There's a lot going on behind the scenes to get the Archer Academy up and running. Here's what's happening now.
The Archer Academy comes to life
On Tuesday evening the Archer Academy truly did come to life as 17 of our future Archers put on our new school uniform for the first time. Our future pupils looked magnificent as they walked the corridors, took part in lessons and burst out of the front door, all for a photo shoot for our new prospectus. We also took to the outdoors to demonstrate the PE kit in action – we certainly have some future sporting stars amongst us.
The prospectus will be available later in the Summer Term for prospective parents considering the Archer Academy for September 2014. We will also be using the beautiful photographs we took on our website and around the school.
The principles behind the school uniform are that it should be smart, comfortable and distinctive; and once our pupils were all dressed up it was most definitely all of those things. They looked so mature and coped with the demands of being models for the afternoon brilliantly. I think the pin stripe shirt is my favourite feature of the everyday uniform as it looks so smart. The black hooded top for PE with ARCHER written across the back looks really distinctive for sports; I hope that teachers are allowed one as well!
I felt so proud of all the children involved and it made me even more excited about September and our school opening. A huge well done to all involved, you should be very proud of yourselves.
A selection of the photographs will be up on the website soon, please do have a look.
Miss Harrison, Deputy Headteacher
More reasons to cheer this week, as we've passed yet another milestone on the road towards opening day. On Monday Lord Nash, the minister responsible for schools at the Department for Education, gave the Archer Academy the official, final thumbs up by signing our Funding Agreement.
Of course, there was no question that this would happen, as we have been congratulated by the DfE at various stages in the process for how advanced and thorough our progress has been. In fact, they've very flatteringly described us as being the 'gold standard' among free schools, a title we're fully intending to keep.
But although we've had every reason to expect our plans to be rubber-stamped without a hitch, we're nonetheless delighted to have passed this key milestone, and to be one of the earliest of this year's new free schools to have done so. It's a formality, in some ways, but it is also recognition at the very highest level of the steps we have taken to provide our community with a new, successful and popular secondary school.
Our insights into what the year 6s are thinking
We'd like to share some insights with you about what it's like to be in year 6. As part of the pupil taster sessions which took place last term, we asked the children to tell us how they're feeling about the transition to secondary school; specifically what they're looking forward to and what they're feeling concerned about. We also asked them what else they would like to know about the Archer Academy.
Their answers are really interesting, and are already helping us plan our transition programme; we'll be seeking to allay their concerns and respond to their questions over the coming weeks and months. We also found them very inspiring; for example, it's brilliant to know that almost every child is looking forward to making new friends (though we have taken note that that's something that is worrying them too), and that they're as excited about our planned sports facilities and extra curricular clubs and activities as we are.
We've put their answers into word clouds so they're easier to analyse; the bigger a word or phrase is, the greater number of children mentioned it. The answers weren't prompted by us, though we did give them the three categories to put their thoughts into. You can click on the images below to enlarge them - and if there's anything not mentioned that your own child is talking about, please feel free to let us know.
An update on our applications
We know everyone is keen to hear how the numbers are going, so here are some answers.
As you probably know, Barnet are processing the applications on our behalf, and they have started sending out some second round offers. The numbers are increasing every day as more and more families choose our school, so by the time you read this it will be a different figure compared to when we got our last update from Barnet on 22nd March. But we're expecting to confirm our 100th pupil any day now, and with just under 100 people still on our waiting list, and another 40 who have recently received an offer and haven't yet given us their answer, we're well on track for our first intake of 150 pupils.
We do know that many of the people on our waiting list are waiting anxiously to find out whether they will be offered a place, but it's also important that any family who receives an offer has time to consider it. We will make sure we send out any subsequent offers as quickly as we can, and of course parents on the waiting list are welcome to call us and check their position at any time.
Announcing our long-term premises plans
At last, we're able to share with you some news that we know you're all really keen to hear – our long-term plans for where the Archer Academy will be located.
Our aim once we had secured our first home in Beaumont Close (currently the Institute Arts Centre) was to find additional premises which would allow us to create exceptional sports facilities as well as further space for teaching and learning. We are therefore delighted to announce that we are in the process of securing a site at Stanley Road, in the heart of East Finchley, which will deliver exactly that.
The site, which includes Stanley Road playing fields and an adjoining piece of land, will allow us to build outstanding, bespoke school buildings that will work with our specific curriculum requirements, and brand new sports facilities with enhanced features. These, in conjunction with the Beaumont Close site, provide an urban campus school which will offer first class, 21st century facilities for our 21st century pupils.
