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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Only way is up as Furness Academy in Barrow helps pupils achieve

PUPILS and staff of a Barrow secondary school are eager for the community to come and see their vibrant activities and share their facilities.

Pupils have told how much they enjoy the exciting science experiments, fun engineering tasks and climbing wall challenges at Furness Academy – and they want others to share in the fun.

Barrow Academy is working to come out of special measures. Pupils and the new acting principal, Kevin Gill, who stepped in when executive principal Des Herlihy left due to ill health, have stressed that the school is not a closed shop, but a hub which is very much open to the community.

The academy already works closely with primary schools; pupils use the academy sports and theatre facilities for free and academy pupils are reading mentors for the youngsters.

Barrow Raiders train at the academy and others also use the top sports areas. From September a competition athletics track will also be ready, a collaboration between the academy, Barrow and Furness Striders, Barrow Borough Council and Sport England. Senior pupils want the community to see all the exciting things they are involved with and the improvements they are experiencing.

Mr Gill said: “We were really encouraged when we were interviewing for the new headboy and headgirl because the pupils have really strong feelings about the quality of teaching and education.

“They feel it is not understood in the community that they are really happy with the school. They said ‘if people don’t know what it is like at Furness Academy then they should come in and see it’.

“They are happy and that is the most important thing to us. There are lots of exciting thing happening but the most important thing is the quality of what the pupils get every day in the classroom. That is what we are working on, exciting and engaging lessons.

“Pupils feel that issues are dealt with swiftly and fairly and they feel safe. All those things are positive indicators of the school making good progress. Attendance has also improved.

“There has been a perception that the academy is closed and you can’t come in, but that is not the case. Come and see us, there is nothing to hide here, behaviour is good, pupil engagement is good, we are proud of our pupils and staff.”

Assistant principal, Helen Robinson, said the events for Year Five primary children visiting the school had been really successful. One hundred parents took up the offer to also attend.

Mrs Robinson said: “We’ve had lots of positive comments from the parents.

“A lot of parents were surprised.”

Next week the academy hosts a sports summer camp for Year Fives to Year Eight. Academy pupils and ex-pupils will be helping out. During the last two weeks of the holidays there is a camp around fun literacy and numeracy activities for pupils joining Year Seven.

The academy’s sports day is to take place in September around the launch of the sports track. Mr Gill said: “You won’t find many schools with a competition running track and a 3G pitch. We recognise we have fantastic facilities and we want to share them with our community.”

Mr Gill says the school faces challenges and much more hard work, but he said: “Our aim is to be a good school. The academy was set up with businesses but that is not our mindset, our mindset is about being a good school and getting the best outcomes for our pupils. We believe we are doing all the right things and we will push on relentlessly.”

The last Ofsted monitoring report noted low staff morale in light of redundancies. Mrs Robinson said: “Staff already feel a difference. We have listened to the staff and they have responded really positively to Kevin being in place and they know he is someone who understands the school, the pupils, the staff and the area and the whole team is passionate about getting behind him and driving forward.”

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