A “super” headteacher who has taken over a Blackpool school which was blighted with problems and slammed by inspectors has told how he offered to help struggling resort schools eight years ago.
Colin Simkins is the new principal of Aspire Academy, the merged Bispham and Collegiate high schools, having earned Hodgson Academy an outstanding Ofsted rating and raised its GCSE results passes.
He left the Poulton school in 2005 to work with troubled schools nationally and just 12 months later returned to the Fylde coast to offer his expertise to Blackpool schools but said he was turned away by education bosses.
He was then approached, last year, to take over Aspire, coming out of retirement to do so, after both Bispham and Collegiate saw a slump in GCSE grades and were slammed by inspectors over standards of behaviour, attendance, discipline and teaching.
Now six weeks into his full-time role at the Bispham Road school, the school leader has said he cannot fathom why children in Blackpool shouldn’t have the same outstanding education as their peers just a few miles away in Wyre and Fylde schools and said using excuses of the resort’s socio-economic problems just won’t cut it.
He said: “I want to shake people, why are we not doing as good as or better than schools nationally that have the same problems? There’s no excuse.
“I was disappointed to be turned away.
“There’s something not right, so I’m trying to put that right and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Mr Simkins is well known in the area having raised GCSE results passes by 50 per cent as headteacher at Hodgson Academy, on Moorland Road.
He then moved to work with the Specialist Schools Academy Trust, an organisation which offers advice to schools to raise attainment levels, work which saw him awarded an OBE for his services to education.
Now he is determined to turn around the fortunes of the former Bispham and Collegiate high schools, which saw a slump in GCSE grades and pupil numbers, and were slammed by inspectors over standards of behaviour, attendance, discipline and teaching in the last year.
Mr Simkins, who took up post in Easter spending one day a week in school, said: “I came to Blackpool in 2006 to ask did they need any help, as part of my job with the Trust, but they turned me away.
“They said they were doing OK, but Blackpool wasn’t doing OK.
“I was disappointed they said no because they were in the same place they are now.”
When Mr Simkins started at Hodgson in 2002, having had headships at schools in Salford and Rochdale before that, its headline GCSE figure stood at 52 per cent. Bispham’s this year stood at 45 per cent.
The headteacher has vowed to raise this, just as he did at Hodgson where the pass rate ran up into the 80s.
He said: “It wasn’t in a good shape. I set about rebuilding the school and in three years we got it an outstanding (Ofsted rating).
“I did it up the road and I’ll do it here.”
The headteacher said he was “saddened” to read about the troubles that plagued Bispham High School, during the last academic year.
Months after it was revealed the school would be merging with Collegiate its headteacher resigned and later its governing body did likewise, in protest to plans to convert the school to academy status.
A number of damning Ofsted reports followed, highlighting unruly behaviour and inconsistent standards of teaching in the school.
And the school attracted the attention of then education minister Michael Gove when a teenage pupil staged a walkout from lessons in protest at conditions.
Both secondary schools faced upheaval as a number of teaching staff left and Collegiate pupils were schooled in a building that was agreed to be no longer fit for purpose.
Mr Simkins said: “I feel very sad to think about that year, the students had to suffer through that and I feel for the staff.
“We’ve got a long way to go but we’re going to aspire and show Blackpool pupils can achieve and be successful.”