Paul Mundy-Castle has been Principal of Richmond Park Academy for just a term and a half but it is already evident that he has ideas to share, goals to reach and plans to augment. He has no time for 'can't do', but readily accepts and encourages the 'can't do it yet' attitude because, he says, that perfectly reflects the educational journey on which all at RPA are travelling from the moment they join us.
In the short space of 5 months, this new Principal has already initiated changes which are recharging the leadership structure, teacher challenge and accountability, student buy-in, progress analysis, time management, lesson effectiveness and learning outcomes. He has also introduced a myriad of 'glad to belong' ingredients throughout the school - like specially designed work benches in dead spaces, a Year 11 progress competition with a tablet for personalised learning as a reward, more comfortable and efficient office spaces, a time-saving electronic visitor check-in system and a student support room specially equipped and staffed to quickly get students through temporary difficulties and back on track.
Lots done. But lots still to tackle. In this recent Q&A, Paul Mundy-Castle continues to show that he is more than willing – and able – to stand up and be tested
Mona Adams (MA): You have now been Principal here for a term and a half. Have your perceptions of the school and its potential (of which you spoke when we last talked) changed during that time and if so how?
Paul Mundy-Castle (PMC): My perceptions have not changed. The students here know how to follow school rules, are respectful to staff, are taking changes on board and are very talented. I've noticed that from the beginning. They are first rate tools which we are using to build this school into a fantastic learning environment. As a Principal, I am in a doubly positive position because my staff see where change is needed and are embracing it. Local families are very knowledgeable. They ask the right questions and are holding me to account. Not only have my perceptions not changed, my belief that we have all the ingredients here to deliver on our aspirations still holds firm.
MA: Is that the view of an insider with a vested interest in painting a positive picture of his school for outside consumption - or is there tangible potential here that is really exciting you as it develops?
PMC: My ability to assess where we are and what potential we have here is based on my 12 years of leadership experience which includes senior management roles in five different schools. Because of that experience, I am in a good position to be able to accurately gauge both the capability and potential of this school. My judgment is that we are in a good place to be able to move forward. In fact, we are already doing so. With the revitalised support of AET and the blossoming of the new relationship with our local Achieving for Children, I am confident that we can, together, capitalise on the educational scope which I see here.
MA: Rightly or wrongly, exam results are how parents will gauge our success. What measures have you initiated to raise standards and to give more of our students a chance to measure up academically in the next set of public exams?
PMC: Good exam results are achieved over years of constructive planning and hard work. It's no good starting to think about exams in Year 9. We will set realistic exam targets at transition in Year 7 and work to increase them year on year as student ability develops. For our current Years 8 and 9, we have introduced Saturday school for maths and English to ensure they are making steady progress. We have restructured the school day, extending lessons to 55 minutes, so that all students now have an extra 1hr 40 mins learning time each week. To support our Year 11s, we hold aSaturday school for science and maths and, to make extra time for both English and science during the week, we have extended the school day on Monday and Thursday by an hour. For Years 10 and 11, we have introduced a GCSE pod - an online learning platform proven to improve subject knowledge.
For teachers, we have installed a new online data management platform (SISRA) which will help them to more easily make use of data to plan lessons and, for those supporting Year 11 learning, we have initiated a bespoke training package delivered on Monday and Thursday evenings to make sure that teacher subject knowledge and practice is of the highest standard.
MA: Are your students up to the challenges which you are setting for them?
PMC: Students are the most fantastic pieces of our educational jigsaw. They have taken on board the changes we have made without complaint. I am very proud of their commitment and fortitude. For example, when we introduced the extra hour two days a week after school, every Year 11 willingly stayed to take part.
MA: Overall, how would you rate the teaching here at RPA?
PMC: We have pockets of outstanding practice here - in departments like music, art, food technology and humanities. Where teaching is not outstanding, we have clear development plans in place to enable staff to improve lesson structure and delivery. AET has provided – and is continuing to provide – support in this area.
MA: How important is it to generate parental support? How would you strengthen that support?
PMC: For this school to be outstanding – which is our journey's destination – it is imperative that parents play a significant role as fellow travellers. Since September, I have held numerous meetings with parents where I have been both challenged and supported. I have been impressed by how well these meetings have been attended, an indicator to me of how involved and interested parents are in what is happening here. Our PTA is a vibrant and innovative organisation which helps to galvanise parental support. To further build on this all-important relationship between school and home, I am hosting a planning event for all parents on 22nd March from 5.30 to 7.30pm which will provide an opportunity for them to work together with staff to review key elements of the SDP (the School Development Plan).
MA: Where would you like to see the school at the end of this academic year? Do you think that's achievable?
