Educating Norfolk: Celebrating success at Ormiston Venture Academy in Gorleston

Ormiston Venture Academy gets outstanding across the board in Ofsted report - Principal Nicole McCartney with some of the pupils.

Picture: James Bass Ormiston Venture Academy gets outstanding across the board in Ofsted report - Principal Nicole McCartney with some of the pupils. Picture: James Bass

Friday, February 28, 2014
7:00 AM

As Oriel High School in Gorleston, it struggled through special measures, a financial crisis and five headteachers in six years. It could have been just the school in a coastal town Sir Michael Wilshaw rang the alarm bells about last year.

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Ormiston Venture Academy gets outstanding across the board in Ofsted report - Principal Nicole McCartney with some of the pupils.

Picture: James Bass

Ormiston Venture Academy gets outstanding across the board in Ofsted report - Principal Nicole McCartney with some of the pupils. Picture: James Bass

Now, as Ormiston Venture Academy, it is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted and has seen the proportion of children achieving five GCSEs at C or above, including English and maths, rise from 36pc in 2010 to 58pc last year.

The school became an academy in September 2010 under new principal Nicole McCartney.

She said one of her first jobs was to put proper data tracking systems in place, and data remains “crucial” for the school.

She said: “It’s important to measure the impact of everything you do. When you go to schools that are not doing well, it’s because they are not looking at the impact of the work they are doing.”

Ms McCartney said raising aspirations, of pupils and teachers, was another key task. She said there was a culture of blaming pupils when she arrived, but now “there is no can’t, won’t or don’t”.

“One of the things I said to staff when I arrived was students’ attainment on entry mattered not to where they should be when they leave. Our job is to make sure students leave with whatever qualifications they need for what they want to do as their next step”, she said.

She said no child is targeted for anything lower than a C for anything, and if they can achieve a C it is time to move on to the B, and if the B is achieved they move on to the A.

She said every child has a personalised support programme, with breakfast clubs and places for children to study after school. This is also open to school alumni.

She said the school sets high standards of uniform and behaviour, and “all these are things that have to be held up at all times. It’s everybody’s responsibility. I think where some schools go wrong is when there’s one, two or three people responsible for behaviour. In this academy, everyone is responsible for behaviour. The same is true for achievement.”

She said money was not the reason for the school’s transformation, which took place while pupils were taught in leaky corridors, not the £8 million building which opened in September.

And the drive to improve remains: “What we said to staff at the start of this academic year was ‘outstanding’ is the starting point. We are not done. We are not done until 100pc of students achieve five GCSEs, including maths and English. Outstanding is a jumping-off point.”

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