Challenging Times- Andrew Burns, Ormiston Forge Academy Principal
These are certainly very challenging times in education. The Government insists, rightly, that we should be raising standards for all. However, this is against a backdrop of falling funding, a new accountability framework and a reformed examination system.
I strongly believe that there is a discord between elements of the Department of Education and the government. The new systems and the proposal for grammar schools undermine social mobility. The very children and communities we work with are disadvantaged by these changes.
Let me explain Pupil Premium and disadvantage in simple terms, through my children and a running race. With both parents working as teachers and access to high quality childcare from early stages in their life, my children set off on the race at a high speed with stamina. In contrast, many children from disadvantaged backgrounds did not get this start, could not run as fast or run as long. By the time my children started school they were a number of laps ahead. Pupil premium funding is about getting children from disadvantaged backgrounds to run quicker. In education, we can make these children run quicker but I am not going to slow my own children down so the others can catch up. In real terms closing the gap is extremely difficult, if not impossible, maintaining the gap and not letting it widen is success. This will not be affected unless we start to work between 0 and 5 years of age.
For these reasons, the Access Project is crucial to an academy like Forge academy. The Project creates an aspiration and provides academic support for those who need and want it. The outcomes for the cohort of Access Project students at Forge academy have been nothing less than stunning, closing the gaps on outcomes and destinations with their privileged peers. You might well expect this given the students receive high quality mentoring and academic coaching. However, there has been an unexpected outcome; the quality of provision from our Access Project Programme Co-ordinator has meant that there has been a ripple effect across the academy. Students outside the project have asked for support and received it, been to visit more universities, talked to students involved in the project and taken part in Access Project enrichment sessions. In short, everyone has become more aspirational and everyone has run faster.