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Academies signal dawn of a new era

Since November last year, I have been the executive principal of two schools in Bristol, both of which became academies this month. John Cabot CTC is converting to an academy after 13 years as a successful city technology college, and Speedwell Technology College closed last month and has now re opened as Bristol Brunel Academy.

Leading two very different schools at different stages of their development presents challenges that one does not face in a single institution. Strategies that have produced results in excess of 80 per cent five GCSE A*-C grades at John Cabot this summer will need to be modified and customised to be effective at Bristol Brunel. Similarly, the way that staff at Speedwell have managed a more diverse cultural mix is invaluable to teachers at John Cabot as we work together to meet the needs of a changing cultural mix in both our communities.

Principals have been appointed to both schools, and they will lead and manage the academies on a day-to-day basis. My role builds capacity for them to do this and is focused on strategic planning, target-setting, performance management and liaison with the numerous external agencies that are part of the academies network. We have set targets for students at both academies for the next five years which, when combined, create a dual-institution target that will only be met if both schools work together in partnership.

While there is much to do, making sure the focus has been clear and simple has been an integral part of our forward planning. Those ingredients in the school improvement "hot pot" include a relentless focus on teaching and learning, creating an achievement culture where success at any level is celebrated and, above all, being consistent in all of our approaches so that we say what we do and do what we say.

These are simple messages. I believe passionately in both academies and the good they will do for the community of East Bristol that they serve. It was so exciting to see the students in their new uniforms and to watch 800 teenage jaws drop at Bristol Brunel Academy when they saw their fantastic new school. I cannot wait to see the partnership between the schools develop and flourish with teachers and students from both academies working together. Nor can I wait to see young people from both schools going into further education and the workplace with confidence, skills, qualifications and an enthusiasm that can be traced back to their secondary education in the two academies I am proud to be associated with.

David Carter

Executive principal, John Cabot and Bristol Brunel academies, Bristol

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