The planned purchase of this site has been achieved in partnership with a local organisation called Sport East Finchley, who have long been campaigning to protect Stanley Road from the threat of over-development. And the combination of our resources and those of groups supporting Sport East Finchley mean we are able to do far more together than either organisation could have done on our own.
So how will it work? Well, one of the great things about this solution is that it will allow us to give our pupils access to the facilities of a large school – from curriculum and staffing levels to sports facilities and budgets – whilst offering them the day-to-day environment of a much smaller one.
We are therefore planning to fit out our two campuses as a lower school and an upper school, with our younger pupils to be based at the Stanley Road campus and the older year groups to be based at Beaumont Close. Pupils at Beaumont Close will come to Stanley Road for outdoor sports lessons and some recreation time, but otherwise travel between the two campuses will be kept to a minimum, with each campus being equipped with the teaching facilities its pupils require on a daily basis.
From the younger pupils' point of view this is really good news, as it will allow them to move up to secondary school without the overwhelming feeling of being so much younger than so many other pupils. It offers a calmer, more nurturing environment than most secondary schools can provide, which will allow them to start as we mean them to go on, with real confidence.
And from the older pupils point of view it's also a great solution; they will gain a real sense of progressing and gaining responsibility as they transfer to the upper school; they will also be able to develop their independence and take a first step towards adulthood in their own more grown up, yet still protected, environment.
Of course, in addition to the facilities we're creating at Stanley Road and Beaumont Close, we are planning to open a sixth form, to be ready for our first cohort in 2018, or before then if circumstances allow. Given the projected shortage of sixth form places in the next few years, we are confident that we will be supported in this by the education authorities, just as we have been during the first phase of our plans.
So when will all this happen? Well, the Stanley Road campus will be developed in phases over the next few years, as Beaumont Close has the capacity to house our first two intakes of pupils. Our key priority is to have some sports facilities in place at Stanley Road early in our first year and we have already started working toward this goal.
The summer term will also see us start work at Beaumont Close, as we refit the building and grounds to suit our children and our curriculum. As well creating up-to-date classrooms, labs, hall, library, kitchen and dining facilities, we will also be remodelling some of the interior space to ensure there is space for recreation and play, and landscaping the outside space to enable pupils to undertake some activities in the fresh air.
Plans have been drawn up for how the two campuses could work in practice, and we will be sharing these with you at a meeting for parents, which will be on 6th March at 7.30pm, at Martin Primary School. So for those of you with children in year 6, we'll make sure you have as much information as possible before you have to make your final choice.
In short, then, this is a fantastic solution which will give our pupils something quite unique: the breadth of curriculum and facilities of a large school but with the day to day feeling of a much smaller, more nurturing environment.
Or, as Mick Quigley puts it: "This is a wonderful opportunity for our pupils. Our urban campus school will give each age group their own space in which to grow, learn and develop, whilst at the same time having access to outstanding, purpose built large-scale school facilities; quite simply, the best of both worlds."
And Avis Johns, our chair of governors, agrees, adding: "The needs of our community have always been at the heart of the Archer Academy – from our earliest dreams through to the plans we now deliver. To strive for anything less than excellence would be to sell ourselves short.
The creation of our new school will offer our children a nurturing, local and ambitious education, and the re-energising of Stanley Road will provide both a top quality learning environment for pupils and the provision of excellent sports facilities for local people."
Great news - we've received two applications for every place
Our admissions for September 2013 closed on Wednesday 13th February, and we're very pleased to reveal that we've had a total of 301 applications – that's two for every place, which for a new school is a real result. It's great that so many prospective parents have put their faith in us; rest assured, we will live up to your expectations.
Of course we know that, as we're running our admissions independently from Barnet Council this year, many of our year 6 parents will have a choice of schools in March. So although we're delighted that so many of you have taken the first step by applying, we're also keen to make sure that parents feel confident about accepting our offers of places.
Our news has been coming thick and fast in recent months, and there's more on the way, with our long-term premises, sports facilities and uniform all set to be confirmed soon. So there'll be more good reasons for parents and children to choose our school with every week that passes.
We've also had the chance to meet quite a lot of our prospective parents, and their children, at our recent parent and pupil sessions; it's been really useful to hear what people want to know, and to have the chance to share our plans in a more informal environment. We're planning more events in the coming months to allow parents and children to get to know each other before September; we'll let you know more details about these as soon as we have them.
We've appointed our deputy headteacher
We are absolutely delighted to announce the appointment of the Archer Academy's deputy headteacher: Ms Lucy Harrison. The quality of applicants for this post was very impressive and we were able to shortlist a number of excellent candidates. We observed them teaching and a sub-selection were interviewed.
