Our headteacher, Mick Quigley, is keen to answer any questions you might have. If there's something you'd like to ask him personally, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, putting Ask Mr Quigley as the subject.
Meanwhile, here are the answers to the questions he's been asked so far.
How will you manage the transition of pupils from primary school to the Archer Academy?
Making sure that our pupils are excited about coming to the Archer Academy is really important to us; we want them to start as we mean them to go on; with confidence and enthusiasm. So we're putting together a thorough and supportive programme that will make sure that we know your child, and they know us, before they even walk through the door.
For example, in the summer term, myself and Lucy will visit each of the children who have accepted a place at their school. We will see them in their 'work' context, speak to their teachers and meet them with their families, to ensure we understand them and the progress they have made in primary school.
We're also planning some other events and activities in the summer term for our first children, both with and without their families, and we'll let you know more about these soon.
Of course, our transition programme doesn't stop once our pupils arrive in September; we'll be working hard to settle them in and help them make friends whilst we introduce them to the curriculum. Our school's house structure will provide a nurturing, friendly environment, and our tutor groups of just 25 pupils will give our staff that extra bit of time to spend with each one.
We would ask that you help us between now and when your child starts school by ensuring that they keep up with their reading and writing over the summer holidays and have mastered their times tables. We also ask that you help us diffuse the myths that surround secondary school that older children have been known to share! Please encourage your children to see the transition as an exciting experience, not a daunting one; and let them know that although they will be expected to work hard, we will make sure they really enjoy it.
Can you tell me about your views on discipline?
My philosophy is that if you treat children with respect, they will usually respond positively. I will therefore ensure that a culture of mutual respect exists at the Archer Academy from day one.
That said, as every parent knows, it is vital to set clear, realistic boundaries and then make sure you stick to them. This simple principle will be at the heart of discipline at the Archer Academy.
Pupils will be left in no doubt about the standards of behaviour we expect from them, as well as the consequences for pupils who choose not to live up to these standards. And having set out our behaviour policies, we will ensure that we follow them through.
However, we also don't believe that managing challenging behaviour begins and ends with sanctions. We will have a rigorous plan for following up on any issues, and will work with pupils to ensure they have a way to move forward, make amends and get back on the social and learning journey.
Finally, it's worth remembering that when learning is going well, it is fun; therefore part of our plan for engendering good behaviour will be to create a teaching and learning environment that pupils will want to contribute to in a positive way.
Can you tell us what the lunch arrangements will be?
We are in the process of deciding on our school meals provision so I can't give you a specific answer as to our supplier as yet, but it is a pre-requisite for us that our school meals will be healthy, tasty, and prepared freshly on the day. Pupils will be able to choose whether to bring their own lunch or eat a school dinner.
How will you manage the different needs of more and less able children, including those with special needs? And what are your plans for gifted and talented pupils?
In the spring term of year 7, we will start setting our pupils, for Maths, English and Science. However, setting is not a cure-all for managing our pupils' different needs, as even within a set based on ability there can still be differences between one child and the next.
We are lucky enough to be freshly recruiting every single member of staff at the Archer Academy, and a key skill which I will ensure every teacher has is the ability to differentiate their teaching to meet the needs of the different abilities that exist within each class.
We will also be putting together an individual learning plan for each pupil soon after they join us, and will use this to track their progress and ensure that they are reaching their potential. So whatever their individual gifts and abilities, we will make sure they are encouraged and empowered to do the very best they can.
We will not have a full time SENCO in our first year of operation; however we will make sure that some of our initial team have strong SEN experience and skills. I will ensure that we have procedures in place to identify any barriers to learning quickly and take any necessary steps to make sure that any pupils identified with special needs are able to access the extra help and support they need.
My deputy, Lucy Harrison, has particular experience in designing schemes for gifted and talented pupils – in fact, the policy she wrote at her previous school is now being used as a model of good practice – and she will be using this experience to help develop a gifted and talented programme at the Archer Academy.
