Year one report: Arcadia Preparatory SchoolJune 22, 2017, 5:15 am GMT
As the school year draws to a close, we catch up with the schools that opened in September 2017 to see how they fared in their first year of operation, the lessons learned, and priorities for year two.
This week we speak to Arcadia Preparatory School principal Graham Beale, who joined the school from another British curriculum school in the Middle East.
In your own words, how did the school fare in its first year?
The Arcadia Preparatory School has quickly developed a very positive reputation founded on a warm and vibrant school environment and on ensuring our children's needs are met through an enriched and exciting curriculum. We provide the new English National Curriculum enhanced with in-school enrichment and homework support as part of our extended day. Most importantly, we focus on making sure that our parents are welcomed and involved as partners in their child's learning journey.
Did you achieve the targets you had set for the school's first year of operation? Are you happy with the school's performance in its first year?
We are very much on track with our plans and in many respects we are ahead of projections and initial expectations for the first year of operation. Our children are achieving excellent academic results and our talented team of teachers and assistants has ensured a great start for our learners. Our school motto is 'nurture lifelong learning' and the development of our house system and six core 'Arcadia Values' has allowed us to develop a strong identity and sense of collective purpose, which I am sure will stand us in good stead for the next phase of our growth and development.
With 14 new schools having opened at the same time as yours, how did you set yourself apart from the competition?
We were determined that Arcadia would be continually innovative and that ethos is now a core aspect of who we are as a school. One of our real strengths is our ability to make decisions and innovate quickly due to the nature of our streamlined management structure and our team approach, which begins from the top with an extremely supportive and dynamic board of governors.
We asked parents what frustrations they face and from their responses we developed three key points of difference in our offering: an all inclusive fee structure, in-school enrichment learning at no extra cost, and in-school homework support. Most importantly, we ensure that our parents feel welcomed in our school and that they are valued as partners in their child's learning journey.
Did you have to adjust your expectations in any way? How did you deal with any disappointments or challenges?
In all honesty I can say that our expectations have been met. Our enrolment on day one was lower than originally forecast but that quickly changed once we became established and known. From that point on we have not looked back, and enrolment across the year has now more than doubled, so we are growing at a faster than expected rate with absolutely no signs of it slowing down.
If there is one thing you could have done differently this year, what would it be?
Ideally it would have been great to have had access to our new building a few months ahead of opening, however we were faced with some unexpected building delays. Despite this, and with only a few days prior to our opening, we moved all resources and furniture in to our beautiful new campus. This was an amazing team effort and I am very proud of the fact that we opened on the day that we promised our parents and pupils.
What are your priorities for the school's second year?
Our staff numbers will double and our roll will do the same. Along with that growth will come exciting developments in our enrichment learning programme, the implementation for the first time of sports teams and squads, development of performing and visual arts programmes, the bringing on stream of our enterprise hub and the embedding a new learning strand based on entrepreneurship. Through all of this we are determined to maintain a family-friendly feel in our school and to continue to work in close partnership with our parent body.
How many new students do you expect to enrol next year?
Based on current enrolments and projections we expect to start the next academic year with over 300 pupils from Foundation Stage 1 through to Year 5 (adding Year 6 in 2018-19). Interestingly, we also have quite a large number of parents who have enrolled their children to start school two to three years ahead, to ensure they will have a place secured at Arcadia in the future.
How many teachers will you be recruiting? Where will you recruit them from?
We will be recruiting twelve new teachers, mostly from the UK, but also including some from top international British curriculum schools around the world.
What advice would you give to principals of new schools opening in September 2017?
Enjoy the journey because the time goes quickly. Starting a new school to me seems analogous to parenting a new baby; getting through the first year is such a busy task that unless one is careful, there is the risk of not fully appreciating each remarkable little step of growth along the way.
No. of teachers: 17 teachers and 7 assistant teachers currently, with a total of 29 teachers and 11 assistants teachers for next academic year.
No. of students: 133 currently with a projection of 300 for the next academic year.
Year groups the school opened with: FS1 1 to Year 4 (Year 5 will be added in 2017/18)
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