New term, new start for new academy

PUBLISHED: 15:00 25 September 2011

Hans Price Academy. Whole school photo with over 900 pupils and staff.

Hans Price Academy. Whole school photo with over 900 pupils and staff.

Archant

APPEARANCES are notoriously considered deceptive, but if first impressions of Hans Price Academy as it enters its first full year are anything to go by, the future looks rosy.

The old sweatshirt uniform of Wyvern Community School has been replaced by a smart new black suit, the uncertainty over the school’s future has dissipated and a new confidence appears to flow throughout the much-maligned school’s corridors.

By their own admission – both the old and new regimes – the exam results achieved in August were unacceptable, with the school recording the lowest results in Avon.

Judith Mee, who was the acting headteacher at the time, described the results as ‘disappointing’. Refreshingly, though, she did not blame the switch to academy status for the results.

The official opening of Hans Price was on May 1 but as new principal Armando Di-Finizio said at the time, the real start was September.

He said: “The school will have a new head, new stationary and signs, everything else will carry on as normal.

“It would be wrong to instigate new policies and ways of working from day one without working with staff and students to develop these together.”

By his own admission the spring change was not ideal. The school was initially due to become an academy in September 2010 but complications forced an eight-month delay.

And with hindsight, Armando said the three-month bedding in period at the end of the year allowed him, and more importantly the staff and pupils, to acclimatise to the new setup.

He said: “It is a big job but I don’t think it is as bad as some make out. I’m full of confidence. I’m full of hope and the staff have been really brilliant too and really raised their game.

“They have had a rough time of it with the restructuring but they have come on board which is vital.

“We have had 180 year seven pupils starting which is a lot more than anyone expected initially. My worry was that because of the results people would not believe in what we are doing.”

Despite Armando’s infectious enthusiasm, saying the right thing is infinitely easier than actually doing something about it.

Keen to keep an open door policy, Armando wants to develop a relationship between pupils and teachers so that everyone is pulling in the right direction.

He said: “There were a lot of good things in Wyvern which should not be forgotten. It was a good community school and I really want this to be a community school too.

“These kids are bright, just like any other kids but we need to make them aspire to go on. I want to develop habits that kids want to carry on with.

“Shouting at a student who turns up quarter of an hour late will not make them change their ways.

“What will a child learn if sat at home for a day or two? They would be much better attending something like an anger management class after school.”

The school has incorporated a restorative justice scheme where misbehaving pupils are sat down to discuss their actions, rather than simply be punished – a system which Armando used at his previous school, Bristol Brunel.

It is a fellow member of the Cabot Learning Federation and achieved steadily improving results after Armando joined the school. Within four years the GCSE pass rate of five A*-C grades including English and maths rose from 19 per cent to 47 per cent.

Unsurprisingly he is keen to bring the same level of success to Weston and has introduced a similar curriculum. Although ‘full of confidence’ with the new setup, he did warn that miracles would not happen overnight.

The school, while retaining a flavour of Wyvern, is now clearly looking to the future. Plans for the £14million site redevelopment are continuing apace with finance now sorted and the expectation is that the new building will be operational by September 2013.

The school’s motto is ‘flourish and life’. Only time will tell if the new school will flourish, but the foundations are very much there.

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