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Academy set to help youngsters shine

Worcester Editorial 13th Aug, 2014 Updated: 19th Oct, 2016

“THE KIDS really need this: you are going to be part of changing their lives,” reads a placard on the wall of a portakabin situated just metres away from the site of the Aspire Academy.

These 15 words were formed to provide a source of inspiration for the workers at Morgan Sindall, who had been handed the challenge of transforming the former home of Siemens Mobility into a school ready to welcome pupils in September.

“Morgan Sindall asked us what we felt we needed them to know and that was it,” Deborah Andrews, manager of the project, said.

“We wanted them to be reminded of how important this would be to our pupils.”

And the message appears to be working as the contractors look well on track to getting the building, which features 16 classrooms, a dining area and office space, completed by the end of August.

Its opening, which will see a total of 57 pupils between the ages of 11 and 16 come through its doors from September 8, would also mark the end of a long journey for the 13 south Worcestershire schools and college which were behind the project.

They all identified a section of students who struggled to cope with life in mainstream education and felt they needed extra support to help them fulfil their potential.

Iain Eglinton, deputy headteacher, described it as a ‘square peg in a round hole’ scenario and he was confident the academy would open up those opportunities for students, who will remain registered with the school which referred them, to shine.

“I wanted to help those students which the education system hasn’t provided anything for them, so this seemed an opportunity too good to turn down,” he said.

“Throughout my career, I have noticed a group of students that for whatever reason do not fit into mainstream education. They are some of the most fantastic kids you would wish to work with, but whether it is the size of the class or the nature of the course, they find it too much to cope with.”

It led the schools to apply to the Department of Education for permission to create a free school in Worcester in December 2012.

The Government gave the thumbs up in the summer term of 2013 before the group got the go ahead to make Century House on Bridgewater Road their home.

Sue Pennington, who was installed as head teacher in January, believed what they were offering was “unique” as the maximum class size would be ten and when full the school would hold just 120 pupils.

As well as English, Maths and Science, they will also teach a variety of vocational subjects such as construction, motor vehicle and hair and beauty, while staff at Worcester Warriors have agreed to run its PE classes.

“Our partner schools have recognised that a mainstream setting is not for everyone as it is too big or things move too quickly, so a smaller environment may suit those pupils needs as the curriculum can become more personalised and paced differently,” Mrs Pennington said.

“You get some pupils who are absolute geniuses in one area, but really struggle in other areas, which pulls them down, so they lose sight of their artistic and mathematical genius. But as an alternative provision free school we can shift that balance.”

She said the school would help students remain on track and not go off the rails, but she stressed the academy should not be seen as a referral unit for badly behaved children.

“Our pupils are not second classed citizens,” she said. “They have sometimes been made that by the education system but in Worcestershire you have got a group of head teachers who have been visionary enough to recognise that they deserve more and that’s what they are going to get.”

Mrs Pennington added: “The schools are thrilled to have this opportunity to do something for their pupils. It is about the kids at the end of the day and changing their lives.

“Our strap-line is ‘unlocking potential’ and that’s what we are going to do.

“It is not about saying ‘this child is a pain in the neck and the school needs to exclude them’, it’s about saying ‘we are not doing the very best we can for this child’, so we need more intervention.

“We’ll be able to provide that and that will help those students fly.”

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