THE new headteacher at the helm of one of Sheffield’s biggest schools has vowed to transform the troubled academy’s fortunes.
Russell Heritage has pledged to raise pass rates, increase attendance and improve pupils’ behaviour after taking over at Sheffield Springs Academy.
The school, on Hurlfield Road, Arbourthorne, has been plagued by problems in recent years, including having six different headteachers in a short time – but Mr Heritage is determined to look to the future.
He said: “We have a lot of challenges at this school, but there are three main things we need to do to turn this ship around; improve attendance and punctuality, improve the quality of learning and teaching and ensure we have the right leadership so we not only turn around, but keep going in the right direction.
“I want this to be an outstanding school.
“I want our students to get to the age of 16 and have qualifications which enable them to make choices.”
In the short-term, Mr Heritage wants to increase the school’s GCSE pass rates within the academic year.
And he is confident his team can bring the number of pupils achieving at least five A* to C grades at GCSE up by more than 10 percentage points on 2012.
This year, the percentage of pupils achieving five A* to C at GCSE was 31.3 per cent, a slight fall on the 32 per cent rate of 2011 and well below the national average of 58.6.
Mr Heritage wants that figure brought up to 46 per cent by next August.
He said: “At the moment our target for next year’s pass rate is 46 per cent. I want at least 40.”
It is a daunting task for the United Learning-sponsored school, which has struggled with low attendance, high staff turnaround and challenging behaviour since becoming an academy in 2006.
Last year, Ofsted inspectors criticised leadership instability which saw the appointment and departure of six principals in six years.
Restoring stability, raising aspirations of young people and making the school something the community can be proud of, have been outlined as key priorities by Mr Heritage.
And progress is already being made, with the appointment of 25 new teachers who began teaching in September.
The progress of Year 11 pupils taking their exams next summer is also being rigorously monitored to ensure all youngsters reach their full potential.
The school is located in one of Sheffield’s most deprived wards, but Mr Heritage is keen to distance the school from that tag.
He said: “Our ethos is that no matter what your background is, you can achieve.”
He was speaking ahead of an Ofsted report which will be published in the coming weeks.
Just seven days into Mr Heritage’s new role, officers from the education watchdog conducted a two-day inspection of the school – and he believes their findings will reflect a lot of the problems which are already being acted upon.
He has written a letter to parents of the 1,044 pupils, aged 11 to 19, to outline his vision for the future.
He said: “We expect Ofsted to recognise the challenges we face, the fact our attainment levels are not where they should be and that our attendance and some of the behaviour from the students is not as we want it.
“However, we feel we now are able to move forward and address issues to make this a better school.”
Janet Woods, director of development for United Learning Trust, said: “We know there are key challenges, but we think we have the right people in the right place to move this school on.”