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University turns around school

3 September 12

A former failing Keighley School has been turned around by the University of Bradford increasing their A* - C GCSE pass rate by 20% in just one year.

The government's Academy Act 2006, aimed at encouraging universities to sponsor failing schools, provided £1 million to develop a school into an Academy.

The University of Bradford, which has a history of achievement in widening access and participation with students from diverse backgrounds, was the lead sponsor, of what was then, Greenhead School in Keighley. This initiative aimed to improve the quality of education and exam results delivered so students had the qualifications and skills for them to succeed in Higher Education.

The University of Bradford's project leader, Nadira Mirza, led the academy to the improved level of results starting with a thorough review of the school's staffing structure and student needs. All year 11 students were profiled and placed into groups and lessons were deconstructed and built up into university style lesson plans with clear learning objectives.

She said "Our understanding and belief that university preparation starts from childhood is fundamental to the way we work. In this challenging time, it’s more important than ever for students to get the absolute most out of their time in Higher Education, gaining a good degree to prepare them for the job market.

"We had to get this right for the community and students. The Academy's Board of Governors, along with staff at every level, were all held accountable for targets and a sub-board was created to act as field investigators, reporting back on their communication with the Academy."

One of the major changes made was in the school's leadership. Instead of one head teacher, a three-strong leadership team was brought in, which included Gareth Dawkins, Head of Bradford Academy, Phil Allen, a behavioural specialist at Bradford Academy and Linda Wallsgrove, Assistant Principal at Beckfoot School.

Nadira continued "We engaged the Academy and the community to raise standards and widen participation. A buddy system was created between University Academy Keighley (UAK) and University of Bradford staff in order to share best practice with the school. We inspired the students and made a Saturday Homework Club available to them, which was attended by 100% of Academy pupils. The University also organised extra revision classes and summer schools for academy pupils which were held at both campuses.

"We can change all the external factors, but without the focus on teaching, lesson planning, staff development and an emphasis on boosting the morale and confidence of the students and staff, this transformation would not have been possible. The results are a testament to partnership working which includes the University of Bradford, Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Bradford schools partnership and the governing body of UAK."

UAK is now sharing good practice, through the Bradford School's Partnership, across the District with the help of Bradford Metropolitan District Council. The University of Bradford will also continue to work with other schools, in particular where it is trustee in a similar way to UAK.

The next step will include a review of the sixth form at UAK in order to extend this success to future A level students making them ready to study at University. 

3 September 12

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For further information please contact the University of Bradford Press Office on 01274 23 3089/3084.

Out of office hours call 07879 437996. Alternatively, e-mail or fax on (01274) 236280.