were complaining about how the school was operated, claiming it was being run like a business.
Ofsted said behaviour was poor, lessons were worse and results were well below average.
In short, inspectors confirmed the school was failing its pupils.
When a school is at the bottom of the pile, is it possible to bring it to the top? Bev Bell thinks it is.
The calm and enthusiastic principal arrived at the school in November last year from London, having done similar roles in the past.
In less than a year of being there, the lower academy has come out of special measures, moving up a grading from the lowest – ‘inadequate’ – to ‘requires improvement’. And it looks like the upper academy should soon follow suit.
Morale has improved among pupils and staff, and parents are nowqueuing up to send their children there – the latest Year Seven intake had 40 more pupils than the one before.
Mrs Bell thought up some radical ideas, and had to make sure her whole team was on board.
She said: “When I came in November, it was very clear the systems and policies weren’t right. I had to be brave enough to say ‘if you like it, stay, if you don’t, go’.
“Some teachers have left, but not many, because most believed we could build new policies and most have invested their time and energy tomake the school better.”
Sharing ideas has been the main way to boost standards.
Staff have marking parties and weekly training sessions, and the school has teamed up with Billericay School to take tips and advice on how it runs, under its National Leader of Education status.
Mrs Bell added: “We have staff who give over and above their time to learn themselves.
“Car parks are full until 6 or 7pm with staff sharing ideas and learning new skills.
“Staff who aren’t there yet are coached and have mentors, and good practice is shared with other schools.
“There’s none of this ‘shut my door’ mentality. It’s an open door policy in terms of the support systems.
“I have no doubt if we were asked to help another school with a problem I would be able to find a staff member whohad the answer.”
It is not only the teaching styles which have changed, but the subjects themselves.
For the first time, the school now offers subjects in humanities including RE and geography, and this year will be the first time pupils will move on to study them at GCSE.
The school has adopted 15 values, including ambition, perseverance and teamwork, and all lessons must be themed around at least one of the words.
Before, there was disagreement between headteacher Rory Fox and governors over how best to run the school.
He resigned in November last year and, when he departed, he told the chairman of governors, Les Livermore, that parts of the school campus were being wasted on a vision the school no longer followed.
Mrs Bell said: “Rory disagreed with the governing body. When I came in that was ongoing, but I didn’t have anything to do with that.
“All of that is behind us now.
“The governors are made up of an Ofsted inspector, a pharmacist, a finance inspector to name a few and they visit regularly
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