“A SLEEPING lion” – that’s how Duncan Gordon described Cheddon Fitzpaine Primary School when he walked through the doors as its newly-appointed head in September 2013.
“I wouldn’t use the word daunting”, says Duncan, when I ask him of the challenge he faced stepping into the headship of a converted Bath and Wells Academy after a damning OFSTED report last January.
“I could see potential here. You could sense it was dormant for a little while, but the children are super. They want to learn, their behaviour is impeccable.”
There are already clear signs of change at the freshly-christened Academy, helped in no small part by the support of the parents of the 142 pupils, the Diocese, and the ever-strengthening links with fellow academies and other feeder schools – particularly the senior Taunton Academy, just down the road – to “mutual benefit”, Duncan says.
Transparency and communication between teachers and parents has been given a big boost, thanks to weekly newsletters, and an online presence through a new-look website, news feed, and Twitter profile.
Duncan says: “Parents are now getting more hard data coming their way, with more academic progress reports, but also information on things like effort and punctuality, along with other factors that affect attainment, so they get a whole picture of their child’s performance.”
A Christian ethos is, of course, key to the Bath and Wells Academy, with children awarded certificates for their eagerness to uphold the ‘Golden Values’ of enthusiasm, kindness to others, forgiveness, honesty, and courage.
“The children are now even noticing their peers, and saying they deserve a certificate as well,” Duncan adds.
In stark contrast to the style of the former governing body, Duncan has initiated monthly meetings with the new governor structure, amid a drive to improve engagement with the community beyond the school gates.
The staff have had an injection of confidence, too, when it comes to putting their mark on projects, from two learning support assistants clubbing together to set up a now-popular food tech cooking class, while the ‘environmental area’ is showing green shoots for becoming a Forest School, where learning can be taken from the classroom into the open air.
As for future projects and schemes? An innovative ‘Carbon Fast’ is on the approach for Lent, where the school will spend a day with the computers firmly switched off.
The new tree-inspired school house system is looking forward to an energetic dodgeball championship.
As for the rest… it’s all about helping the lion find its roar.