PMC: Currently we sit in a progress measure of - .55. The national floor standard for progress is - .5. So we are currently below floor standard, which is just not good enough. My determination is that, by the end of this academic year, we will be reporting a progress measure above floor standard. Over the next couple of years, my ambition is to report solid positive progress. And yes, I think both these targets are achievable.
MA: How would you rate the progress of the 6th form during the last term? How important do you think it is for students to take responsibility and ownership for their own progress and success and if so, how will you promote that involvement?
PMC: Post-16 provision is a very important part of the educational journey for our learners. To enable our 6th form to grow from its infancy, we have taken significant strides to improve resources. For example, we have just employed a full-time 6th form manager who, as part of her remit, is currently focusing on attendance recording - a key student indicator of personal commitment to learning. She is already reporting significant improvement. In addition, we have re-planned a state of the art ITC suite and study area for the exclusive use of our 6th formers, a further indicator of how committed we are to building a strong and effective 6th form experience at RPA.
MA: Given that natural ability and interests differ from student to student – in other words, we are not all the same – how would you make sure that the variations of individual talent are recognised and developed?
PMC: The key to success across the learning spectrum is to ensure that we are personalising the curriculum.To do this effectively teachers need to know the learning needs of their students so that, when planning lessons, they can factor in those individual needs. And students need to be able to recognise their own learning styles so that, with teacher support, they are in a good position to make progress in every lesson. We encourage a mindset here at RPA which gives no oxygen to a 'can't do it' attitude. What we encourage – because it underlines yet again that education is a journey - is 'can't do it - yet'…
MA: How committed are you to getting the school to outstanding on your watch?
PMC: I'm committed to making RPA an outstanding school irrespective of the official judgements of the DfE or OFSTED. My criteria of a first-rate educational environment is one where young learners are cared for, happy and making measurable progress. That is what I seek. I am hopeful that, before long, the DfE and OFSTED will also recognise these essential learning ingredients in their judgements and reward us with an outstanding appraisal. It is my confirmed belief that you cannot succeed if you are not happy and fulfilled. Everything else follows automatically from that.
MA: In my recent interview with John King, our man at AET, he said that RPA is 'on a pathway to excellence'. Given that we were saying that in our magazine back in 2012, do you think our local community can still believe with confidence that excellence is achievable?
PMC: I can, without hesitation, reassure parents that I and my staff will not settle for anything less than the provision of an outstanding academy for this community. Governments change, policies change, teachers change but our ambition at RPA – to provide an outstanding local academy - remains steadfast.
MA: I repeat the question I asked when we first spoke: why should local parents choose RPA?
PMC: RPA is this community's local school and I firmly believe that children should go to their local school. Research reveals that attendance is better when a school is close to where children live. Social relationships are improved when students move together from primary to secondary school. Local schools offer opportunities for local communication and local parental support is important to bind those home/school relationships. And the journey of any school to outstanding is accelerated when local families are behind that ambition. Local children in local schools is a winning combination.
Participating schools: Archdeacon Cambridge's Primary School, Collis Primary School, Holy Trinity Primary School, Vineyard School, St. Mary Magdalen's Catholic Primary School, Lowther Primary School, Sheen Mount Primary School, East Sheen Primary School, Darrel Primary School and Stanley Primary School.
Now head of history, he remembers what the school was like when he first joined the staff. 'It was in the middle of the building programme and it was at a time when there were a lot more challenges than there are now. For example, during my five years here, I've seen a vast improvement in behaviour. In 2017 our students are polite, eager to learn and respond positively to both staff and to their peers. They are proud of the school's new facilities, the landscaping and the variety of spaces for sport which the re-developed campus now provides. Richmond Park Academy is a good place to learn and it is also a good place to teach'.
Under the new school management, there are plans afoot to keep both teaching and learning ahead of the game. The two that excite Mr Doy most are, first, the introduction of a new data analysis programme which is user friendly – very important – but also provides broader based information. For example, it highlights not only individual performance but also class and cohort outcomes so that these key groups can be targeted quickly as and when required. Secondly, the new principal, Paul Mundy-Castle, has revitalised the way in which teachers communicate information to each other and how they report progress to him. He runs regular academic board meetings with senior leadership and faculty sub leaders which provide opportunities to swop ideas, make joint decisions and share feedback. 'Because our principal is a stickler for detail and his questioning is always forensic, staff are consequently more accountable for individual progress and overall standard setting. It's a very motivational set-up and I'm already feeling – and seeing – benefits'.
Mr Doy also sees engaging with parents as a top priority. He plans to set up information evenings for parents of his Year 11s so that information about text books, homework requirements, the availability of IT research sites and so on can be shared, enabling parents to be better equipped to support student learning. In episode two, he will roll out the programme to Year 10 parents as well.
Three RPA staff are currently being groomed for senior leadership – and Mr Doy is one of them. He's just embarked on a 2-year teaching leaders course which will include challenge days, seminars and online group sessions. 'It is just as important for teachers to take on new challenges as it is for our students', he says. 'The course will require me to work to clear targets, just like my students, The current target in the history department is for 80% of them to pull off A-C GCSE grades. Special assemblies led by our principal are honing in on the importance of resilience and self-determination. And yes, there's a stronger possibility than last year that we can meet that target'.
Good news, indeed – and history in the making.
Sport will make you laugh, it will make you cry. It will leave you frustrated and in despair. It will puff out your chest with pride and make you want the ground to swallow you up with embarrassment. It provides shared experiences, both good and bad, that creates a bond between teammates that live with you forever. Sport is far from boring. We had the whole gamut of emotions this week.
The Year 11 boys basketball team played a friendly against Grey Court's 6th form team on Monday. This was a game of ebbs and flows where neither team could put a run together to deliver a knockout blow. RPA jumped to an early lead but were settling for outside shots, possibly intimidated by the fact the opposition were big (and had beards) and protected the paint well. The outside shot is fool's gold in basketball and this proved to be the case as Grey Court kept pace and trimmed the lead as the low percentage shots failed to fall. Yasin was the only real interior presence and he dominated his match up but RPA were one dimensional and could not get out and run on the break, which is their real strength. Grey Court briefly took the lead in the third before RPA had a six-minute surge of defensive energy which created 10 straight points going into the final minutes. As is the way in basketball, the team with the lead took their foot off the gas and Grey Court responded, bringing it back to a one-point deficit with under two minutes to play. Yasin got the ball inside and hit a clutch turnaround shot under pressure to stretch the lead to three. Both teams traded misses before a silly turnover gave Grey Court the ball with three seconds remaining. During the subsequent timeout the defence were instructed to follow their man and not to foul. It was clear that Grey Court would draw up a play for their captain to shoot a three for the tie. Surely we could defend it. On the inbounds, RPA's man coverage went haywire, leaving a WIDE open shot from the corner to send the game into overtime. It went up, we held our breath...... and the ball just rimmed out. Bullet dodged. Relief!
The Year 11 footballers faced a strong Glenthorne team for a quarter final birth in the Surrey Cup at Riverside Lands. My hackles were raised as the opposition turned up late and strode off their bus to reveal beautifully coiffed hair (including a man bun), surnames on the back of their jerseys and boot bags with three separate stud lengths. The writing was on the wall for an interesting encounter. The game started in a subdued and scrappy manner, with both teams struggling to get a (literal) foothold and keep the ball. Glenthorne created a few early chances, forcing good saves out of Kaine and despite RPA looking very dangerous on the counter the visitors took the lead after Jay was caught out after slipping and the resultant break lead to a tap in for their pacy striker. RPA responded well and dominated possession in the second half and deservedly took the lead when a mishit shot from Chris resulted in Mohamed beating the offside trap and slotting home. Glenthorne were shaken and started to unravel and it looked like there was only going to be one winner. RPA pressed and pressed and as Kyle came into the game RPA created several gilt-edged chances that were spurned. Glenthorne still posed a real threat as the game lost all shape but it stayed 1-1 and went into extra-time. With both teams tiring it looked for all money that the tie would be settled by the dreaded penalty shootout but a poor clearance led to Glenthorne's late, late winner. Man of the Match was Chris.
The Year 9 girls earned their first win with a fantastic team display hammering Christ's on Tuesday. They have shown an appetite for development although they need to work on their lay-ups!
The Year 9 and Year 10 girls rugby teams put up excellent performances against very strong and experienced opposition on Friday. They posted identical records, losing to both Waldegrave and Orlean's Park and beating Grey Court in very evenly matched fixtures. There were a few tears and some crunching hits but I really was impressed with the development within and between the games in both attack and defence. As always, both teams showed great sportsmanship and resilience. Well done girls!
The Year 8 boys finished the week with a nail biting 2-1 victory after extra time to secure their passage to the Surrey Cup quarter-finals. Mr Harrison reports a tight game in which Joseph opened the scoring and the opposition forced an equaliser after half time to force extra time. This game too was seemingly destined for penalties when Jamie beat the goalkeeper to a loose ball and bundled with virtually the final kick of the game!
