It truly was an evening to remember at University Academy Holbeach on Thursday, as the school reflected on the past, celebrated the present and looked forward to the future.
Before certificates were given out to last year’s Year 11 and sixth form students, principal Steve Baragwanath spoke about a remarkable few years.
He then revealed that the academy’s aspiration is to be the school of first choice for all children in the area and said he believes it is well on the way to achieve that objective.
Mr Baragwanath reflected on how the George Farmer Secondary Modern School was opened on the site in 1958. Up until the turn of the century, the school progressed, teaching from between 250 to 550 students.
In 2000 the school was awarded Technology College status and in 2004 it retained this status and gained an additional Language College status.
This was followed in 2006 with the school being awarded, very unusually, its third specialism – Vocational status. The school was identified as an HPSS (a High Performing Specialist School) and this then led to the approval for the school to start a sixth form in 2008.
During that period, it was asked to lead St Guthlac’s School in Crowland, which was then followed by Lincolnshire County Council education authority’s decision to close St Guthlac’s, giving students the opportunity to attend the Holbeach site.
In 2011 the school became University Academy Holbeach and in 2014 the new buildings were officially opened.
The Academy now houses well over 1,200 students, more than double its size 10 years ago, and in the eight years since the sixth form started, this has grown from nine students to just under 300, making it one of the largest in Lincolnshire, and one of the most successful.
Furthermore, the UAH was one of the first schools to deliver apprenticeships and it now has the largest number of school apprentices in the country at 90.
The academy has a planned admission number of 180 pupils and for the last two years has been seriously oversubscribed, last year receiving over 250 first choices. This year, the provisional numbers clearly indicate the academy will be oversubscribed by at least 90 first choices.
“It would be fair to say the aspiration for the academy is to be a school of first choice for all children in the area and I believe we are well on the way to achieve that objective,” said Mr Baragwanath.
He went on to say just why he thinks so many parents want their children to attend the UAH:
• It has excellent, dedicated and specialist teachers who are able to deliver a wide-ranging curriculum which has an emphasis on English, mathematics and science.
• Its pupils have consistently demonstrated high level performance against the government key measure Progress 8. On average, students at UAH achieve a grade in every subject that is more than a third higher than the national average.
• It enjoys 100 per cent pass rate in the sixth form, with the average BTEC grade a distinction, and well over 100 students have gone to university since the sixth form opened.
• UAH students have enjoyed tremendous success with vocational programmes, with a 90 per cent apprenticeships success rate.
• Sport and PE, Music, Drama and the arts are flourishing and a large group of students engaged in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards with many going on to achieve their Gold Awards.
• UAH has a comprehensive and effective revision programme that includes Saturday schools and Easter School revision activities.
• The school is committed to ensuring that pupils display very high levels of behaviour and respect in the academy, which was noted as a strength in February’s Ofsted report, which confirmed again that the UAH is a ‘good’ school.
• Ofsted also described the vocational and apprenticeship programmes as ‘gobsmacking’.
But the last word went to guest of honour Mary Stuart, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln, who said: “This is one of the best schools in the country and the teachers are bringing out the excellence in every student.”
The winners were as follows:
• Best Academic Achievement went to Jack Day and was sponsored by University of Lincoln.
• Best Effort went to Daniel Drewry and was sponsored by University of Lincoln.
• Apprenticeship L2 went to Sophie Lunny and was sponsored by Glen Farrow.
• Apprenticeship L3 went to Megan Griffin and was sponsored by Bakkavor.
• Foundation Post 16 Award went to Callum Pearson and was sponsored by Maggie Ward.
• Best Duke of Edinburgh Student went to Nicole Hayes and was sponsored by Taylors Bulbs.
• Paddy Palgrave Art Award went to Casey Lenton.
• Contribution to School Life went to Kelly Wan and was sponsored by A.H. Worth.
• Contribution to 6th Form Life went to Benjamin Ford and was sponsored by QV Foods.
• 6th Form Principal’s Award went to Daisy Leeming and was sponsored by Mr A Breckon.
• Pat Brewer Special Endeavour Award went to Frederick Jellyman.
• Terry Harrington Shield went to George Biggs.
• Geoff Capes Award went to Joseph Fowler.
• Gill Graper Shield went to Stefan Gostic.