After seven years, Murray Park School, in Mickleover, has a new head teacher.
Nicola Caley has taken over the helm after five years as head teacher at Alderman White School, in Beeston. Here, Mrs Caley talks about the future and her vision for the school:
"Every child has the right to an outstanding education and I am incredibly excited about the prospect of making Murray Park a school where students thrive, fulfil their potential and become valued and proactive members of society.
"I have high expectations and aspirations for all our students and expect behaviour to be impeccable, so that everyone has the opportunity to learn. My experience tells me that when a school is settled, and inspiring teaching takes place, young people will achieve beyond expectation.
"When I was at school in Manchester, my twin sister was placed in different groups to me and as a result our lives took completely different paths. While we received exactly the same upbringing at home, there weren’t the same expectations in her groups at school and behaviour was more of an issue. As a result the opportunities she was afforded were different to mine. This has given me the impetus to ensure that all students, whatever their ability or situation, should be inspired and believed in and ultimately be given the opportunity to follow their dreams.
"I firmly believe that in order to ensure that behaviour is excellent in school, every need should be met with a bespoke programme, either in the mainstream classroom or within an alternative provision in school. A place where children with any additional needs – whether this is around anxiety, behavioural or a learning difficulty – can be taught in smaller groups.
"Additional funding has been made available to create this provision and I have allocated an area of school so it can be self-contained. There will be two classrooms, one will be for core subjects with intensive teaching to help students progress rapidly and get them ready for their exams. The other will be a nurture/chill-out room for children to relax. This will enable students with high anxiety levels, autism or conditions which means it is harder for them to be in a mainstream setting at certain times feel comfortable at school.
"In addition, we’ve allocated an area of land where we plan to develop a garden and a small farm so that students can spend time learning outdoors and access courses – such as agriculture – which are tailored to their needs.
"We have appointed two extra members of staff to run the alternative provision and we’re asking students to come up with a name and also help decorate the rooms, so they really feel ownership of the facility.
"This is all modelled on a similar unit I set up in my previous school and I have already sent Murray Park staff to see the set-up there. The provision was transformative at Alderman White – attendance shot up, behaviour was described by inspectors as ‘exemplary’ and children who had not been expected to achieve gained good qualifications, enabling them to enter college with pride. So, I know this offering works.
"I intend to continue teaching, if only for a few hours each week. First and foremost, I am an English teacher and my primary job is to educate. During my degree course I spent time on work placement in Walton Prison and Ashworth Hospital for the criminally insane and it was during this time that I was struck by the many young people that had been failed in education. This spurred my passion to teach and then become a head teacher where I could have more opportunity to change lives for the better.
"It’s important for me that children who might be from disadvantaged backgrounds receive exactly the same opportunities as everyone else. Which is one of the reasons we run a free breakfast club so children can learn with a full tummy and we will be providing free or subsidised school uniforms to those who are in receipt of free school meals.
"I’ve spent my first few weeks getting to know teachers and I am pleased to say we have high quality and caring members of staff. So much about Murray Park is incredibly positive; teaching is very strong, progress is in line with national averages and there is a great foundation to build on.
"My next step is to reach out to parents and the community. I plan to meet with local businesses, feeder schools, councillors and most importantly parents before the summer break. We are in the process of setting up a parent forum and also a PTA, so we’re looking for volunteers to sign up for this.
"I am aware that some parents feel that in the past there has been a lack of communication between school and home. To improve this, we have signed up to the Go4Schools platform which allows parents to keep track of assessment, attendance and positive and negative points.
"There is no greater tool than parental engagement and I am keen to build on this. We are lucky to have an adult education centre on site and I am keen to use these facilities so that parents and pupils can do some learning together. I’d like to offer some maths sessions for parents too – because teaching methods are so different to in our day.
"I am a mum of two teenage boys – one who has dyslexia - which means I understand the issues facing parents today. My office door is always open to parents and I am keen for us to work together to create the best school in Derby.
"I see my role as connecting the community, students, parents and staff with a shared expectation that we can achieve amazing things. The current year 10 is on target to beat national targets for attainment and I am confident this is just the start of things to come.
"I asked the pupils to come up with a list of values to represent the school and the winning motto, from a group of Year 7 girls, was based on the word PRIDE: P for perseverance, R for respect, I for independence, d for dreams and E for excellence.
"I want every pupil in Murray Park to have PRIDE in themselves and the school. We have much to be proud of already and I believe the future is very bright."