North Shore Academy opened in September 2010 following the closure of two failing schools in Stockton-on-Tees. The students from these two schools – along with existing staff – were amalgamated on the site of one of the previous schools. A new building was scheduled for completion on a brown field site for early 2013.
Vice-principal, Lynn James, was responsible for the standards agenda, curriculum design, learning and teaching and quality assurance. Having experienced the impact of Building Learning Power in her previous school – Macmillan Academy in Middlesbrough – she decided to make it part of her coherent strategy for improving standards and assuring consistency across the school.
There were some considerable challenges in the early days of the ‘new’ school:
- The bringing together of disparate teachers and students from two schools
- The scant training and development that many teachers had previously received
- The inflexible nature of the temporary accommodation
- The limited leadership experience of many who were adopting key roles
- Rapid turnover of teaching staff
- The numbers of new and inexperienced teachers who were starting their careers in less than ideal circumstances
Nevertheless, the school did adopt a coherent programme of training, classroom observation and resource development of which Building Learning Power was a part. It soon became apparent that the levels of competence that existed needed radical attention. This led to a bespoke programme of support for individual teachers who required careful mentoring and guidance to enable them to arrive at consistent standards before they could adopt coherent approaches to develop students’ deeper learning habits.
Ofsted recognised that the school – unsurprisingly – required improvement. Work on Building Learning Power continued to be an integral and coherent part of this improvement process.
Under the experienced leadership of a new Principal, Bill Jordon, the school has made rapid and sustainable progress. Clear expectations and consistent approaches to teaching and learning have seen the school improve markedly and to be featured nationally as an example of how a focus on aspirational learning approaches can impact on outcomes for white working class males.
Regular involvement by an external consultant has meant that the focus on Building Learning Power has been maintained – as a consistent element during challenging and changing times – through:
- Regular twilight training sessions for the whole staff on the development of specific learning habits
- Focus work with individual departments linked to the coaching of subject leaders
- Continuous classroom observation and review of the impact of teaching on students’ learning
- Mentoring of individual teachers through a critical friend programme
- Development of student leaders as observers of classroom practice and teachers’ coaches
The move into a state of the art building in a fresh location with a clear community outreach commitment has contributed much to the impressive change in attitudes within the school. Equally important has been the assured focus on learning and the adoption of consistent approaches that ensure that students are
- Clear about the intended outcomes from lessons
- Aware of the progress that they will make collectively and individually
- Conscious of the learning habits they will be using in lessons
- Trained in routines that build independence and personal responsibility
- Purposefully engaged and moved through a range of cumulative learning experiences at a pace that is varied and appropriate
As Ofsted have noted: The quality of teaching has come a long way on its journey from special measures. Inadequate teaching has been eliminated and the improved skills teachers have acquired are leading to many students making accelerated progress in their learning.