THE principal of the new ARK William Parker Academy has brought with him a new outlook as well as a fresh new look to the school.
Mark Phillips, took up the reins at the start of term earlier this month, marking the transition from William Parker Sports College, and he is confident that he can turn around the school’s fortunes with a hands-on approach.
Following a damning Ofsted report citing inadequacies in key areas including teaching, student attainment, and behaviour, the boys’ secondary school was placed in special measures in January this year, leading to the decision of the governing body to apply for academy status.
“I am 100 per cent confident that this is going to be a great school,” said Mr Phillips. “We want the school to be absolutely focused on the needs of the boys. We have done a lot of work to make it a nicer place to be.”
Much work has been done over the summer holidays to the building itself, including refurbishing classrooms, painting corridors, and creating a second canteen. Another significant development is the creation of a school library, a facility that was previously absent.
There was some uncertainty over the future of the Phoenix Arts Centre, however Mr Phillips confirmed that it will remain as a community resource, outside of school hours, and with events carefully selected.
And it is not just out with the old and in with the new in terms of the school buildings; there is a new uniform which aims to foster a renewed sense of pride.
Mr Phillips also made it clear that at the academy there will be a strong focus on educational attainment and discipline, while it would also be important to work on personal and social development and giving a voice to the students.
“It is about giving a message to our boys that academic achievement is important. We want every boy to leave here having achieved their best,” he said.
“We have set down clear positive expectations for our students. I have made a commitment that I will be interacting with them every day.
“It is really important when you are in a large community, that everyone knows what the boundaries are. I have made it very clear that as a school we are not going to accept individuals undermining the well-being of others.”
A document entitled the Home School Agreement, has been signed by staff, students and parents so that all parties know what is expected of them, and effort as well as attainment is to be rewarded.
Each Wednesday afternoon two hours have been set aside for teacher training and development.
Mr Phillips said: “Things do not change overnight, but you can feel the atmosphere of a school change really quickly.”
He was previously principal of ARK Putney Academy in Wandsworth, London, where in the three years of his leadership the percentage of pupils achieving five grades A* to C at GCSE including English and maths increased from 43 per cent in 2009 to 62 per cent in 2012.
He has similar ambitions for William Parker and pledges that the percentage achieving five top grades will increase by at least 20 per cent in the coming year (this year the figure was 38 per cent).
Looking into the future, he said: “In three years’ time it will undoubtedly be a very good school with some outstanding features, where our boys are making good and better progress, and the vast majority of teaching is good and outstanding, and the behaviour will be good or outstanding.”
He added that having the support of the ARK Schools network would bring with it valuable opportunities for students wherever their talents may lie.
“We have got a great community, we have got fantastic boys, and they will be getting what they deserve,” said Mr Phillips.