It’s the great class equipment giveaway at a Blackpool secondary school.
Highfield Leadership Academy in South Shore is offering a host of key items free of charge to parents of pupils enrolling for Year Seven at the start of 2020-21 academic year.
Bosses at Star Academies, the Trust of which Highfield is a member, says it is designed to ease the financial burden for parents and is a reaction to feedback from them.
The result is the Back To School Bundle, which includes a school uniform, school sports kit, laptop, scientific calculator, stationery set, dictionary and thesaurus as well as a Summer School place – all free.
Applying only to Year Seven pupils joining the school in September 2020, it is also being piloted at other schools in the Blackburn-based Star Academies group and if successful and well received by parents, Star bosses say it is set to be rolled out further, although not to other years.
A spokesman for Highfield Leadership Academy said: “Starting a new school is a big change for a child and can be an expensive time for parents.
“In response to feedback from many parents about the cost of kitting out their children for school, we are offering a free Back to School Bundle to all Year 7 pupils joining us next September.
“It is part of our wider investment plan to improve our pupils’ experience and reduce the financial burden on our parents.
“We want each and every one of our pupils to have access to the essential learning resources they need, at school and at home, so we are providing everything parents need to ensure their child is ready to start school.”
The school, in Highfield Road, was taken over from its previous council control in 2016 by the Tauheedul Education Trust, which has since changed its name to Star Academies.
The takeover followed months of talks over how to improve the school’s performance, with the school in special measures after Ofsted inspectors became so concerned about pupils’ behaviour they ordered senior teachers to write an action plan before their visit was over.
Amid increased competition in the area following the opening of Armfield Academy, Highfield had suffered falling number in recent years. Ofsted figures show that it had 1,114 pupils in 2014 when it was still a council-run school, while last year it had 857.
Earlier this year, Ofsted inspectors went back to Highfield, six months after it was put in special measures and branded ‘inadequate’.
In a letter to the school’s headteacher Andrew Galbraith, who was appointed shortly after December’s damning report, Anne Seneviratne from the education watchdog said staff were “taking effective action” with an improvement plan “fit for purpose”.
A major overhaul of staff, with at around 15 new teachers coming in or set to come in, has had a “positive impact” she said, adding: “As a result, Highfield Leadership Academy is in a much better place now than it was at the time of the last inspection.
“That said, there is still a long way to go if all pupils are to benefit from a high-quality education. Leaders are very much aware of how much remains to be done and the scale of the task ahead.
“Particularly impressive is their determination in the face of this challenge. Leaders demonstrate a tangible commitment to their pupils and the wider community.”
Star Academies “acted swiftly” by bringing in Mr Galbraith, Ms Seneviratne said, and he has been at the “forefront of the implementation of new systems in school, particularly in relation to behaviour”.
There has been “some improvement” in the overall quality of teaching in the six months, Ofsted said, though many pupils were “still not benefiting from routinely high-quality teaching across their subjects, which is having a significant negative impact on their progress”.
A full complement of permanent teaching staff was planned from this new academic year, as, at the time of the report, many pupils were still not being taught by a permanent specialist teacher, with the negative impact particularly evident in English, where only a small percentage benefit from consistently strong teaching.
A crackdown on bad behaviour had worked, and pupils told inspectors the amount of bullying had dropped, with leaders praised for their efforts to change the school’s culture.
The number of children being excluded remained “very high”, however, which has “exacerbated the school’s low attendance figure”, which remains well below the national average.
Tougher sanctions for lateness had improved punctuality, though that too remained an issue.
The report said that last year’s Highfield cohort of Year 11 pupils had been “badly affected by the legacy of poor leadership and teaching in recent years”, and recent efforts to boost their performance would “have only had a limited effect”.
Pupils in other year groups are also not making good enough progress, though teachers were now working to address the problem.
Mr Galbraith said in a statement at the time of the Ofsted return report: “We recognise there is still a lot of work to do and we remain passionately committed to getting things right for our young people and our community.”