FEATURE: Big opportunities at Altwood School

Grace Witherden

Creating opportunities for students is the aim of Altwood School according to headteacher Neil Dimbleby.

With record-breaking GCSE results, a half-million-pound refurbishment and new clubs for students, it’s fair to say that there is a lot going on at the school in Altwood Road.

The headteacher says the school has been on a ‘journey’ in the last three years but is now ‘incredibly happy’ with the results.

Mr Dimbleby, who took over as headteacher in 2013, has certainly made his impact, introducing a new house system, transforming the school buildings and creating more opportunities for staff and students.

He said: “We’re trying to be a school that young people can be proud of. It’s about giving them something extra.

“We want to offer opportunities outside the classroom, like the gardening club, something the students can be passionate about.

“We don’t just want to be a school that focuses on lessons and that’s it.

“You’re better in life for having had opportunities, to be out of your comfort zone. That’s what it’s about, exposing your students to different opportunities.”

The secondary school, which has just 700 pupils, converted to an academy in August 2012.

Over the summer months, the school refurbished the Winchester, Durham and Canterbury buildings (newly renamed after cathedrals) which saw a new library, classrooms, sound-proof music rooms and an enhanced ICT suite added to the school.

Mr Dimbleby said: “We’ve done a half-a-million-pound refurbishment, we’ve redecorated, got new furniture and equipment.

“Core subjects like English, maths and science have been

refurbished entirely, so we can create a better learning environment.

“People have been stopping me in the corridor and saying how great it looks.”

It’s been long journey for Altwood. The school’s last two Ofsted inspections have concluded it ‘Requires Improvement’ – the latest being in April 2015.

At the time of inspection, leadership and management, quality of teaching and achievement of pupils were all found to be wanting.

But a monitoring inspection in December found the governors and senior leaders were taking ‘effective action’ to tackle the areas requiring improvement.

In a letter to the head, inspector Christopher Wood said: “After a slow start, you and your leaders are taking decisive and appropriate action to improve the academy so that it becomes good.

“Nevertheless, more needs to be done to ensure that these recent improvements have a more discernible and rapid impact on raising achievement.”

Addressing the negative image of the school, Mr Dimbleby said he was confident these areas had seen a significant turnaround.

This year the school achieved record-breaking GCSE results, with 63 per cent of students receiving five A*-C grades including maths and English.

Mr Dimbleby said: “We’ve seen a big improvement.

“Altwood has been on a journey over recent years and the learning environment that we have now is one that staff and students are rightly proud of.

“We want young people that are confident and competent.”

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