RPA has a very engaged parent body and, as a school, we are always looking at different ways to involve it in our progress. Current parents are invited to participate in a facilitated discussion about strategies for RPA going forward. This event will give parents the opportunity to share their positive suggestions for our school and hear what initiatives the Senior Leadership team have in place to impact on performance.
We are very excited about this new event. Excellent schools have strong parent/school foundations and RPA is committed to ensuring that those foundations remain secure and productive.To register to attend please email firstname.lastname@example.org
GCSEPod’s unique approach offers bite-sized learning and can be accessed on phone, tablet, laptop and desktop. Wherever they are, on the bus, at school or at home, our students can enhance their knowledge and continually improve their GCSE prospects.
visit, she said, “Thank you for your time yesterday and showing me round the school. The environment and site is very impressive and it was exciting to see the changes and development you are already introducing….The students I spoke to were delightful, and clearly enjoying learning at RPA, and that is what matters most!”
Mr Mundy-Castle was delighted with the support that Achieving for Children offer us, “We are an academy but we should never lose sight of the fact that we are a Richmond school. It is important that we work closely with all of our school neighbours and organisations to ensure the best outcomes all around.”
, Colegio Mirasur.
A total of 20 Mirasur students will be joining us between the 19th and 29th April to practise their English, share their own language skills and experience life at RPA and in the UK. We are looking for families to host our Spanish students during that time and help them enjoy the British experience.
Hosting families will be asked to provide bed, breakfast and dinner. Lunch will be at school. The weekend will also be organised by the school with a trip into Central London. There may be a return exchange to Madrid in 2017 and those who have offered accommodation for this part of the exchange will be given first option on that experience.
Your child does not have to speak Spanish to be involved. The trip here is for the Spanish students to improve English. Our Spanish friends are very enthusiastic about visiting us so we would like to confirm our commitment by the first week in February. If you think you can offer accommodation for one or more students, please contact the Office Team as soon as possible. All offers of assistance will be gratefully received!
I have been delighted with the attitude shown by the students on their return to school. The school uniform has been first class and they have all shown a very positive attitude to the slight change in the school day that has been introduced. Students now have a short first break of 15 minutes at 10.40 and a slightly extended lunchtime break at 12.45. This timetable change means 100 minutes a week extra learning per student which equates to 7 additional hours per month which can only be a positive step for our students.
Food is not available in our new first break, although I am happy for students to come to school with a snack for that time if they wish. Second break is now managed into sittings by school year and we are also organising the queue with barriers to deter any queue jumping. We are looking forward to these initiatives having a positive effect on the lunchtime experience, so would encourage all students to take advantage of the healthy lunches on offer.
A key focus for me this term will be enrichment. I want to see all of our students taking advantage of the extensive range of extracurricular activities available during lunchtime and after school. We will be challenging all students to participate in at least one extracurricular activity per week. Activities range from the artistic to the academic and sporting. We believe we deliver something for everyone so would encourage that participation.
Also on the subject of extracurricular provision, please note that the Oak Tree Cafe is open before school for breakfast from 7.45am. We have also opened up a number of classrooms in school from 3.30pm to 5pm for homework. The Library is available for all years, the IT suite in the Gilpin Building for Key Stage 3 and the IT suite in Palewell Building for Key Stage 4.
Year 9 have their Parents’ Evening on Thursday 19 January from 4.30pm in Park Hall. As we all know, this is an important time for our Year 9 students as they make their all important choices so we would encourage all parents and students to attend. Students have all received their appointment sheets and are required to make their appointments directly with their class teachers.
We apologise that there is an extra Borough wide INSET training day for staff, which means the school will be closed to students on Monday, 20 February following the half term. Students will start back on Tuesday, 21 February.
I would like to inform families that we are trialling an in-house reward system to ensure students who get it right on a daily basis are rewarded for their efforts. As a consequence, the use of vivos to reward students for the rest of the academic year has been suspended as the new rewards are introduced.
We will also be launching GCSE pod for all our Key Stage 4 students later on this term to ensure that they are able to revise at all times on the key topics required for their examinations. Please do encourage students to engage with this online platform. It has proved very successful in my previous schools so I am very positive about the impact it will have.
Finally, I am very keen to run a “Planning Event” for families where I will share the school development plan and facilitate a session where the views of our parents can be taken on board. There is no doubt, after my first full term, that Richmond Park Academy has a very engaged parent body. This is a great strength and I want to make sure that I take advantage of that enthusiasm and commitment as we move forward. With that in mind, please put Wednesday 22 March in your diaries. A “meet and greet” will start the session at 5.30pm with the planning session taking place between 6pm and 7.30pm. Please confirm your availability at email@example.com.
Thank you for your on-going support. I look forward to a productive and positive Spring term.