The decision to appoint Ms Harrison was unanimous. Currently an assistant headteacher at Hertswood School in Borehamwood, she has wide-ranging and relevant experience for the job, and demonstrated the insight necessary to be able to apply that experience to the distinctive challenges facing Archer Academy as it moves towards opening.
Ms Harrison has been consistently judged an outstanding teaching practitioner and has supported the overwhelming majority of her pupils to reach the grades to which they aspire at GCSE level. This is particularly important as the quality of teaching is the single most significant factor in helping young people to realise their potential.
Over the past five years, Ms Harrison has been a key member of a school leadership team at Hertswood School that has raised standards year on year. Her commitment to school improvement led her to develop innovative literacy and numeracy programmes that were acknowledged by Ofsted as having a real impact on pupil progress.
She has been responsible for a number of school departments and has been proactive in supporting those departments to improve teaching standards and to raise examination results.
For several years she has overseen the transition programmes that support Year 6 pupils in their move to secondary school. She has also recently remodelled the Key Stage 3 curriculum at her school in order to stretch and challenge pupils while offering more choice and fostering a love of learning outside the main curriculum. These are very valuable experiences that will help us to open the Archer Academy in the best way possible.
While Ms Harrison will not join us full-time until April 2013, we hope that you will have the opportunity to meet her in the coming weeks at one of our pupil taster evenings or at one of the events for parents.
Local representatives show their support at House of Commons reception
Around 60 representatives of local businesses, schools and organisations attended a drinks reception at the House of Commons on the 15th January, to hear about how they could support the Archer Academy.
The event took place in the Jubilee Room and was hosted by Mike Freer MP, long a champion of our school, who described himself on the night as 'MP for the Archer Academy.' Guests heard Mike speak about his hopes for our school and the role it will play in our community. He also told listeners that Lord Hill, who was until recently the minister for schools, had been particularly impressed by our proposal.
Mick Quigley and Avis Johns also spoke at the event, taking the opportunity to launch our new logo and explain how local organisations can show their support. Once the speeches were over, guests had the chance to be taken on a tour of the House of Commons by Mike, as well as mingling with members of the team.
The event was a great success and we've had some brilliant feedback since; here are just a couple of things our guests have said to Avis in the last few days:
"I found the talk from Mike, Mick and yourself very inspiring and your passion for the school is very infectious."
"I think we all agreed that it was a really positive meeting last night and I am very happy there is so much support for your outstanding project. As both working for a business in the community and being a prospective parent, I was enthused by getting to chat to yourself, Toby and others and listening to Mike and Mick’s words."
Our thanks go to Mike for hosting the event on our behalf, and to local supporters Liora and Alex for their hard work in making it happen. You can read an article written by the Archer newspaper, who were also at the event, here: http://www.the-archer.co.uk/archive/2013/2013Feb04.pdf
Archer Academy and Institute seal the deal
Contracts completed as two organisations plan long term partnership
The agreement between the Archer Academy and adult education organisation the Institute was formalised just before Christmas as contracts on the sale of the Arts Institute were completed.
The deal, which has been negotiated on behalf of the school by the Education Funding Agency, will see the Archer Academy take up residence in the Arts Centre when it opens in September 2013.
The Institute will retain use of a completely separate part of the building to run a limited number of classes. Avis Johns, Chair of Governors for the Archer Academy, said today "This is a landmark event for the people in and around East Finchley.
Greville Waterman, Chairman of the Institute Council, echoed Avis's delight, saying " We are delighted to be embarking on our partnership with the Archer Academy, which is allowing us to continue to offer a wide-ranging programme of multi-disciplinary adult education courses. We share many common values with the Archer Academy and see this as an opportunity to combine our skills and experience for the benefit of local people."
Read more in the Institute’s newsletter - http://hgsi.ac.uk/our-latest-newsletter
We're now recruiting our deputy headteacher, business manager and PA
Having recruited Mick Quigley to lead our school, we're now looking for a brilliant deputy headteacher, business manager and PA to support him in the run up to opening and beyond.
The deadline for applications is Friday 14th December, and interviews will take place in early January. If you'd relish the challenge of building our new school from scratch, we'd love to hear from you.
Once these key members of staff are in place, we'll start recruiting the rest of the senior leadership team and other key posts. So if you'd like us to let you know when we start advertising for these roles, please sign up for job alerts here.
