Top 5% aim for Sidmouth College

SIDMOUTH COLLEGE is on target to be within the top five percent of secondary schools in the next five years.

SIDMOUTH COLLEGE is on target to be within the top five percent of secondary schools in the next five years.

And Jeremy Roberts, who took over from David Birch as principal last September, envisages more growth and possibly the need for a new site on which to expand the school in the future.

He said: "If Sidmouth College is going to thrive, and we hope very much grow, it's probably not going to grow much further on this site, so we do need to talk to people about what the options are for further development and how Building Schools for the Future might lead us."

Building Schools for the Future is a Government programme aiming to give virtually all schools in the UK a rebuild or refurbishment, he said.

"Quite how the present economic climate will affect that I am not sure, but we would like to be ready, we would like to be in a position where we can say to people 'right, there is funding available, we have a plan, we know what we want to do, this is what we would like to have, knowing what we want to try and deliver to young people in this area."

He said Devon was "some way" down the list in terms of priority and the current economic climate may have affected the project, but wanted to be "well ahead with our thinking about what that would mean for Sidmouth College and whether there is the possibility of development on this site, or whether we ought to be looking for a new site for the school.

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"This site is pretty much hemmed in by housing and access is very poor from the road."

The college has just come out of a Notice to Improve, imposed last May by Ofsted inspectors, and, said Mr Roberts, there were no "nasty" surprises in the latest report, following last month's inspection.

He said the 2008 Ofsted had not been too critical.

"I can understand why inspectors came to the conclusion that they did. I can also understand why David Birch was so insistent, saying 'no, the results are going to be better this year' and he was proved right.

"What was missing was the evidence to support what he was saying."

He said rigorous systems were now in place to provide evidence of monitoring progress and support to help them progress.

"We are challenging them and they are making more progress.

"I wouldn't take issue with the report because it did highlight some of the real issues for the college.

"I think that the people who saw the need for things to change got on with the job and that is wonderful. Even before I got here things were moving forward.

"All the key ingredients are here at Sidmouth College - talented young people, supportive parents and really outstanding professionals.

"If you bring all those things together and make sure that the whole package gels together, there is no reason why Sidmouth should not be an outstanding school, should not be in the top five percent of schools, when judged by the progress of the young people."

He said the most important thing a good leader could do was appoint the right people to work in their team.

"That's what we've been doing in the last couple of months. We've been making sure our recruitment for September is of people with the right attitude.

"Skills you can teach. Experience can be gained, but the key thing is we want people here at Sidmouth College with the right attitude - people who are ambitious for themselves and for the children they work with."

He said the process of seeking voluntary redundancies was complete, and was grateful no compulsory redundancies had been made.

"We will have quite a considerable turnover of staff at the end of the year and that has given us the opportunity to restructure some important areas of our school life."

Mr Roberts does not see the college as an 'exam factory' but intends that every child, regardless of ability on entry, should have the chance to make progress, and be challenged to have aspirations for themselves.

He said Sidmouth College had a long-standing reputation for being a happy school with a great sense of community and one issue to address was to develop partnerships with other schools and local employers.

"It is going to be important to us over the next few years that we are able to move towards delivering a really relevant curriculum to all our students," he said.

"It is really important to have good links with people who can offer our students extended work experience and also some learning in a workplace environment."

All this was an "exciting time."

And what of the next school year?

"It will be very exciting to be inducting a new group of staff and also welcoming a new Year Seven.

"I am very pleased we are absolutely full in Year Seven. In fact we have a waiting list for places this year.

"So I think parents have recognised what we are offering, the fact we are an ambitious school.