New principal sets sights on Ormiston Venture Academy becoming ‘world class’

Simon Gilbert-Barnham who is the new principal of Ormiston Venture Academy. Picture: James Bass

Simon Gilbert-Barnham who is the new principal of Ormiston Venture Academy. Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

The new principal of a Norfolk academy has set his sights on the school becoming 'world class'.

Simon Gilbert-Barnham started in his new role at Ormiston Venture Academy, in Gorleston, this month, taking the reins from former principal Nicole McCartney.

Ms McCartney will be keeping an office at the school, splitting her time between a new national role on the Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT) and work as Venture's executive principal.

Mr Gilbert-Barnham praised Ms McCartney's efforts in leading the school to an outstanding Ofsted rating, but insisted staff had a lot more to do.

'What we've done so far is absolutely fantastic,' he said. 'Reaching outstanding was the change that needed to happen.


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'I would love to say it was a job done, but it's nowhere near.

'We want to go much further than that and are aiming to be world class.

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'We want to make all the changes we have sustainable and there's an awful lot still to do.'

He previously taught in Australia before emigrating to the UK in 2003.

Mr Gilbert-Barnham joined Venture's predecessor school – Oriel High School – that year, and was vice-principal before he started in his new role.

His first term as principal coincides with the completion of an £8m new wing at the school, and he showed off the airy new-build yesterday.

'This is the building the students and community have deserved,' he said. 'One of the big things we're doing is having a university-style union. We've introduced some technology to help them be lifelong learners, empowering our students.'

One of the lecture theatres is called the McCartney theatre – in recognition of Ms McCartney's work in turning the previously failing school around.

Last week it hosted a conference of 60 headteachers and school governors, and Mr Gilbert-Barnham said the new leadership structure at the school was helping them share best practice.

'We've got a real culture of development of our staff and talent management to ensure everyone becomes the best they can,' he explained. 'It's change but it's change for all the right reasons and every single child who comes here will succeed.'

Ms McCartney said of her continuing role at the school: 'We work together on strategy and direction but Simon is running the academy every day and I now have a national role with Ormiston Academies Trust.'

Her title at the trust is national director of partnership and performance. 'It means I'm sharing outstanding practice around the network,' she said.

The new leadership structure comprises executive principal, principal, deputy and four assistant principals.

The school is keen to develop links with the community, and is hosting its next open evening on October 3 from 5.30pm to 7.30pm.

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