Can you tell us about your secondary school experience? And what does your work at Barnet bring to the job of headteacher at the Archer Academy?
My varied experience within and outside schools has given me a clear knowledge and understanding of what it takes to make a school outstanding, and I am confident I can build a team at the Archer Academy that will deliver outstanding education.
Since I first trained as a secondary school teacher, I've worked across primary, secondary and further education, which has given me a strong grounding in all age groups. This has given me a rare combination of classroom experience and the expertise that comes from taking a strategic role improving schools across the borough.
In my nine years at Barnet's Children's Service, I worked closely with primary, secondary and special schools, supporting and challenging them to secure improvement and raise levels of achievement and attainment. During this time, the local authority's overall Ofsted rating for education went up from unsatisfactory to outstanding. And in 2012, Barnet was ranked second in the whole country in the local authority league tables for schools judged as good or outstanding.
My role as assistant director of schools and learning at Barnet included:
- Leading the secondary strategy team, which provided direct support to secondary schools to raise standards of attainment and teaching and learning.
- Leading a team of learning network inspectors to ensure that a school's monitoring and evaluating tools lead to an accurate analysis of their current position, allowing them to identify which issues will form the basis for their improvement plans.
- Running the leadership succession programme, which trained deputy heads to prepare to take on a headship
- Supporting schools in preparation for Ofsted inspections and leading local authority school reviews.
- Leading the 14-19 Group, a partnership of local authority and secondary school staff, to develop a strategy for a broader secondary curriculum and prepare for the raising of participation age.
- Running the advanced skills teacher programme and the quality assurance of newly qualified teachers.
It's been a brilliant experience which has given me a real insight into the culture, ethos and life of a huge range of schools. It's also allowed me to observe and encourage effective and inspirational practice and leadership, all of which I will bring to the Archer Academy.
I'm determined to make sure that the Archer Academy is an outstanding school which lives up to the local community's expectations, and am confident that I have the skills and experience to deliver just that.
Will you really be able to open on time with everything that needs to be done?
It's a huge task, certainly, to get the Archer Academy ready for September 2013. But I am 100% confident that we will be ready – and I wouldn't have accepted the job otherwise.
The team who have been developing the Archer Academy until now are an amazing bunch of people, and they have done an exceptional amount of work to get to where we are now. They have produced a detailed project plan which covers every aspect of the pre-opening process, and they have been working steadily towards their deadlines for each one.
They're not doing it alone either; they have regular 'checkpoint' meetings with the DfE at which they are required to show their progress, and prove that they are hitting all the milestones towards opening. The DfE have actually commended the team for being ahead of schedule in certain areas, and they haven't missed a single target. And of course, I'm now adding my knowledge and experience to the process.
Apart from working in tandem with the DfE, we are being supported by an experienced team at the Education Funding Agency, and other local experts in their fields. We've arranged our team into sub-groups based on our areas of expertise, and have drawn in expert help from a wide range of people who are leaders in their fields.
To give you just a couple of examples, our education reference group has been supported by secondary headteachers, educational advisors and SEN specialists, who are giving us invaluable extra insights into our plans and policies. Similarly, our premises group are working with a couple of architects who are helping us scope out our plans for Beaumont Close, from wider issues like how best to use the space to more detailed ones like planning the IT infrastructure.
Between being offered the job and my official start date, I have been working closely with the team to ensure that we keep hitting our key milestones, to kickstart the recruitment process for my senior leadership team and to flesh out our educational policies. Right now, I am concentrating on building the curriculum and continuing the recruitment process, as well as focussing on our budget and premises. I'll also be making sure that we have everything in place for our pre-opening OFSTED inspection.
We are committed to ensuring that the Archer Academy opens on time; we know how important it is to our community that the school lives up to its promises and we won't let you down. All my efforts, and those of the team behind me – not to mention the staff that I will be recruiting over the coming months – will be dedicated to providing the excellent school you have asked for, and that your children deserve.
