How organising a fight is helping stop Doncaster school pupils misbehaving
Organising a fight may not be the most obvious way to turn a school around for Ofsted.
But that has emerged as part of the solution to help turn around issues raised by schools inspectors at Outwood Academy (Adwick).
None of the pupils will be hitting one another – but they will be working with a business to help stage a high profile boxing promotion.
The idea is that by taking part in an activity that motivates them, pupils will cause less disruption and be less inclined to skip school.
When principal Andy Scruby heard his school had been downgraded from outstanding to requires improvement, he was not taken by surprise.
Andy, appointed to the top job at Outwood Academy (Adwick) six months ago from another school run by the Outwood Academies Trust, as already aware there was work that needed to be done even before the last inspection.
Grades had dropped, and the school had expanded, taking on 10 per cent more pupils that it had three years ago.
To that backdrop, the school was already putting changes in place which he expects will reverse issues such as low level disruption in lessons and high absence races among pupils.
The report also listed many strengths, but it is the weaknesses Mr Scruby is now looking to deal with.
Turning schools around is something he has good experience of. In his previous jobs he has helped turn around Newbold, near Chesterfield, and Valley in Worksop – both Outwood schools and in similar forming mining areas.
Work is already underway. Plans are in place to get pupils who may previously have caused minor disruption, or miss school, more interested in coming to school.
They have involved Doncaster youth organisation Flying Futures in the plans and it is starting to bear fruit.
This is where the boxing comes in. A group of pupils are now working with the organisation Matchroom Boxing on the organisation of a maxing night at Nottingham Arena.
A total of 12 Adwick pupils are involved and they have worked on the marketing of the event, which involves the Doncaster boxer Jordan Gill.
“It is helping raise aspirations,” said Mr Scruby. “It’s one of many projects that we are running.
“On the whole, we are changing the culture of the school. It is about positve praise and rewarding achievements. It’s about raising standards and transforming lives.
“We are bringing in a praise culture, and it’s about teachers recognising achievement at all levels.”
They are also involving teachers more in dealing with attendance issues. It is no longer just about the attendance office. It is about teachers looking for issues that can be addressed to help pupils attend..
For instance, one pupil was struggling with attendance due to complicated personal circumstances. It emerged that part of the problem was that they did not have a bike lock. The school bought them a bike lock, and the pupil’s attendance improved.
“Out motto is Students First, and it’s about the whole student, not just their grades at English and maths,” said Mr Scruby.”
On the basis of that they have done in recent months, and what they have seen of the current pupils, the school is now expecting its best ever grades in this summers Year 11 exams. Some of the pupils and staff came in over the Easter holidays to work towards that.
“Expectations have been raised because the quality of the teaching is improving,” said Mr Scruby. “Exams have started. Students are extremely confident and very well prepared, and also very well supported by the staff going into the exams. We track progress and attainment every six weeks, so that we know what their levels are, and so we can remove gaps from learning.
“We are looking forward to August when the results come out.”
It’s not just Year 11 results that get celebrated. The youngsters now have a cap and gown graduation before they start their GCSE courses.
Pupils also go away for a residential trip away to improve team building.
Another recent development at the school has been work to give pupils more of a voice in how the school is run.
They have introduced an elected school president. Doncaster Council provides the ballot boxes for the school elections, which are run as closely as the school can manage to regular council and parliamentary elections. They write their own manifesto and speak to fellow pupils in an assembly
In the last elections, Year 10 pupil Jack Burtoft elected, with Tommy-Joe Shaw and Saffron Laszkowicz voted in as vice presidents.
Their roles involve visiting other schools to look for what they think is good practice and would like to see rolled out at Adwick.
Suggestions may result include the creation of a school honours board and a proposal to create a ‘reward room’ – a room containing entertainments for pupils whose conduct or work earns them a ticket to use it.
Recent successes at Adwick include it being named as a flagships school by the organisation Musical Futures. It comes as the school has enjoyed a rapid uptake in music at GCSE and BTEC levels and follows a move to encourage pupils to try contemporary music, performing modern chart hits. They even had the drummer from Status Quo in to visit.
“It is good for dexterity, focus and listening skills,” said Mr Scruby. “And it is about engaging students. The uptake in year eight and nine is phenomonal. It has doubled uptake through the new style.”
Adwick's Post 16 education is still rated as good.
It is now run as a joint sixth form with Outwood Academy (Danum), in Intake.
The shared scheme makes it more financially viable, says Mr Scruby, and also means best teachers can be shared.
“Having more pupils means we can do more classes,” he said: “It means you can learn from strong teachers at both schools. Sixth formers move between both sites, and the school provides a minibus.
“And we are seeing an uplift in in the number of pupils going from Adwick into further education. It’s satisfying to see. And as Year 11 outcomes rise, I think we’ll see more students going to - level and equivalents.”