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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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New Barrow headteacher shares his ambitions for keeping up school’s high standards

A BARROW headteacher has spoken of a challenging but fulfilling few months, after finishing his first term in charge of a local primary school.

FIRST TERM Newbarns Primary School headteacher Gary Birkett

Gary Birkett took over at Newbarns Primary School in September from long-time headteacher, Jill Byrne, and has immediately adjusted to life at Barrow’s biggest primary school.

He said: “I have been at the school for 17 years and throughout that time I thought I was prepared for headship and had seen everything that there was to see, but there is such a variety in the job.

“In my second day as head, I was cleaning up dog dirt outside the school. Then immediately after that you have meetings with the local authority and parents. It’s certainly never boring.

“I just feel privileged to be head here. The pupils, parents and staff make the job worthwhile.”

Mr Birkett has already got to work introducing a number of changes at the school, including increasing the number of senior teaching assistants in each class to work with smaller groups of pupils.

Most classes now have one or two extra members of staff, which allow literacy and numeracy groups to be tailored to learn specific skills during lessons.

Mr Birkett said: “We’ve almost doubled the amount of teaching support at the school. It means there are sometimes three adults teaching in a class.

“It helps teachers set tasks for groups of pupils who might be struggling with a certain topic. The teaching support can then give that extra one-to-one help.

“We are a big school with 30 children per class, and parents often ask ‘how can the teacher give the right amount of attention to my child?’

“With more teaching support, we can make sure that children get really good assistance and feedback.”

Newbarns Primary School was rated as “outstanding” in every department in its 2013 Ofsted report, meaning Mr Birkett’s focus has been to maintain the high standard of education and extra curricular activities on offer.

He said: “We have got to make sure that we are not complacent, and highlight strengths and any improvements.”

Mr Birkett, whose two children also attend Newbarns, has ambitions of expanding the nursery provision provided at the school.

In January, a new “quadblogging” initiative by David Mitchell will be introduced to give pupils the chance to write in a number of styles.

The school will team up three other schools across the country, encouraging peer assessment.

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