Students at Northallerton School and Sixth Form College say things are looking up.
After last year’s turbulence when the school was placed in special measures, they believe the atmosphere is calmer, consequences are clearer, behaviour is improving, teaching and learning are better. There are more activities outside of lessons, things are starting to build and the new head is everywhere around the school.
“Things are much better in the school,” said 12-year-old Alexa Hugill, year 8. “Behaviour is better, people have been out litter picking and we’ve now got a girl’s football club!”
A month or so into the new school year and the new Principal, Chris Drew, agrees with his students. Things are looking up.
Mr Drew acknowledges the hard work and firm steer of his predecessor Keith Prytherch, who took up the reins as interim executive principal after the school was judged inadequate by Ofsted. His leadership brought about significant improvements so that last summer’s GCSE and A level results were an improving picture. Ofsted, in its last monitoring visit acknowledged that great strides had been made by the leadership team, supported by North Yorkshire County Council.
Now, with the appointment of Areté Learning Trust as the preferred academy sponsor, Chris Drew is moving full steam ahead.
He has introduced a house system to drive extra-curricular activity, new ways of teaching, changes to the curriculum, a new head boy and girl and prefects to be ambassadors for the school. He has set up a parents’ views group, banned term-time holidays and introduced Saturday detention.
He says he is firm but fair and wants to build a sense of pride in the school. Already, he says, students have a spring in their step. “A school isn’t just about reading and writing,” he said. “It’s about how to be a good citizen, about being engaged, about high expectations. We have wonderful, brilliant students here with great potential.”
Mr Drew was previously at the King’s Academy in Middlesbrough where he was head for ten years, taking the school from the bottom to the top of the local league table. Before that he worked in the independent sector.
“I came here for the challenge of taking the school out of special measures and making it the best it can be,” he said. “My staff are smart and enthusiastic and together with the students and with the support of their families we can move mountains.”
Paul Bartlett, chair of the school’s Interim Executive Board and also director on the Areté Learning Trust board, said there was much for the school to look forward to: “This is a very good start and we will continue to work with Chris Drew and his leadership team as well as parents, the wider community and the county council to create a secondary school that Northallerton can be proud of.”
County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Schools, said a great deal had already been achieved: “Northallerton has the potential to be a great school and as the school year gets underway staff, students, families and key partners are pulling together to drive forward the rapid improvement.”