New faces in the staffroom

Being a new boy is always daunting, but at least headteacher John Strivens will not be alone. Along with Year 7, a third of his staff will be strangers to the corridors of Skerton school.

His two deputies are also new to the Lancaster community high school. "We didn't even know where the gents was," said Mr Strivens.

Despite recruitment difficulties, the school is starting the year fully staffed with a recruitment point awarded for only one post, head of science. There have been no problems with the vetting process.

The new staff arrive at a good time. This summer 39 per cent of GCSE candidates achieved five A*-C grades, the best results the school has ever had, and a great achievement given its intake. "We are heavily creamed by grammar and church schools," said Mr Strivens, who was previously head of a school in Cumbria.

The school has reacted by concentrating on vocational subjects and its GNVQ in performing arts has achieved a 100-per-cent pass rate three years running.

Teachers have had to work hard. They have had to come in during the summer, but say that it has been worth it. "The most important thing is the satisfaction of the job you do," says the head of performing arts Fiona O'Hare. Her plans for this year include working more closely with a local school for the handicapped.

Expressive and performing arts teacher Chris Trueman, an advanced skills teacher, has a message for Education Secretary Estelle Morris: keep advanced skills staff in the classroom. "As soon as you start taking us out of the school environment the kids will begin to suffer," he said.

Carol Brown, head of Year 7, has one concern for the year ahead. "I am applying to go through the threshold this year, but I don't know where I am going to find the time to do it," she said.

Mr Strivens told pupils at his first assembly to take pride in themselves, the school and the community. After hectic change he is hoping for a year of consolidation on the national education stage, And what are the Year 7 pupils looking forward to? Ria Pollard wants to improve her French. And Andrew Tate cannot wait to learn algebra.

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