I would really like to come to the Archer Academy next year but I am mad on football and sports and I want to know if there will be good sports facilities and sports teams in the first year?
Like most of the country, I really enjoyed the summer of sport that we experienced here in London in 2012, and I'm determined to make the most of the enthusiasm and energy that it gave us. I am also mad about sports in general and still play 5-a-side football every week! So I'll make sure we have the staff and facilities available to make great sports and outdoor games a key part of our school.
Our school is going to open at Beaumont Close in East Finchley in September 2013, and in the long term this will be where our upper school is based. Beaumont Close doesn't have its own sports fields, but we are buying another site, at Stanley Road, on which we are creating fantastic sports facilities as well as more classrooms; this will eventually be our lower school. We're expecting work on Stanley Road to start this summer, and will have some initial sports facilities ready early in our first year.
Sports and physical activity are an important part of the curriculum and so in addition to football, the Archer Academy will want to offer daytime and after school activities. So as we develop our curriculum, I will make sure that we can offer individual pursuits as well as team games.
We've spoken to several local sports organisations who have agreed in principle to work with us once we're open. And we're particularly keen to hear what sporting activities our pupils would like to see at the school, so our first year's intake will have the chance to help us shape our plans for the sports we offer our pupils. I'm pretty confident that football will play a part in whatever we decide!
Have you left your post at Barnet or have you been seconded?
I have left my role at Barnet and have taken up a permanent, full time role at the Archer Academy, where I am committed to staying as headteacher for the foreseeable future.
I've been following the progress of the school since the earliest days of the campaign and feel it presents an amazing opportunity for someone to come in to a brand new school and build it up from scratch.
To be chosen as the first headteacher of this new school is a real honour and is the perfect progression from my work at Barnet. I just can't wait to get started and put my skills and experience to work on the Archer Academy.
Will you be doing any teaching?
One of the real bonuses that comes with a brand new school is that we will only have our senior members of staff on board in the early years, which means our first pupils will be taught by the leaders in each subject. So yes, I'll certainly be doing some teaching – and will thoroughly enjoy it.
As the school fills up I will need to reduce my teaching role, but I will make sure I always teach the Year 7s. I think it's a great way for me to get to know all the children in my care, and I feel that spending time with them when they first start at the school will allow me to get to know them personally, building a foundation for me to continue to support them throughout their school career.
What qualities were you looking for in your deputy headteacher?
Another of the benefits of starting a new school is that it gives you the opportunity to handpick the very best staff, and put together an enthusiastic team with the same core aims. It's a really unusual position to be in and will help ensure that our school is a great place to work for both stuff and pupils.
The deputy headteacher is obviously a crucial appointment, and we weren't prepared to settle for anyone less than brilliant. We were looking for a strategic leader from the secondary sector, who has a proven track record of leading curriculum design for Key Stage 3 and 4. They needed to be able to show evidence of creating and maintaining a stimulating learning environment, and demonstrate their part in raising standards.
The right candidate needed to be passionate about teaching, determined to help every child reach their potential and enthusiastic about the challenge involved in building a new school from scratch. They also needed to have a range of skills and experience that complement my own.
In Lucy Harrison we have found all these qualities and more; she was an outstanding candidate, and was the unanimous choice of our recruitment panel. I am absolutely delighted that she has accepted the job and I'm really looking forward to working with her when she officially joins the team in April.
Have you considered introducing older role models for your early pupils?
I firmly believe that being part of our first intake is a unique opportunity. These first pupils will be part of something very special; they'll have the chance to shape our school, to help it grow and develop and to grow along with it. I know from my time at Barnet that the first pupils at other new local schools really rose to the challenge and relished the opportunity to be pioneers.
That said, children definitely benefit from having older role models and so we will ensure that our first pupils have the opportunity to learn from their seniors. For example, we will be looking in to joining the Young Leaders programme which would see senior pupils from other schools coming to the Archer Academy to guide and mentor our children. We are also in the process of creating links with Kings University, UCL, the LSE and Middlesex University, so their students can come and talk to our pupils about planning their futures and what further education is like.
