Mr Steve Adams – Principal of Pix Brook Academy – March 2019

Guest Speaker was Mr Steve Adams who has been appointed Principal of the yet-to be-built Pix Brook Academy.

Mr Adams gave a presentation based on the following notes, which are just indicative at the moment and do not represent a commitment: –

Areas to discuss:

  • The process to this point.
  • The Build-temporary site; the permanent site.
  • BEST involvement and working with the LA / DfE.
  • The timeline for the next term.
  • Recruitment: staff.
  • Expectations for September. 

The process to this point.

LA requested to the DfE that there were insufficient places in Stotfold and requested funding to build a new school. All the money for the permanent site is funded centrally from the ESFA. BEST responded to the invite to bid to run the school. This is over three years ago.

I was appointed once the process had progressed and have been involved intermittently over the last few months. In large part this has involved preparing information for the DfE to agree the plans and organisation for the school and the appointment of the contractor to build the school. Questions in relation to location and temporary sites are in the hand of the LA and the DfE.

At this point the DfE have agreed to enter into a funding agreement with BEST in relation to Pix Brook and the LA are working with a preferred contractor in relation to the build. This is currently in a ten-day cooling off period although the contractor has started the process of consultation. I’ll speak more of this later.

We have begun the process of appointing our governing body. Sue Howley, NLG and previously Chair of Governors at Fairfield lower is our Chair of Governors. I am particularly pleased about this, not only because of her experience as a Governor at Fairfield as it was being built but also because we both spent a number of years on the governing body at Vandyke Upper School.

The Build

Delighted that the temporary build is on track. It is a relatively simple design including four classes, a social space / dining room and some office space. It is a permanent structure and will be used by BEST when we transfer across to the permanent site. It’s about £2 million build cost.

Permanent site is frankly going to be an amazing build. Its over £25 million of brand-new facilities with all the resources one would expect. A contractor has been appointed but the process has to have a ten day “cooling off” period before this is announced. However, the contractor is currently organising a public consultation on the 5th April. Location at Fairfield Lower School. You will receive a leaflet advising you about that soon.

Both contractors presented similar structures, it is located behind the new Stotfold football ground on Arlesey Road. This land was provided by the LA. It’s a three-floor building with community resources and everything one would expect from a new school. The land allocated is significantly greater than one would normally receive for a free school.

Quick note on free school. All new school must either be a free school or extend an existing school. Extending existing school has become much more difficult so most new school are free schools. This is simply government policy and has meant that the process for their creation has tightened up significantly. We now have a significant set of rules to follow, this has come about to prevent inappropriate bodies running free schools.

The permanent site is designed around three floors for Year 5 to Year 11 pupils. 180 per year group filling over seven years to a capacity of 1,260 pupils. I have been involved in the design process, although as a lay person my contribution revolves around the areas that effect the day to day running of the school. I was particularly concerned about separation for KS2 pupils and KS4, circulation around the building, dining facilities and community use. I can’t pretend not be a little frustrated that some of the things I would choose to have are not included in the DfE’s framework. However, when one takes a step back and looks at what is being provided it quickly becomes apparent that this is somewhat churlish. Frankly it is going to be an amazing building.

BEST involvement with DfE and LA

My involvement as an employee of BEST, from (23rd April) is to facilitate the process of opening the school. I cannot say that this is not tight. I could not be released from my current school, and so time has been fairly restricted. This evening is a good case in point, my school has its end of term disco this evening and my absence is noted. That changes in a few weeks. At that point it will accelerate. Ultimately the DfE are providing the funding to the LA to build the school, the LA have provided the land and BEST have been appointed to run the school. Obviously, these responsibilities overlap but they are distinct.

Timeline for the next stage.

My first job is to appoint the staff. There has been a lot of interest. Many colleagues are interested in working at a new school and working with me to set the culture. In three words I’m interested in working with colleagues who are passionate about education, who manifest this in terms of their ambition for their pupils and themselves, who aspire to achieve great outcomes, both academic and more broadly and perhaps most importantly and maybe the most difficult to measure or assess have a moral purpose that is based on understanding our social responsibility to this community and this planet. For example, less than 1% of the UK population can use sign language, I believe we have a responsibility to include all members of our society in communication and teaching the basics of sign language is a step towards that. This will be something that can be taught as part of our assembly programme or tutor times.  As part of my recruitment process, I’ll be asking all prospective staff what broader contribution they and the school can make to our community.

Adverts will be going out early next week. Initially, I am looking to appoint primary teachers and some specialist staff. I’m also keen to appoint a senior leader, either as assistant vice principal or vice principal. This is obviously a key appointment for me, the first member of the leadership team to work with me to contribute and build the culture and ethos of the school. If you know of any high-quality staff, ideally who live locally and know and understand our context who are passionate, committed and have a track record of success please direct them to the PBA website.

While this is happening, I am working with the local lower schools and other BEST partners to ensure that we fit the transition arrangements for pupils. The arrangements have been complicated by the newness of the school, however once the funding agreement is signed with the DfE then offer letters can be sent to parents. As I understand it that will happen tomorrow.

There are obviously a multitude of organisational and pragmatic problems to solve. This range from things a basic as where I am going to be based until the temporary site is built. That is due to be handed over to best at the end of August. I’m trying to borrow a space at Etonbury until then. It is currently on target. Obviously, the permanent site has a number of stages to go through. These include planning, highways, appointment of sub-contractors and many other details. In short, the programme has the main contractor working on site from 2nd September, to complete the build by the following September. It’s in phases and the contractor has a track record of success. It is the LA who will be holding them to account in terms of programme.

In case anyone is unclear on the location, it is behind the new Stotfold football ground on Arlesey Road. There will be an opportunity to see more details next Friday 5th April when the contractor undertakes its public consultation.

Expectations

It leaves me to just try to capture the essence of where we are. I suppose the first thing to say is that this school is being designed to provide a legacy to this area. The last two schools I have worked in are both 50 years old this year. The buildings themselves have an impact on the education of the young people within them. I am trying to ensure that this building contributes to the experience and outcomes of the pupils within it and provides a 21st century learning environment.

I am determined that the staff who are appointed are as passionate about this opportunity as I am. There will be challenges but I hope that the clarity of purpose and the amazing opportunity presented by the new school will attract like-minded individuals. Frankly I can’t wait to start.