Graham Davis, Principal Designate of the Academy covers some of the key questions raised by prospective students and parents at the Year 5 Open Evenings held in June. If your question is not covered here or elsewhere on the website, please e-mail us and we will be happy to reply to your query.
1. What will be the proposed catchment area?
As explained at the Open Evening there is no catchment area for GWA and students will be admitted based on the distance they live from the school. Until we have our first round of admissions we have no clear idea how far away from school our intake will reach. Our strong advice is therefore that if you want to attend GWA you select us as your top choice when making your application.
2. What will be the school's capacity when full?
The Academy is being built to accommodate 1200 students, based on 5 year groups of 150 students in Years 7 to 11 and a large 6th form to serve the North Swindon area. We anticipate nearly all students staying at GWA for 7 years.
3. Can you confirm the approximate amount of children per class?
We anticipate the 150 students we admit will be taught in six teaching groups for most of their subjects, and also six tutor groups. This means an average group size of 25 students in Key Stage 3. This will reduce slightly at GCSE and in the Sixth Form as we accommodate the wide range of option choices for students.
4. What will be the setting policy?
We intend to set students by ability in core subjects right from the start, and will use Key Stage 2 results and other information from primary schools to do this. Importantly, sets will not be fixed and instead there will be regular movement between sets if students are not making best possible progress in their current group. In this way we will ensure students are appropriately challenged, right from day 1.
5. What assurances can you provide about teaching standards given there will be no OFSTED?
I can assure you that we will recruit the very best staff we can. All the teachers we recruit will be observed teaching before they are appointed, and I have plenty of experience in recruitment and training of staff from my previous roles; the appointment process will be very rigorous. Once in post all staff will continue to receive comprehensive training to ensure their practice remains at the highest standard possible. I can assure you that there will be no compromises about the quality of teaching and learning, it is GWA’s core business and will always be our top priority. I am sure that in due course Ofsted will agree that our classroom practice will be excellent.
6. What languages will be covered?
We will promote the study of languages strongly. It fits well with our enterprising ethos, and as someone who speaks two foreign languages very well I will certainly ensure students have the opportunity to take two languages at GCSE if they choose to do so. Our current plans are to offer French and Spanish to all students. I hope other languages, such as Mandarin, will develop in our enrichment time and may, in due course, become part of our main curriculum.
7. How closely will Year 7 and 12 work together?
Year 12 students will be expected to contribute to the life of the academy by supporting younger students in a variety of ways such as leading enrichment activities, supporting with literacy and numeracy, and establishing and promoting the school’s House system. Whilst their academy studies will be separate I expect that Year 7 and 12 students will know and support each other well during the first year of GWA.
8. I’d like to learn more about sports, music and art opportunities?
Within the curriculum all students will have PE, Dance, Drama, Music and Art lessons in Years 7 and 8 which, between them, comprise about 20% of curriculum time. All of these subjects will then be offered as GCSE and A-level choices. We also expect each of these subjects to be prominent in our enrichment time: sports teams training and competing against other schools; school productions which showcase performing arts talent; dance and drama companies and musical ensembles; and art exhibitions. We will also seek opportunities for students to work with top performers in these fields locally and nationally. I am a firm believer that success in sport or the arts can be a key part of developing into a successful and high achieving young adult.
9. Will enrichment activities be chargeable?
I can reassure you that we have no plans to charge for enrichment activities which run in the 3.15 to 4.30pm time period.
10. Will future admission criteria change e.g. to include siblings
We will consult on our admissions policy annually in the first years of the Academy, so please keep an eye out on the website for that. This will be due to the rapidly changing demographics and primary school provision in this part of Swindon. Part of any consultation will be whether to include different priorities, rather than just distance, as the Academy grows.
11. Will school buses be provided for areas outside Tadpole Farm?
Unfortunately we are not in a position to guarantee any school bus transport. However, we are currently working with local public bus companies about their provision and the routes they use close to the Academy and, depending on the distribution of successful applicants to GWA, we will consider supporting transport arrangements in the future.
12. What will the layout of the school look like?
A plan of the school can be viewed here.