Academy Information

Values and Ethos

Anyone considering the Education Bill will realise the seismic shift in policy direction which is now being interpreted in the context of our school system.

Key to this new landscape is the invitation from the Prime Minister to engage in the process as a contributor.  Cameron said at the Party Conference in 2011:

  • “Social change is where this coalition has its beating, radical heart. This is what drives us. To change forever the way this country is run.
  • A government that believes in people, that trusts people, that knows its ultimate role is not to take from people but to give, to give power, to give control, to give everyone the chance to make the most of their own life and make better the lives of others.
  • It takes two to build that big society. No more top-down, bureaucrat-driven public services. We’re putting those services in your hands.
  • We’ll reform public services, we’ll devolve power, but you step forward to seize the opportunity”.

One is reminded of Kennedy’s phrase “think not what your country can do for you…etc.”, and therein lies the challenge. If we emerge from this reform blinking in the light, trying to cling to the familiar props that are now gone, we miss the opportunity to shape the future for learners in Plymouth, and in particular to provide the holistic care for children that has been axiomatic to the ‘every child matters agenda’, and deep in the ethos of the school.

Outstanding schools were given the invitation to consider academy conversion came in May 2010. We responsibly took time to explore the implications and seek answers to the many questions we had. We chose not to rush, but be considered and await the White papers release.  By February 2011 large numbers of schools were poised on academy conversion – all Devon’s outstanding schools were set to convert by April, and the majority of Good schools have consultation underway. Michael Gove extended the invitation to all schools, and there is appeared an unstoppable irreversible momentum.

This is unlike the Grant Maintained conversion of the ‘80’s that stopped short of system tip. It is unlike the ‘mark 1’ academies led by sponsors and applicable only to ‘failing’ schools. It has surpassed the stalled Trust and Foundation schools initiative of 2008. This time the frameworks are deep, given gradient by the root and branch demise of the local authority structure, and given a financial incentive that cannot be ignored.There was a financial incentive that would have been difficult to ignore given the dire indications for schools 2011-12 budget at the time.

Conversion was clearly in our best interests, and more than that provides stability in a time of great uncertainty. Unlike the former academy process, the new Coalition vision leaves the school with greater autonomy, no requirement for external sponsors or governance, and the ability to become masters of our own destiny. As a comprehensive school we remain true to our community, and play our part as a strong school in the diversity of schools. Crucially we are aslo working more closely in collaboration with Plym schools, and in many ways with the local authority who support and foster the civic leadership that we would demonstrate. Ten different types of local schools now exist in the new structure of 16 secondaries– each with their own strengths and sovereignty.As a  family of four secondary schools in Plym we converted together, cementing a deeper more corporate collaborative than ever before, with the interests of Plym learners and families at the heart.

Essentially, the new academies are state schools, funded with taxpayer’s money as before, but whose legal status would be ‘independent’.

We would never be independent in any other way.

For example, we plan to supporting local networks to deliver the new requirement for schools to offer languages at GCSE; we intend to play a bigger role in teacher training, and as Principal, I have agreed toshare our good practiceand derive inward funding as a newly designated National Leader in Education to support schools in difficulty. We will seek to benefit from additional funding announced in the White paper to foster local collaborations, and work closely in the locality to broker and commission additional support for our most vulnerable children.It behoves us to be outward facing, and collegiate in our work across the city.

Crucially we saw past the technicalities of conversion to the enormous opportunities to be masters of our own destiny,  particularly as we are very well placed to benefit from the new accountability measures being introduced, and likely to be regarded as one of the nations leading schools in terms of our results, and capacity to improve. In that sense, I am profoundly optimistic that what may follow could be our ‘finest hour’.

From DFE website – key selling points of ‘new’ academies’:

New Academies can benefit from greater freedoms to help you innovate and raise standards. These freedoms include:

  • freedom from LA control (at this point in time the LA have already contracted to the point at which there is effectively minimal interface with schools)
  • ability to set your own pay and conditions for staff (we would sign up to the national agreement, and pay and conditions would be protected).
  • freedoms around the delivery of the curriculum (after the next review this will apply anyway)
  • ability to change the lengths of terms and school days. (Working as we do in a consortium and city wide delivery this is not really an issue).
  • Greater control over school budgets (Our track record is exemplary – this can only be an advantage)
  • Freedom to spend the money the LA spends on our behalf. (Early work by the four business managers in Plym have demonstrated the significant gains this would bring, allowing us to afford better resources and best value.)
  • The advantages of an associated Trust. (This would allow charitable status benefits which counteract the possible limitation that would ensue as the school registers as a business for corporation tax purposes).

As agood school, we have an obligation to commit to support those that are not in a position for whatever reason to follow our lead. As a representative on the School Forum, I see it as a moral imperative for Academy heads to safeguard through the formula funding those schools awaiting their turn, by offering support to backfill the services the LA can no longer provide.

Over the last few years we have sought collaboration, notably with the SSAT, but also through Diploma work, 14-19 collaborations, our community work and Internationalism.  Conversion simply gives us more capacity to continue this path, and in my mind these values of mutual trust and altruism will continue to be at the heart of all we do.  This is because we have shown through this work that children and families are the beneficiaries.

Finally, and most importantly, whatever the political ideology behind this change, our mission remains steady – in my mind the best aspects of our school community is it’s deeply held social responsibility and self belief in our moral purpose – that of equity, inclusion, fairness and the comprehensive ethos. We should have nothing the fear, but have the maturity and self assuredness to let go of the bonds that previously held us, and embrace the freedoms on offer.  We are, after all, a very good and fast improving school.

Accreditations Copyright © 2012 - Heles School. All rights reserved. Hele's School is part of Westcountry Schools Trust. Registered address: Harford Road, Ivybridge, Devon PL21 0AJ. A charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales. Company number: 07398467.
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