Hillcrest Academy, in the heart of Chapeltown and formerly Hillcrest Primary School, was the first school in the primary sector to be sponsored by The GORSE Academies Trust. Following a long and extremely turbulent history, with 16 Headteachers in 20 years the school was in turmoil, culminating in an Ofsted judgement of Serious Weaknesses in 2013. The school also appeared in the national press in January 2012 as an ‘out of control school’ providing ‘anger management lessons’; indeed, relationships between the school and parents were fragile and became fractured.
Hillcrest Academy brings education to the 8th most deprived postal code in the country. The area is highly transient and is a first port of call for many families as they arrive in the UK often seeking refuge or asylum. Many children arrive unable to speak any English and a significant proportion have never been educated elsewhere prior to their arrival.
In March 2015 the leadership of the school was taken over by the current Principal Mark Randall, an experienced and inspirational school and local authority leader who immediately made rapid improvements. With his vision and firm belief that children have ‘one chance at education, and we are that one chance’, he instigated a complete overhaul of staffing, including a number of key new appointments who would change the face of teaching and learning for the children of Chapeltown.
warm, fresh and most importantly exciting learning environmentsThe old and tired building embarked on a programme of much needed renovation, developing neglected and unloved spaces into warm, fresh and most importantly exciting learning environments. The safety and wellbeing of staff and pupils, not to mention their conduct and behaviour for learning, became headline news for positive reasons. Children who had been overlooked and disregarded were rapidly developed into front-foot learners within the positive voice of their reinvigorated school community. Parents who had once threatened action against the school in its former position were welcomed into the academy community for the first time in many years, and adult classes to meet their needs were over-subscribed within weeks.
In late September 2016 Hillcrest Academy received its first inspection since joining The GORSE Academies Trust. All of us were delighted and so proud to have Hillcrest Academy judged as being an Outstanding school in every category. This judgement is of immense importance to the Chapeltown community, to the children who will now prosper in such a wonderful school and to the professionals who can be so proud of all that has been achieved in such a short space of time. We are also proud that the Ofsted team recognised the “remarkable impact” of The GORSE Academies Trust in bringing about this transformation in performance.
As it moves into the next stage of its development under Sam Done’s leadership, Hillcrest Academy will become a beacon of excellence across the city and an example of what can be achieved where professional standards are of the very highest calibre.