How we created our ideal school

Peter Lee

Peter Lee joined the teaching profession in 2004 initially via the Fast Track programme. He was worked in four inner city Birmingham schools and held the roles of head practitioner, head of department, head of faculty, assistant head and assistant vice principal. He is currently the vice principal at Q3 Academy and will be head of school for the new Q3 Langley opening September 2016. He has written widely for The Guardian Teacher network and spoken at a variety of events including the inaugural SLT Teachmeet and most recently the Academies Show in London (April 2015). 

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I’m very fortunate to have been appointed head of school for the new Q3 Langley Academy, which opened its doors this September to 153 Year 7 students. It is a unique partnership with the local authority and a Multi-Academy Trust that has led to somewhat of a blank canvas in relation to curriculum. In an education world that has seen a sharp decline in non-EBacc subjects, we are still committed to offering a broad and balanced education for all our students.

We have appointed one Core teacher in all of the EBacc subjects, but also utilised their"My core teachers have a block of time in which to undertake their PPA." specific skillset to deliver our Horizon curriculum that covers Art, Business, Design & Technology, Drama, Music, RE, PSHE and Computing. This is taught in a 9 week block via carousel teaching. It is designed to immerse students in these areas while minimising – at least after the first rotation – planning time for teachers. In addition, similarly to a Primary school, my core teachers have a block of time – four hours – in which to undertake their PPA. This already has led to significant school improvement by the chance for colleagues to work alongside each other together at the same time. I am interested to see how we can upscale this as the years progress – as I firmly believe in the power of such interactions.

One area I was really interested in was the extracurricular offer. When I think back to my school days – in a ‘bog-standard’ Comp – some of the best memories were my experiences out of lesson – particularly in relation to sports. Playing in front of the soon-to-be England manager Graham Taylor at Aston Villa in April ’90 one of the highlights! Going further forward to my University days, again a significant – if not the most important – part of the week was Wednesday afternoon sport.

It got us thinking as a staff team. For too long in Secondary school enrichment and extracurricular is a bolt-on, one that only the keenest students take part in. How could we address this? And make it part of the school day? But also give it a significant amount of time denoting its significance rather than a bolt on extra hour.

Our answer is our Wednesday afternoon four hours of PE/Enrichment programme that all students will follow. We have been able to give my core teachers a block of time off to have their PPA time – akin to a Primary school - and are able to bus across our PE teachers to from our sister site in order to deliver PE. We "I want to change ‘phones and Xboxes' perception of young people."have already booked the local swimming pool, which is a two minute walk to add to the normal offer of PE activities you’d expect to see in a traditional Secondary school environment.

However we were really interested in what enrichment we could offer our students. I want them to experience a range of activities that are new, exciting and also eye opening. My colleague in charge of this has worked tirelessly to put together a programme that will include  world music, craft, sign language, wheelchair sports, theatre in education, drone flying, home basics (sewing, cooking and cleaning), abseiling, choir, professional rugby coaching from Wasps and entrepreneurship in business.

Ideally my long-term aim is the local community to become involved as much as possible and to make the programme self-funding. In Year 8 we have already designed the timetable so that students will follow this programme in the morning on a Wednesday, rather than the afternoon, so we can utilise the relationship with the providers we already use in year one. My aim is that this will inspire and fire curiosity in students to try something new and maybe take up a new pastime. I want to change the perception that young people are not interested in other pursuits, preferring to just play on their phones and Xboxes!

We do however see an intrinsic value in offering these experiences – all of which will be linked our Year 7 passport that will see the students culminate with a celebration even at the end of the academic year. We are going to use our sister site the day after their Year 11 Prom and host a mini-version for our very first cohort of Year 7 students.

We’re not saying we have got enrichment and extracurricular as an exemplar – but with the freedoms offered by setting up a school with just Year 7, we feel as though this is a real area where we can enhance the learning of all our intake from the start. Our intake is approximately 40% + FSM and this is what education and schooling should be about for me – providing opportunities that might not otherwise be there for young people – inspiring them to be the best they can. That’s why I became a teacher; and why I want to be a head.

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