Tracey O'Brien first met Lesley Kirby at a wet, windy and very muddy Barnes Fair in 2012 when she took shelter from the elements under the R|PA gazebo. Recalling that first meeting, Ms O'Brien says: 'I was so impressed by this headteacher and her visionary enthusiasm for our local secondary school that, although I had – until that moment – no intention of leaving my job in an outstanding South London academy, I decided then and there that I wanted to work with her. When I spotted her ad for a senior vice principal I couldn't get pen to paper quickly enough'.
It was to be the beginning of a very successful partnership.
When she arrived at RPA in January, 2013, Ms O' Brien brought with her a wealth of educational expertise. Not only had she been instrumental in developing and expanding – from 16 to 400 – the 6th form at her previous school, she had been the director of a teaching school, written leadership programmes and qualified as a teaching and learning advanced skills teacher. Because of her experience, she was quick to spot the potential at RPA. She recalls: 'Here was an improving school with talented staff and, talented students which was already attracting the support of local children and their families. Because of the new build, the campus had fantastic facilities and a wonderfully welcoming ethos. It was a school which was obviously ripe for further advancement'.
As the new senior vice principal, two major projects landed on Ms O'Brien's desk. The first was to ensure that both teaching and learning throughout the school were operating at the highest levels and that all students were being given the opportunity to broaden horizons by recognising and maximising personal potential. She says: 'During my time here, it gives me great pleasure to report that, because of the collective, focused input of both staff and students, standards have continued to improve year on year.'
In tandem, Ms O'Brien also took on the challenging task of setting up RPA's very own 6th Form Experience. Working in close consultation with Headteacher Lesley Kirby and supported by a team of experienced senior staff, a programme of course choices and extra curricular opportunities to fit and stimulate students' interests was devised. In 2014, RPA's 6th Form Experience was successfully launched and one year on, is growing and attracting more and more outside interest.
Ms O'Brien is excited by the challenges which her role as interim Headteacher will bring. She says: 'Although we wish our Head well as she takes over her new school, I am determined that the foundations which she has built and the legacy which she leaves with us will continue to be supported and expanded'.