Almost a year after leaving Spalding High School for Skinners’ Academy in Hackney, headteacher Tim Clark says it has been a positive, life-changing experience.
That is not to say, however, that the year has been plain-sailing – Skinners’ Academy initially presented some issues that were a far-cry from those Mr Clark had faced at Spalding High School.
Not only is Hackney the seventh most deprived borough in the country, but the second-most in London.
“I knew what to expect to a certain extent when I made the decision to come here, but I was surprised by the behaviour of some students in terms of being disrespectful and in some cases even violent,” said Tim.
“Staff morale was also very low- 40% of the initial 2010 staff had left within the first three years.”
However, the former Lincolnshire resident has faced these problems head-on, with a zero-tolerance policy to bulling, violence and rudeness to teachers.
“Although I have had to exlude more students in one year than I did in 12 as head at SHS, the rate of suspensions has dropped dramatically since October half term, by which point it had become clear to pupils that the staff and I were going to stick to our guns.”
Indeed, the headmaster’s changes have had a noticeable impact upon the academy; in a report compiled by the local authority earlier this year, it was stated that the school had been transformed into a safer, quieter and better-disciplined place to learn.
Mr Clark’s approach has not been solely-focussed on discipline though; the new school motto is “Be the best you can”, and this is something that has been taken seriously- while students were previously given very little choice in regards to the subjects they could study, they are now able to find their own path.
“Every pupil can achieve, but not necessarily in the same way and it is important to facilitate this.
“Alongside putting rules in place, we also offer genuine pastoral care – I want to create a happy school where children can receive a great education and the vast majority of parents, students and staff have been very supportive of this vision.”
While Mr Clark is thoroughly enjoying his position as headmaster at the London school, he admits that he misses his friends, family and collegues in Lincolnshire.
Speaking to the Spalding Guardian last year, Tim said: “Spalding High School is such a positive, well-disciplined and caring community.”
Nevertheless, Mr Clark is looking forward to the continuation of the work he has started at the Hackney academy.
“Our aim is to become the best school in London, and I feel that it is a realistic one. Skinners’ Academy has tremendous potential and I am very fired up about what we are doing here.”