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Heading Out - an interview with Ms Kirby by Governor, Mona Adams

posted 17 Dec 2015, 10:26 by Michele Colt
April 2007 was no ordinary month in the evolution of Richmond Park Academy.   Not only did it herald a spring in which the warmest ever seasonal temperatures  in England were recorded, it also marked the beginning of a  promising journey for this local secondary school.   As new headteacher Lesley Kirby  walked purposefully through the door, it was obvious from day one that her focus, experience and determination was a potent mixture that could turn this ordinary school into something rather special.  

Lesley's task would not be easy but this new Head was built for challenge, enthusiastically taking on a school which was, according Ofsted, significantly under-achieving.  It was obvious not only to the new Head but to the local community that both teaching and learning needed a complete overhaul  if the school was to restore local confidence and attract local children.  

So Lesley Kirby assessed, quantified, evaluated and set plans in motion.   Some staff left, allowing levels of potential excellence to emerge.  During  2008, as this new Head's policies began to bite and  the work of a strengthened leadership team together with a rejuvenated corps of teachers resulted in measurable improvement in student achievement, the school  found itself centre stage in discussions about transition to academy status.   With the encouragement of the local council and a pot of government money to rebuild and refresh its campus, Lesley Kirby oversaw the transition - in partnership with the Academies Enterprise Trust - of old school to a promising new  Richmond Park Academy and, in September, 2010,  the first lot of students were welcomed.  The  new partnership successfully established values and vision for all and  its motto 'To Make Our Best Better' is now part of the school's DNA.

Ms Kirby recalls:  'During the second academy year, we re-formed the  leadership team to include deputy heads who would lead  and support key stage 3 and 4 teaching and pastoral care.   We set about developing and strengthening local primary school links and, as a result of the marked improvement in results and in whole school ethos, 2010 was a benchmark year for local parent buy-in.  RPA - including our promising 6th form -  is now increasingly supported and trusted by local families to produce the high levels of teaching and learning which we  all want for our children'.  

As she prepares to take on new Headship challenges at a Hounslow school, Ms Kirby reflects:  'I am leaving a school that is strong and focused.   I am leaving a school with a very special teaching team.   I am leaving a school with hardworking, impressive students.   And   I am leaving a school in the very competent hands of  Senior Vice principal, Tracey O'Brien, who joined us in 2013.   Ms O'Brien, a highly skilled educationalist who has successfully developed whole school teaching and  masterminded the launch of our  new 6th form, will  take over  interim  leadership as the search for a new Headteacher - and a new era for the school - begins'.