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'.