Academies are independent, all-ability, state schools supported by an academy trust. An academy trust is a charitable company responsible for the running of the academy and has control over the land and other assets. It has a strategic role in running the academy, but delegates day-to-day management of the school to the governors and Headteacher.
Our academy trust is called the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), who sponsor schools - primary, secondary and special - throughout England, including five secondary schools in London.
Funding: Academies are independent of local authority control. This means that more funding goes directly to the school for more teachers and resources. Academies are still entitled to government grants which other schools receive.
Standards: Much of the Academy focus goes towards driving up standards. This is achieved through increased expertise, more resources, a wider range of opportunities for students, intensive development of staff skills and rigorous attention to each child’s progress and happiness.
Expertise and development of outstanding practice: The AET, as a large sponsor, has a huge repertoire of experts and resources to support teachers, not least their acclaimed website for professionals which contains hundreds of tools for supporting staff development, teaching and student learning. The AET officers are experts in their fields and work tirelessly with their schools to effect real, rapid change.
Networks: Being an academy gives a school a wider range of networks to work with. Schools working together is one way of raising standards and sharing outstanding and good practice in a ‘hands-on’, practical way which teachers can use immediately.
The AET recognises the following trade unions for individual and collective representation, consultation and negotiation purposes. In Essex the AET has a formal agreement with them: the teacher unions (ACSL, ATL, NASUWT and NUT) and the unions representing support and other professional school staff (GMB, UNISON and Unite).
Funding is certainly a crucial part of the process. Academies are funded at the same rate as other state schools. However, there are a number of economies of scale that the sponsors can take advantage of in functions previously delivered by other organisations, such as finance, human resources, facilities management and teacher training This releases additional money which is passed on to the Academy.
It is the Academies Enterprise Trust, the operational division of the sponsor, Greensward Charitable Trust, who will be held responsible to the Department for Education (DfE.) In the past, if schools were failing it was the responsibility of the Local Authority to step in and take action. Day to day responsibility for the Academy will, however, remain with the Regional Director and Headteacher.
Richmond Park Academy's Pastoral Structures
Every student is in a tutor group and the form tutors should be the first point of contact for parents/carers. Tutors and students are overseen by a Year Leader. The tutor groups (as opposed to teaching groups) are mixed ability.
Each tutor group can have up to 30 students. Tutor periods - 25 minutes each day - include: updating the student’s RPA Passport which follows the student throughout his/her time at RPA and is a record of in and out of school activities; assemblies; Personal, Social, Health, Careers Education (PSHCE); House activities such as quizzes and competitions; silent reading and/or quizzing; individual mentoring by form tutors (each student is entitled to one to one time with their tutor).
Year 7s have their own base - The Acorn - for Year 7s can remain in their base for subjects which do not require specialist resources. The Acorn contains an ICT suite for computer science lessons. There is also a Year 7 garden so Year 7s can spend breaks here too, if they wish, or join others in the main playground. All of this helps student transition. The Year Leader - who in principle follows the year team for five years - is based in The Acorn. Year 7 students leave The Acorn when they and we feel they are ready, usually half or two thirds of the way through the year.
There is also a House system which is vertical; students get the opportunity to do inter-house activities such as table tennis competitions, sports events and quizzes.
For students experiencing behavioural or emotional difficulties, there is a 3-person pastoral team to help, including a dedicated Year 7 pastoral support worker.
Students have their own entrance and garden, although they are free to join the main playground if they wish. About half the timetable takes place in The Acorn: ICT, humanities, languages, English and maths. These teachers leave their classrooms and come to the students. Science, technology, PE, art, music and drama take place in the main school, and the students go to these lessons.
Students are grouped by ability. Generally, just over half are in the top sets: these are students with secure maths and English, ascertained via their SATs, CATs and teacher reports. The programme of study is the same for all, but the top sets work more deeply and quickly; they also study Latin rather than an extra period of literacy. The setting is constantly reviewed to ensure the children are in the right group; this is usually following summative tests but also based on teacher assessment of a child's progress.
As with all AET academies, RPA’s behaviour policy centres around the Discipline with Dignity (DwD) programme. The basis of this is that both staff and students should be allowed to operate within a dignified yet demanding context. As can be seen from the extract below, its values concur closely with RPA’s.
Richmond Park Academy supports the DwD policy with a strong emphasis on rewards. Two members of staff organise these and a range of certificates, prizes, praise is made each half term to successful students.
For students who fail to meet the standards we require of them, there are a raft of interventions which we put into place, including detention, community service, report cards, conversations with parents (by phone and in person), 'shadow structure' (student sent to another teacher), internal exclusion and fixed term exclusion. We aim to keep fixed term exclusions as low as possible, and would like to have these down to zero.
A senior leader is responsible for transition and arranges activities and events which enhance and embed relationships and are mutually supportive.
Here are some examples of the work he does:
Through Work Related Learning
The Modern Foreign Languages team believe it is important for language learners to be able to consolidate their learning by focusing on one language initially, so all students do either French, German or Spanish in Years 7 - 9. Students in the fast track groups also study Latin. The groups are allocated randomly; if a parent/carer has a very strong reason for preferring an alternative choice, we may be able to accommodate this by moving the child to another group. We offer all four languages at GCSE and encourage students to study one, since these are desirable qualifications for those who enjoy the challenge. Able linguists can study a second language at GCSE. Students who are fluent already in a home language can be entered for the GCSE exam early and, even, take it at AS or A level.
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