A Thought Piece by Ellena Schuster-Farrell 19 December 2019

This year, Hareclive E-ACT Academy was rated outstanding in its first Ofsted inspection since joining the trust in September 2016. In less than three years, the academy has progressed from Ofsted’s lowest ranking to its highest and becomes the third E-ACT academy to receive the outstanding rating. Over two thirds of our academies are now rated good or better by Ofsted.  

We caught up with three members of Hareclive staff, including Head of School Philip Allan, to get their reflections on a remarkable three years.

Philip Allan, Head of School

In July 2019, we received the brilliant news that our academy had been rated outstanding by Ofsted, which meant that we had gone from Ofsted’s lowest ranking to its highest in under three years.

Our success is down to the unwavering belief that our pupils deserve the best. Staff have bought into E-ACT’s rigour and high expectations and they know what they need to do to give our pupils the best chance in life.

Academically, when children start at Hareclive they are around two years behind the national average. 60% of our pupils are eligible for pupil premium funding. Our context means that our roles are changing all the time: the level of communication with parents and the needs of the children are ever-expanding. For staff at Hareclive, that is a privilege. We are in a unique position to be able to have a huge impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in England.

A big focus for us has been making parents feel part of our academy. We needed a fundamental shift in their perception of our academy and a shift in their attitudes towards education as a whole. Where we are, a lot of people don’t value education intrinsically, so we have to give it value: we have to ensure that parents understand what their children are going to gain.  We’ve therefore increased the number of parental events, showing parents how we teach; how to use the online programmes that we use with pupils and inviting them in at least once a term.

“I try to sprinkle magic wherever I can for our pupils.”

We understand that pupils’ experiences are very limited. We prioritise things like sending our Year 6 pupils on a week-long residential trip, with no charge to their families. We’ve taken them to places like Brecon and Hampshire, where they’ve done canoeing, white-water rafting and stand-up paddle boarding. We’re aware of our context and we know that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do things like this.

I try to sprinkle magic wherever I can for our pupils: whether that’s giving them a glowing report, telling them we’re proud of them or making an experience special. We want them to know how important they are as individuals because a lot of them don’t feel important. We work to create a sense of magic around learning and to give pupils a sense of self-worth.

During my time here, I’ve seen our combined measure at key stage 2 go from 19% to 60%. Results aren’t everything, but they are indicative of success later down the line. Now when pupils leave Hareclive, they are ready. They have the skills that they need academically, but then through the work we do with things like Thrive, they are emotionally ready as well.  We are lucky to have the opportunity to make a difference for our pupils, because with our guidance, we can put them in a position that means they are ready to succeed.

Owen Edwards, Phase Leader, Year 1 and Year 2

We’ve all just been buzzing since we heard about the Ofsted rating.  A lot of hard work has gone into this, and three solid years of being with E-ACT.

I think the key to our success is the fact that everyone is on the same page. Everyone has bought into the vision that we set out really clearly at the start. There has been a focus on rapid progress, which led to our results. At the same time, there has been an equal focus on pupils’ wellbeing and giving them the ability to understand their emotions. Our Thrive curriculum and the support we give pupils is just as important and as valuable to us as results: you don’t get one without the other. Before the learning starts, we need to make sure that pupils are safe, comfortable and happy.

“The inspectors praising our work has given our staff a big injection of belief.”

We know that our children come in at low starting points and that we need them to make rapid progress between Reception and Year 6. We have rigorous and robust checks to make sure that our children are on track, and we spend a lot of time talking about each pupil – perhaps too much time! We also place high importance on the relationship between the pupils and the adult. Children do well because they trust the adults and feel secure. It’s not just about figures or data, we think about the children behind the figures.

It’s fantastic that we now have this acknowledgement because it is going to create some real pride in the community. Our parents have been a huge part of this journey so they genuinely buy in to what we’re doing.

For staff, this has really given us belief in the difference we’re making. Sometimes we can get bogged down in the day-to-day, so we don’t step back and appreciate the impact that we’re having on pupils. The inspectors praising our work has given our staff a big injection of belief. I’m just so proud of our team. It’s been a really tough couple of years but it has all been worth it.

Grant Butt, HLTA (now training to be a teacher)

I’ve grown up in this area and was a pupil at this school, and my mum works here too. Hareclive is very close to my heart, so to get this recognition is fantastic and it just proves that the model with E-ACT in the South West works.

I love coming to work. It’s challenging, but all of the staff are incredible. The regional team have been a huge support as well – everything runs like clockwork and people know what they’re doing. It just feels like a system where everyone knows exactly what their role is. For me personally, becoming part of E-ACT has made so many opportunities available to me. I’ve had lots of different roles at the academy and I’m now training to be a teacher.

Leadership has played a massive role in the academy’s transformation. Our leadership team is unbelievable. I look at things on a day-to-day or weekly basis, but they have a two year plan, a five year plan and beyond. That vision is inspiring, and it makes you want to come along for the journey!

“Our job is to personalise things for our pupils and make life really special for them.”

I speak to my friends who are teachers elsewhere and they can’t believe what we do for the children here. With the cohort we have, you do things like taking them to the park, showing them a kiwi, taking them to the beach, cooking them a roast dinner – you’re dealing with a completely different context and you have to think about giving pupils those experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s the little things that you take for granted and assume that all children will have access to, and our children don’t.  Our job is to personalise things for our pupils and make life really special for them.

Hareclive is such a hub for the community. We get parents whose children left years ago still coming in for advice and help: for us, they may have left but they are still part of our family. We run football after academy every night, we have our mental health hub and our community centre… the academy is never shut. The people here don’t move away from the area, they live in Hartcliffe all their lives and some of them have never even been into Bristol. It can feel like quite an isolated community, so we need to make sure that we are there for one another.