Junior school head looks forward to bright future in partnership with academy

Kate Chisholm, head teacher at Skerne Park Primary School in Darlington

Kate Chisholm, head teacher at Skerne Park Primary School in Darlington

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Health & Education Editor

Kate Chisholm took over as headteacher of Skerne Park Primary School in Darlington in July. The school will officially become an Academy in February 2013. Kate reflects on the early days of being at the helm.

This is my first headship and I can honestly say that even though I have never worked harder in my life, I am enjoying every moment.

I took over the reins of Skerne Park Primary School, soon to become an Academy under the guardianship of Hummersknott Academy Trust, which runs Hummersknott Academy, in Darlington, in July. Since that time I have tried to put my own stamp on the future of this 400-pupil tightly-knit school and have had some very positive feedback from both parents and the teachers in doing so.

I believe that we have already made some significant strides forward.

A major move forward for me is that I have been able to very positively influence how the pupils learn. Back to basics with an emphasis on the 'three Rs' is something that I have always been a keen champion of, and I have been able to ensure that all pupils have basic skills sessions alongside English and Maths every day. Sadly, all too many children are leaving our primary schools without achieving these basic skills and it is putting them at a disadvantage when they enter the cut and thrust environments of their secondary schools.

I have also been able to reduce class sizes from 30 to 22 by re-organising the school curriculum. This has allowed the school's 17 teachers to focus more on individual pupils, as I truly believe that a more personalised rather than a one size fits all approach works best.

During the early stages of the conversion process under the guardianship of Hummersknott Academy Trust I have been delighted that we seem to be winning hearts and minds. The parents, in particular, are behind us, which is hugely important to me.

I have very high expectations of the children, and want to make a very positive difference to their futures. There is no reason why they can't achieve academic success, and go on eventually to university and successful and fulfilling careers. However, the building blocks for these bright futures need to be put in place at primary school stage rather than left to the hot houses of secondary schools.

We also wanted to change the appearance of our uniforms to mark the new direction we're taking. Pupils were invited to take part in a competition to design a new school logo; the only proviso being that it featured a frog - don't ask me why! Eleven-year old Alice Edkin's colourful design was the clear favourite.

The uniforms mark the start of a bright new chapter for the school, which is a feeder school for Hummersknott Academy. As part of its sponsorship, which formally comes into effect on February 1st next year, Hummersknott Academy Trust, the school's management body, pledged to pay for the 367 new uniforms.

I'm really proud that we've made this symbolic move forward. The pupils were actively involved in the design of the uniforms - they not only designed the logo but they also chose the colour red.

Looking ahead, we will mark the conversion in February of our school to an Academy with a real sense of excitement.

*Academy status means that a school is state funded but independent of local authority control. It makes all decisions on how its budget is spent and how it implements the national curriculum.

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