We are also committed to opening a sixth form at the earliest opportunity; certainly by the time our first intake reaches that stage. We are confident, given the predicted lack of secondary school places in our area, that the DfE will support this commitment and we will of course keep you informed of any developments.
I believe that setting an ambitious target of entrance to the top universities should be an explicit goal. And I know the classics are perceived as elitist, but they have many virtues. Would you consider including these points into your plans? After all, we are aiming for the stars here, aren't we?
You're absolutely right that we should be aiming for the stars. One of our three guiding principles is 'realising potential' and we are determined that all our pupils will achieve the very best that they can.
We will seek to ensure that all our pupils are given excellent preparation for the most appropriate next step in their education, and for our brightest students, that would certainly mean preparing them to try for Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities.
As you know, we are filling up the school year by year and so we have not yet started to flesh out our plans for our sixth form, or set ourselves specific targets for these years - we're obviously concentrating on the earlier years at the moment. However I can assure you that I will have the highest ambitions for our pupils and those for whom top universities are a realistic goal will be given every help to achieve it.
Similarly on the question of the classics, we are in the process of looking at our curriculum for both key stage 3 (years 7-9) and 4 (years 10-11), and so I will be able to answer you in more detail once this work has been completed. However I agree in principle that studying the classics offers pupils a breadth of knowledge that is useful across many other parts of the curriculum, and I would be keen to make this kind of subject available to our pupils. Our aim is to develop a curriculum that is both broad and balanced, as well as challenging and relevant, and will certainly consider the inclusion of the classics as an option as a part of this.
It's also worth saying that I am a great believer that no subject should be considered elitist: taught properly, with enthusiasm, the classics should be no more impenetrable than any other subject we offer.
Regarding sports and recreation, I understand there will be some indoor and outdoor space at Beaumont Close and more substantial facilities at Stanley Road. Could you help me understand how this will work and how you will manage the movement between the two?
We are in the process of finalising our plans for outdoor activities across our urban campus, as this is something that is very close to our hearts. With six months to go before we open we are still exploring all the options, but this is our current thinking.
Although there isn't a huge amount of external space at Beaumont Close, we will ensure that all pupils have outdoor recreation on a daily basis. We are planning to landscape the outside space at Beaumont Close to provide space for outdoor learning as well as some social time. We are also looking to create an indoor recreation space with activities such as table tennis and room to relax.
In addition to this, we are working on a phased approach to the Stanley Road campus which means that some initial sports facilities will be available early in our first year, and we are expecting to use these for some longer breaks as well as outdoor sports lessons.
As you know, we have decided to split the two parts of our urban campus by age group rather than by faculty (something we did consider was having an arts campus and a maths/science campus). We took this decision for a number of reasons, one being that it allows us to educate our children alongside those closest to them in age, which we think brings huge benefits for them all.
But another key reason for this decision was that it will substantially limit the movement between Beaumont Close and Stanley Road. Instead of having to move between campuses for different subjects, and not having a permanent base, our Beaumont Close pupils will really only go to Stanley Road during the school day for outdoor sports and longer breaks; and we will be looking at how the timetable can help us minimise this – for example, scheduling games lessons before or after lunch.
We therefore don't envisage our pupils moving between campuses more than once in a school day, something which is not unusual in London schools where outdoor facilities are separate from the main site. It's a short walk (less than 10 minutes) and we feel the opportunities it gives to burn off some energy and use our brand new outside facilities more than justify a brief journey.
We will of course ensure that our year 7 pupils are accompanied by members of staff and kept safe as they move between our campuses. It's perhaps worth noting that by secondary school age, most children are independent travellers; we don't expect them to be unsettled by our urban campus set up. Indeed, we feel the benefits that it brings them, in terms of the facilities we are creating and the ability to create a nurturing, small school environment, are substantial.