Premises update – the Institute Arts Centre, East Finchley, will be our first home
We are delighted to announce a piece of news we know you have all been looking forward to hearing: the Archer Academy will open in September 2013 in the Institute Arts Centre, East Finchley
We've always been keen to work with the Institute, as we have many values in common, including a passion for our local community and a commitment to life-long learning. In fact, we had already started talking to them about how we could work together before the issue of premises arose.
When the Institute Arts Centre came on the market, it was immediately considered an ideal solution by the Education Funding Agency, the body responsible for securing a site for the school. The offer the EFA made on behalf of the Archer Academy has been accepted, and they are now working towards the exchange and completion of contracts that will secure the purchase.
In the meantime, we're in discussions with the Institute to finalise specific details about how the partnership will work in practice. A central part of these discussions is how the building will be shared between our two organisations. A team of specialist architects are already drawing up plans that will ensure that Archer Academy pupils and Institute students can enjoy exclusive use of separate sections of the building.
This agreement is the first step towards what we hope will be a long and rewarding relationship between the Archer Academy and the Institute. The deal will allow the Institute to continue to deliver a programme of courses for the foreseeable future, as well as providing the Archer Academy with its first home right in the heart of East Finchley.
Avis Johns, Chair of Governors, summed up our delight, saying:
"We want the very best for our pupils, and this agreement will provide them with a superb base from which to start their secondary education. It also opens up opportunities for them to benefit from the wide range of facilities that the Institute Arts Centre has to offer.
The vision for our new school has grown out of our commitment to the community and we are thrilled that our partnership with the Institute will allow us to realise our aim to create a hub for learning bringing benefit for many years to come.”
Community consultation Saturday 10th November
As part of our statutory consultation we'll be outside Budgens in East Finchley on Saturday morning from around 10.30 til 12.30, to talk to the community about the Archer Academy. Please come along to ask us questions and have your say about our plans -Mick Quigley is hoping to join us for some of the time too. Look forward to seeing you there (weather permitting - if it's pouring with rain we may have to postpone).
Update meeting 28th November
We're holding a public meeting on 28th November to update you on our progress, and introduce you to Mick Quigley, our new headteacher.
Mick is really looking forward to meeting prospective parents, and sharing his aims and ambitions for the school with our community. So please come along to to hear his plans, share your views and ask any questions you might have. Brookland Junior Hall, 7.30pm, Wednesday 28th November. All welcome.
We've also created a poster to publicise the meeting - if you'd be happy to help us spread the word, by displaying it in your home or car window, you can print it here.
Introducing Mick Quigley, our headteacher
We're delighted to announce that we have appointed Mick Quigley to be the first headteacher of the Archer Academy. The decision was unanimous, and taken after a two-day process which combined practical assessments with detailed, searching interviews.
Mick brings to the school a brilliant combination of headteacher experience and strategic insight. He has spent nine years as a primary headteacher, first at Wessex Gardens School and subsequently at Holly Park School, where his leadership was rated as outstanding by Ofsted.
As a result of his achievements at Holly Park, Mick was seconded by Barnet Council to join their Children's Service team, so he could share his knowledge, experience and vision with other schools across the borough. He has spent the last four years there as Assistant Director, working in partnership with headteachers and schools to improve standards and put in place policies and plans that deliver a top-quality education for children in our area.
In short, both in strategic and practical terms, Mick knows what it takes to make a school a success. He's also been following the progress of the Archer Academy closely over the past year, and he's passionate about the vision we have created for the school, with some fantastic ideas about how to bring it to life.
Mick doesn't officially take up his post until early 2013, but he is keen to share his experience, enthusiasm and skills with us between now and then. So he will be working closely with us in the coming months as we continue to prepare for opening.
In the meantime, we know our prospective parents will want to meet him as soon as they can. So we're in the process of arranging a public meeting to allow him to introduce himself to our community, and set out his plans for the school. We're also hoping we can arrange some smaller, more informal occasions for him to meet Year 6 parents and again, will keep you posted.
Meeting the community at Lyttleton Playing Fields
Members of our team attended the Lyttleton Playing Fields Funday on Sunday 7th October, and got to meet some of our prospective parents, give them a copy of our prospectus and talk to them about our plans. We really enjoy talking to our community about the Archer Academy, so thanks to everyone who came along to say hello and wish us well.
Prospectuses going out to local primary schools
We're in the process of delivering copies of our prospectus to local primary schools. So far, they've been distributed to Year 6 children at Brookland Junior School, Garden Suburb Junior School, Moss Hall Junior School, Martin Primary School and Tudor Primary School, and we're hoping to get copies to other local primaries soon.
Our applications deadline is later than the deadline for the common application form, so you have until 13 February 2013 to apply for a place at the Archer Academy. You can apply online here.
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