Ditched by a schools trust – but 18 months on Doncaster school is rated ‘good’

Just over 18 months ago, things looking worrying for Doncaster's newest primary school.

By David Kessen
Thursday, 28 March, 2019, 14:12

Having only opened in 2015, the school was facing an uncertain future.

The school’s first pupils arrivedc through the doods in September 2015, under the control of the Wakefield City Academies Trust. But in September 2017, the trust collapsed and announced all its academies needed new sponsors.

Now, less than two years on, despite the disruption caused by the collapse of WCAT, the school has been praised by Ofsted and rated as good.

Headteacher Richard Tuddenham is delighted.

Richard come to teaching later in life. After graduating from music college, he initially did music tuition, before joining the Grenadier Guards as one of the musicians in their regimental band. He has now been in teaching for 10 years.

He played all over the world in the army, and frequently performed for the Queen at events such as the Trooping of the Colour.

Year two children Isabella Remy, six, Millie Haggerty, six, Leo Sables, six and Oliver Beckett, seven, pictured in the Reading Area. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-26-02-19-CarrLodge-4

He was appointed as headteacher at Carr Lodge when it was still an empty plot of land, and since arriving in November 2014, he has seen it rise from the ground to its current position.

He helped choose the off-the-shelf design for the building, and the fittings inside. It boasts unusually wide corridors, or ‘streets’, which are used for teaching small groups, with furniture set our for such work.

The school opened its doors with 104 pupils in 2015. Numbers rose as the year went on, with pupils transferring from elsewhere. That has now risen to 380, and when it reaches capacity, there will be 420. Pupils come from Balby and beyond, not just from the new Woodfield Plantation estate in which it is located. The furthest come from Worksop.

He said: “It has been a lot of hard work getting the good grade from Ofsted.

Year One children pictured on the street are l-r Libby Browning, Thalia Hoden, Zach Firth and Krishan Rajpal, all six. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-26-02-19-CarrLodge-5

“We opened as a WCAT academy, but they disbanded in 2017. There were uncertain times, and we knew it was going to happen before the announcement.

“I think the children’s parents were asking if we were going to close.

“Then it was announced that we would be put under the Exceed trust, which had Edlington Hill Top and Edilngton Victoria schools.

“Hill Top had been supporting Victoria, and Beryce Nixon, who was headteacher of Hill Top  created the Exceed Learning Partnership. They paired up with us, and Sandringham Primary has also joined.

Year four children l-r Zak Constantine, nine, Ch Oliver, eight, Heidi Blakesley, eight and Olivia Whitworth, eight, pictured. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-26-02-19-CarrLodge-2

“What we did not have with WCAT was structures and support as a whole trust to drive things forward. I think the trust grew too quickly without the structures to back that up. With Exceed we now have the structures and support.

“I was having to do a lot of the business side of things that I now get support with from the trust. Exceed borough in new procedures that freed headteachers up, and gave us the support of a very experienced principal in Beryce Nixon.

“We now visit other schools to look at best practice.

“I’m really proud of the way the pupils have a sense of community and the harmonious atmosphere, and I’m really proud of the Ofsted grade we have been given. The support from Exceed has really helped push us to where we are.”

They launched a brand new curriculum in September, which tries to build the pupils transferrable skills.

They recently had Opera North in the school to help teach arts. They recently held their own art gallery, exhibited the pupils work.

Robbie Nightingale, seven, pictured with his handmade Long Boat and classmates Romeo Echianu, eight, Emma Battersby, eight, Freddie Cooper, eight and Ava Johnsen-Wilson, seven, who have been learning about Vikings in class. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-26-02-19-CarrLodge-1

They have their own school radio station, with pupils presenting and broadcasting every Friday, writing their own scripts, called Catt Lodge Academy Radio.

They have brought in parents' workshops, where youngsters mums and dads come in after school to learn about modern teaching methods, so they can better help their children at home.

And they have brought in a pupil parliament, which gives youngsters the chance to represent themselves and their interests at the school.

Among the work they have become involved in has been a project to encourage safe parking around the school .

Pupils are also taking up other responsibilities. A scheme called Playground Leaders has seen youngsters aged 10 to 11 working with other pupils to organise games and activities during the breaks between lessons.

Beryce Nixon, Executive Principal of Exceed Learning Partnership, praised the Principal and staff, adding “I am immensely proud of the team at Carr Lodge for their hard work and dedication to ensuring the best possible provision of education. The inspection outcome is a well-deserved reflection of their sustained efforts and unwavering commitment to our pupils.”

Ofsted - What they said: 

Carr Lodge Academy had a full two-day inspection at the end of January, which raged the school as ‘good’.

Inspectors were impressed with the outcomes for pupils, noting that “staff have been relentless in improving the quality of teaching, learning and assessment; as a result, the quality of teaching has improved over time and is good”.

The Ofsted report praised the leadership and management of the academy, identifying the Executive Principal, Principal, senior leaders and governors as a “strong and ambitious team who are determined every child will succeed” and who “have pinpointed the right priorities for development and take decisive action to ensure the continual improvement of the academy”.

Carr Lodge had made some significant changes since joining Exceed Learning Partnership, and the “well-directed efforts” of the Trust were equally acknowledged by Ofsted as having “re-energised leaders and helped to improve all aspects of the academy”.

Behaviour was also singled out for praise, with inspectors finding pupils “courteous, considerate and keen to learn”, contributing to a “harmonious atmosphere in the school”.