The only way is up for Havant Academy

Principal Julie Taylor outside of the school. ''Havant Academy, (formerly Staunton School) Wakefords Way, Havant.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (13205-637)
Principal Julie Taylor outside of the school. ''Havant Academy, (formerly Staunton School) Wakefords Way, Havant.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (13205-637)
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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Three years ago, Staunton Community Sports College was earmarked for closure.

With just nine per cent of students getting the ‘gold standard’ GCSE results of five or more A*-C grades including English and maths, morale was low.

But a spirited campaign by parents and members of the community kept the school open and in September 2010 it opened as Havant Academy.

Now, ‘gold standard’ GCSE results have gone up to 29 per cent with the government setting a target of 45 per cent for this year.

It comes as the school is reaching the end of a £10m revamp.

Principal Julie Taylor was brought in when the academy opened and says she has noticed huge changes.

‘The school was in special measures before I arrived,’ she says. ‘Morale was low.’

‘Children weren’t achieving as they should be and standards in teaching weren’t as they should be. The school was going to close. It was only pressure from local parents and the community that kept it open.

‘Hampshire County Council wanted to close it. There was a lot of community feeling to have a school here for this side of Leigh Park.’

So Mrs Taylor was brought to the school in 2010 to turn things around and give the community a new start.

‘The biggest thing to do was to improve exam results,’ she adds.

‘It’s been about transforming expectations. The children here traditionally don’t expect to do well. Their expectations of the education they would get here were low.

‘Sadly some of that was due to the teaching that took place. People thought “what do we expect for children who live in Leigh Park?”

‘It’s about getting the children to dream about getting to university.’

The school has been transformed over the last few months with new furniture across the academy.

Purple, red, green and pink sofas stand out in the new library, which provides private reading areas to promote one-to-one student to teacher reading.

The school has a hair and beauty salon, which is open to the public, a new theatre and an Apple Mac suite.

All of the 500 students have been provided with their own laptop, giving them the opportunity to continue their studies at home.

Mrs Taylor adds: ‘When I came here I told children and parents that I would change things and make things the best they could be.

‘The building provides the physical evidence of that.

‘Behaviour wasn’t good when I came here. There’s a calm atmosphere here now. That’s part of the social skills which are so important. I have worked hard on teaching them social skills. Before, the children would have been running around. Now it’s a completely different world.’

Staff are working hard to improve literacy levels, which in turn, should bring up the GCSE results.

The children have a 20-minute period of reading every day.

And it’s not just the children – every member of staff takes some time out to read as well, in a bid to inspire and encourage the children.

From the old-fashioned paper book, to a more up-to-date text on a Kindle, the school falls silent at 10.30am every day.

‘The whole academy stops, including staff,’ Mrs Taylor says. ‘Everybody stops, picks up a book, and reads.

‘We as adults feel it’s really important that we act as models to the young people.

‘It’s been absolutely fantastic. Children didn’t talk about reading before. They saw it as a chore instead of a pleasure. Before, children would have missed out a question on an exam paper if they didn’t understand a word.’

When Havant Academy opened, the slate was wiped clean with Ofsted. The school has had a monitoring visit but is expecting its first full inspection in June.

And Mrs Taylor says she remains optimistic that things will continue to get better at the school.

‘I’m very confident. We are already making improvements that are faster than the national improvement rates.

‘All the signs are that we will continue to be really successful in the future.

‘Parents’ expectations are high now. They expect them to leave the academy with a good set of results.’

What pupils think

THEY have seen a huge change since starting life at the school.

So what do the pupils think about Havant Academy?

Jack Ryder, 15, says: ‘It looks much better than last time. There is more stuff to do around the school. It’s a better working place to be around. We’ve got more space to work independently.’

Alex Cole, 15, adds: ‘It looks much better than a few years back. It’s more modern than it used to be. There are better facilities.

‘It’s a better environment to learn in. I think it boosts confidence as well.’

Connie Cole, 15, says: ‘It’s got a lot better. The teachers seem to have come round and relate to us instead of seeing us as kids. It gives us more responsibility and that helps with learning.’

The old school

Staunton Sports Community College was on the edge of Staunton Country Park in Leigh Park.

The school suffered poor GCSE results over a period of years. This led to Hampshire County Council vowing to close down the school.

But after parents and the local community protested against the plans, it was saved from closure.

In August 2010, the school was closed and Havant Academy was opened as Hampshire’s first academy.

But less than a year later, South Downs College pulled out of the deal to sponsor the school.

Then, a year ago, the academy confirmed that the Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT) was its new sponsor.