From being placed in special measures in December 2014 to requiring improvement in March 2016, Mansfield Green E-ACT Academy has now completed a quite remarkable transformation.
In just three and a half years, the academy has progressed from Ofsted’s lowest ranking to its highest, and becomes the first E-ACT academy to receive the outstanding rating whilst part of the trust.
Read our interview with Headteacher Karen Horne on just how we did it!
What are the key changes that you’ve made at the academy to get to Ofsted outstanding?
When I first joined the academy, we started by stripping everything back. We needed to start again by looking at how we taught writing for instance and then maths and reading. It was also about raising aspirations and instilling high expectations in everybody; amongst staff first and then very quickly in the children to ensure that they were focused on learning.
The final step was the wider curriculum and everything that it encompassed. Not just the traditional subjects of science and history and geography, but also how we could add to and enrich the curriculum with trips and visits. The fact that every child in Year 4 learns an instrument, we have an artist in residence, we have our own art gallery, it means that everything we do is not just paying lip service but really adding value to what the children are learning in and out of the classroom.
What is the big difference between where your academy is now compared to when you first joined in 2015?
When I first started, teaching and learning at the academy was inadequate. You couldn’t come to Mansfield Green and say, ‘okay, tell me how you teach maths’, as there were no systems or processes for people to follow. Staff didn’t have that clarity. That’s where we were able to strip it right back and introduce those ‘how we do it here’ manuals alongside high-quality CPD.
Long term, we wanted to create an ethos of collaboration where the staff felt part of the decision making process, so we created change teams – one for writing and one for maths, giving staff the opportunity to be part of the improvements that were being made. It also adds to their professional development, so we’re also raising the status of teachers as professionals, giving them that high quality CPD and reinforcing the high expectations we have of them as professionals.
There has been a lot of debate on how academies work with disadvantaged pupils. What’s your view?
I think that all schools have challenges for lots of different reasons, regardless of where they’re situated in the country. For us, our challenges are around high levels of deprivation and the mobility of pupils. This does present a challenge that possibly isn’t happening at every school in the country, but it’s also exciting because then it’s about how we tailor our curriculum and provision. I don’t see it as a negative and I don’t see it as an excuse, I see it as an exciting challenge to enable those children to be successful, regardless of where they’ve come from or what they’ve had to deal with. We make sure that every single member of staff has the same high expectations of what every child can achieve.
The report made special mention of your extra-curricular offering. Tell us a little more about it.
Just yesterday, the whole of Year 2 went to the beach, something that some people may take for granted, but actually a lot of our children don’t get to do. Through our link with the Birmingham Museum, our pupils also got to take part in the press launch for Dippy the Dinosaur. The inspectors commented on the fact that they could see that every single child was writing at length about their experiences as they are so engaged with what they are learning. If our pupils didn’t have those rich experiences and don’t have that contextual understanding, they may not progress. We aim to give them that understanding when they join the nursery. We want them to have those really rich experiences so that they develop a love of learning.
What’s next for Mansfield Green E-ACT Academy?
We have to keep going. We have to keep reviewing what we’re doing to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of the community we serve. I think we’ve still got work to do to ensure that every child is achieving their very best, ready to go on to the next level of their education. It’s the same with the staff as we take a lot of pride in taking staff and developing them. All of our middle leaders are people who have been here through the special measures journey and to see them develop and grow is part of that; you need to grow your staff as much as you want to grow your pupils. So by valuing your staff and investing in them, growing your own if you like, then the impact on the children is going to be just as positive.
See the report highlights here: