Newly-appointed interim principals at Suffolk New Academy in Ipswich outline plan to improve performance

Two new Principals at Suffolk College Shelagh Potter and Ken Davies.

Two new Principals at Suffolk College Shelagh Potter and Ken Davies. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

An action plan to dramatically improve the performance of failing Suffolk New Academy has been presented to its trustees by the new interim principals.

Newly-appointed interim principals Ken Jones and Shelagh Potter were given little more than ten days to come up with the plan but Mr Jones said: “It’s a big task but not unreasonable and we are going to make a difference for all the students.”

The pair’s experience lies at the heart of the action plan which will involve a major change in how students are monitored and how the teaching staff work.

Last year the academy, which is the former Chantry High School, achieved just 24% in five or more GCSE A*-C grades including English and maths.

Mr Jones and Mrs Potter have been appoined to the role for their experience in turning around the performance of low grade schools.

Mrs Potter said: “Performance is currently poor but we are planning to ensure the academy is back to the record results it was achieving some years ago.

“And to be fair, those last results are based on tests which were changed by Ofqual and therefore cannot be compared.”

Teachers and students have welcomed their arrival and in return can expect a detailed, analytical and highly ambitious programme of learning and monitoring.

Most Read

Criticism has already been levelled at the new interim principal of the 600-student Suffolk New Academy, Shelagh Potter, but she calmly dismisses it as the product of victimisation.

Social media researchers have found Mrs Potter, who along with Ken Jones has been charged with turning around the poor performing academy was dismissed from her job around 10 years ago and, therefore, conclude that she is not suitable.

“I expect this and am reconciled to it,” she said. “Anyone who thinks there isn’t serious politics in education is fooling themselves. I was made principal of two schools on Tyneside which were merging but neither of them wanted to and fought each other strongly.

“The merger plan failed and I was made a scapegoat. Which is what often happens to those who are easy to blame?”

The former Chantry High School, which is run by the New Academies Trust, announced last week that its principal Andrew Fell and vice-principal Jamie Daniels had left following a highly critical report by the Department for Education last year which concluded the academy was in need of significant improvement.

But Mrs Potter’s and Mr Jones’ action programme, which was presented to the academy trustees yesterday, is the result of their experience and success in turning around failing schools.

Mr Jones said: “We are driven by a moral purpose to make a difference to the lives of young people. Teachers made a difference for me and we will for them.”

The pair were given little more than 10 days to prepare an action plan for turning the academy’s performance around and met that challenge on time. The core aims are to revise the manner in which performance is analysed and to train the teaching staff to produce and respond to the new information.

“The plan involves four key areas,” Mr Jones added. “Achievement, teaching and learning, behaviour and leadership.

“The academy achieved a very disappointing 24% in the five A*-C GCSE grades this year but two years ago they achieved their top marks of 40%. The tests have been changed by Ofqual so we can’t properly compare but our plan will ensure that we know a great deal more about each student and how they are performing, and ensure that the teaching staff responds to this information effectively.

“The thing we expected to see here, and did find, was a lack of razor sharp data to see where student needs are and to swiftly respond to those needs. Each student will have a personalised learning programme in each subject and their progress will be assessed with the red and green standards. Red for poor, green for good.”

The plan will diagnose each student’s problems, needs and skills, apply the treatment and test the results. All teaching staff will be similarly monitored and trained on the job to ensure that the students’ needs are met.

“It’s a big task,” Mr Potter said. “But it is not unreasonable and we are experienced at delivering and determined to do that here. It’s a great place and we have had a lovely welcome from the teachers and the students.

“We had to do this fast if we were going to get the plan in place and make a difference by the time the next exams are taken in June.”

The trust is looking for a full-time principal but neither of the two interim principals expect to fill that position.

Mr Jones added: “We came in to do and job and have started that job in earnest, but we both look forward to a full-time principal being appointed and taking over in a much more promising educational environment.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter