Page last updated at 12:01 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

Second time lucky for Shene Academy?

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Shene head teacher Lesley Kirby
Moving forward- Ms Kirby is positive about the future

Shene School is hoping it is second time lucky for its bid to become an Academy and lever in extra funds to help improve the school.

A new sponsor has been found after Richmond Council's first choice, Edutrust, was rejected at a late stage over "significant concerns" about the charity's governance.

The new choice is Academy Enterprise Trust, which runs a chain of four academies in Essex. It will work alongside the council as co-sponsor of the Academy.

Head teacher Lesley Kirby is pleased that the new sponsor has a proven track record of educational excellence, with a chief executive who began as a head teacher at a high performing school, now Greensward Academy in Essex.

"He has clearly done a good job with the schools he has worked with. He has a passion for ensuring children achieve the best," said Ms Kirby.

But it has also emerged that the council had been secretly planning to bring the London Development Agency (LDA) and London Mayor on board as a third co-sponsor.

'Upside down'

An early expression of interest approved by the DCSF suggested the west London school's sponsors would be the Mayor's and Academies Enterprise Trust.

But Shene head teacher Ms Kirby says the first she heard of this was when a BBC journalist contacted her asking for her views on London Mayor Boris Johnson's potential involvement in her school.

However, on Monday this week all hopes of developing a three-way relationship between AET, the LDA and Richmond Council melted away.

Richmond Council has been playing its cards close to its chest and has thus far refused to comment on the issue.

A council committee paper said that it had decided to press ahead with AET alone because of fears the complexities of a three-way relationship, and the time taken to resolve them, might have caused further delays to Shene's already tardy bid to become an Academy.

But in a further complication, the LDA says it has received no formal notification that this part of its dream to run Academies in London is dead.

But Ms Kirby and her management team are determined not to get side-tracked and are busy getting on with building a good relationship with AET boss David Triggs and his staff.

We needed to beef things up and send out a clear message to children, their parents/carers that there is a line that they do not cross
Lesley Kirby
Shene head teacher

"He has said to me that he's not going to come in and turn everything upside down but that there are certain structures that Greensward, and all AET schools, have that we can expect at Shene," she said.

AET will work alongside Richmond Council as a co-sponsor and the local authority has made much play of the trust's willingness to do this.

A council spokesman said the trust was "able to demonstrate clearly that they have the skills and experience to build quickly and efficiently upon the recent improvements at Shene, and meet the ambitions of local families for an outstanding school in the area."

And this is key, as the school has made great strides in the past two years, with the percentage of children getting five good GCSEs including maths and English rising from 24% in 2007 to 45% in 2009.

Another area Shene has worked hard to improve is behaviour.

Shene could be re-shaped on the Greensward model

The school used eight fixed term exclusions during this past half term compared to 35 for the same period the previous year.

"Up to last January they were high and I didn't make any apologies for that. We needed to beef things up and send out a clear message to children, their parents/carers that there is a line that they do not cross," she said.

As a result of this "get tough" policy, and the use of an internal exclusion room, behaviour has improved.

Excluding pupils internally means the school ensures they do not lose out on the work they should be doing.

A specially-trained supervisor keeps an eye on them and helps them to address their behaviour at the same time.

Ms Kirby feels this kind of approach will work well with AET's policy of reducing exclusions to zero and its "Discipline with Dignity" policy, which bans teachers from shouting at children.

A spokesman for AET said it looked forward to being able to share early in the new year details of plans that could establish Shene as a new Academy in September 2010, and in brand new learning facilities as soon as September 2013.

"We are committed to the proposed new Academy for Shene being at the heart of the local community.

"Our ambition is to ensure that all its learners have every opportunity to fulfil their full potential, broaden their horizons and become active, prosperous and successful citizens in the world around them."

The BBC News website is following Shene School on its journey to potential Academy status.

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