Submitted by admin.rpa on Sat, 11/10/2012 - 14:30
The last term really did feel as if the huge amount of hard work we have all been putting in has finally borne fruit for us. We felt as if we had begun a marathon some years ago; the pressure seemed most keenly applied in the weeks since September of this year when many things happened at once, all culminating in some great stories for us, finally.
September is always very busy because we take lots of visitors around our school who are considering RPA for their child and are interested in seeing what progress we have made. Children and staff are very proud to show off our academy and I am always very happy to spend time with parents and carers who always have lots of questions to ask of us. Numbers increased throughout September and October, especially after our Open Evening on the 3rd October. This went very well and I was especially proud of the students: over 40% of the student body volunteered to help us on this important night and they did a wonderful job, garnering lots of praise in the feedback. We have a new Regional Director of Education from our sponsor, Richard Bassett, and he was delighted to come down, with David Triggs, the CEO, to attend this event. Both he and David expressed how pleased they were with how the school looked and felt.
This was followed - the very next day - by a Leadership Audit by one of the Academy's partners, an independent, Ofsted-trained team of 4 people who put the whole of the school leadership - governors, senior leaders and middle leaders - through their paces. This turned out to be, unexpectedly, a rather apt dress rehearsal, and we were glad to get 'good' judgements for both leadership and capacity to move the academy forward. The next day we heard from the Department of Education that the Secretary of State had agreed our request to reduce our pupil admission number in Year 7 to 180 and to open a 6th form with a 200-strong capacity. The following week we were able to appoint an outstanding teacher and leader to replace Dr Rinne, who has left RPA - in part - after 32 years of loyal and committed service. Why 'in part'? Dr Rinne has so impressed the AET that they have asked him to help with all their builds around the country as an educational advisor. His skills of course have been put to wonderful use for our own building design, with which we are all very pleased. Disappointingly, building has not yet begun but I am promised the start will happen within weeks.
Finally, on the penultimate and ultimate days of the term (Friday was Student Progress Review day), we were visited by Ofsted, the real thing. For poor Dr Rinne, his last day in school proper was being inspected by Ofsted, although at the end of the day, he left with a smile on his face! We had some trepidation: the framework under which inspections now take place is much more rigorous, and schools are informed the afternoon before, so we have to be well prepared in advance if we are to show ourselves at our best. Luckily, staff and leaders had a lot of what was needed easily to hand, paper evidence-wise, and we felt confident there. However, we knew that everything would sink or succeed through what inspectors saw in the classrooms and the books - and, of course, RPA teachers and students did not disappoint, despite such an exhausting term. The quality of teaching - which we are increasingly proud of - was deemed to be even higher than our own judgements and they saw a large majority of good and outstanding lessons. Children were very positive about what they felt about the academy and as we sat down on the 2nd day of the inspection, we were hopeful - and the outcome did not disappoint. Please see our website for the full report if you are not a parent or governor; all parents/carers should have received a copy by email or post. The feedback, which took over two hours, was immediately followed by Dr Rinne and senior staff leading to prepare his farewell meal and me frantically writing his valedictory 'speech' .
So, the 'good' came to us at RPA who waited but worked - so hard - while we did. Staff now need to enjoy the feeling of being a 'good' school before we start on the next stage of our journey towards excellence - an Outstanding outcome at the next Ofsted inspection!