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Good days, bad days…

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There have been so many highs and lows over the past two years of being involved in the Archer Academy that it’s difficult to know where to start. If I’m honest the lows are not that bad, although as the secretary to the Steering Group I’m looking forward to handing over minute-taking to our Clerk once we officially become a Governing Body.

The highs are almost too many to mention but aside from the obvious Green Lights from the DfE, here are a sample:

Getting up on a stage in front of rows and rows of expectant parents, to introduce our team and officiate the Q & A sessions. This is a departure from my working life, but it’s been such a buzz to gain the reactions of the local community to everything that we do.

Standing on East Finchley High Road in the rain and at East Finchley Festival in the sun, whatever the weather, the support from the local community makes it all worthwhile.
Helping out at the Year 6 Transition events, even pretending to be Mr Quigley at one point and meeting the children who will be our role models at the Archer Academy. Not only was it a fantastic opportunity to meet the children, but watching our Deputy Head, Lucy, at work filled me with pride.

Seeing my own son’s face as he left the Year 5 Taster session. He was so enthused by the topics that he had been exposed to, all nervousness about a dissection dispelled by the able Ms Mahmood. He has been part of this process all the way, helping to deliver leaflets, remove foliage in the Causeway, has sat quietly at the side of meetings that I’ve had to take him to. Even my four year old puts on a bag and tells me that she’s “going to a meeting” as I’ve had to endlessly over the last couple of years. My children are the reason that I was motivated to get involved with this, but the contribution to the local community has given me so much satisfaction, and opened my eyes to so many ways in which we can make differences both small and large.

Being on the selection panels for recruiting our staff. I was lucky enough to be involved in a few of these. These were days when the school became a reality for me, more than any other. I met some talented passionate teachers, and agonised with the rest of the panel over who to choose. We were spoilt for choice.

Governor recruitment. It’s time to expand our team, share the load and increase our expertise. We’ve only just started, but I’m overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of people who are prepared to muck in and support us. It’s going to be a tough choice once again.

I’m privileged to work part-time for BT, a company that actively encourages volunteering, to the point where we are given three days per year of work time to contribute to the personal time that we commit to a cause. My colleagues have been very patient when I talk about the school at work, many of them volunteer/fundraise for charities, but I do wonder if they’ll be relieved when we get past the grand opening…

Sarah Pearce
Vice-chair of Governors (Designate)

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On designing a logo for the Archer Academy

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People often ask me, where do you get your ideas from? And it's an incredibly hard question to answer, because the creative process is different every time. Designing a logo may appear to be a smaller piece of work than, say, putting together a 48 page brochure, but in thinking terms, it's a far more complex, more layered job.

My brief from the Archer Academy team was relatively simple; to come up with a fresh, contemporary logo fit for a new school with creativity at its heart. The school has taken its name from Eric Aumonier's iconic statue, which sits above East Finchley station, and whilst we were keen to retain some links to that Archer, we also wanted the school to have a clear and separate identity of its own.

I had already designed the prospectus, the website and various posters and leaflets for the team, so a brand look and feel was already in place; minimal, clean, and stripped back, letting the words speak for themselves. But translating that into a logo was another thing entirely.

So I started, as I always do, with a few doodles here and there, breaking off from whatever else I was doing to scribble my thoughts down on paper. I soon decided that it was the bow, rather than the archer, that would be at the heart of my design, and started playing around with shapes and formations.

The early incarnations were less abstract, more conventional and more aggressive somehow than the finished result; a bow that you might see in the hands of Robin Hood, or the Archer himself. Over a period of a few weeks I honed and perfected the shape; stretching and smoothing out the lines, stripping the design back, all the while keeping in mind the fresh and contemporary vibe that I felt suited the school so well.

Also, over time, the single bow became three. Partly to represent the school's threefold vision of realising potential, inspiring creativity and engaging with the community; but also as a way of demonstrating growth and progress. The school's pupils will come in as children but leave as young adults, ready to make their way in the world with the confidence their education has given them, and this growth is symbolised within the logo itself.

So after weeks of thinking, refining and polishing, and a nerve-racking presentation to the Archer Academy team here it is; our 21st century logo for our 21st century school. Hope you like it.

Peter Copley
Designer, East Finchley resident and Archer Academy supporter
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2012-image12012-image9It's hard to believe that this time last year, the Archer Academy had barely even been thought of. We'd been lobbying the council to open a new mixed, non-selective, non-denominational school for several months, but we hadn't yet made the decision to take matters into our own hands and apply to open a free school.

That decision was taken right at the very end of 2011, and it's amazing how far we have come since then. In fact, as I sat in our most recent public meeting – hosted by our headteacher Mick Quigley and attended by a staggering 250+ people – I could hardly believe how much has been achieved in such a short period of time.

2012-image32012-image4I know that people around here have dreamed about a school like the Archer Academy for years, and that local primary governors had been working away to try and find a solution long before we got involved. But now their dreams, and ours, have become a reality, and the Archer Academy is mere months away from opening. What a year it has been.

From a standing start at the beginning of 2012, we have: recruited the support of more than 1000 parents who have said they would be happy to send their children to our school; written and submitted a 150 page application to the DfE; undergone a gruelling interview with the DfE's top brass; been given the go-ahead; opened our admissions; recruited a headteacher; entered into partnership with the Institute and secured the Arts Centre as our first home. Phew.

2012-image52012-image6And that's just the really big stuff. We've also been working away on a huge amount of other tasks behind the scenes, like discussing potential partnerships with local organisations, implementing our public consultation and planning the structure of our governing body. Not to mention hosting a series of increasingly popular public meetings, and taking every opportunity to chat to the community about our plans.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the overwhelming support we have had from our community: prospective parents; primary and secondary school headteachers and governors; local groups, organisations and community members. So to every one of you who has given practical help, filled out a survey, showed up at a meeting or just wished us well, thank you very much. We couldn't have done this without you.

2012-image72012-image8Now, one year on, we're entering the home strait – there's plenty still to do but the end is in sight. We're meeting regularly with the DfE, who have told us we're trailblazers for parent-instigated free schools, and we've had an impressive number of applications (more than double the amount that the DfE expected us to have by now) with some weeks still to go before our admissions deadline. 

Right now, we're mid-way through recruiting our deputy headteacher and some other key members of staff, and will be cracking on with getting the rest of the senior leadership team on board early in 2013. With the help of specialist architects and the EFA, we're scoping out how we'll use the space in the Arts Centre to create a brilliant environment for teaching and learning, and continuing to investigate our options for high-quality sports facilities. We're also finalising the designs for our uniform and logo (of which, more news soon; I've had a sneak preview and it all looks great!)

And of course, we're continuing to drill down the details of the pillars of our new school: our broad and balanced curriculum; our educational and pastoral care policies; our nurturing house structure and our enrichment programme. Throughout 2013, we'll be putting in place the pieces that will ensure the Archer Academy is ready to welcome our first intake in September. We literally can't wait.

2012 was an amazing year - and the best is yet to come. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Cathy
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Quiet but oh so busy....

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The last couple of weeks may have appeared from the outside to have been fairly quiet (though with the Olympics occupying everyone's attention, no one may have actually even noticed!). But we've been rather like a swan gliding through the water whilst furious paddling is going on beneath the surface. There has been an incredible amount to sort out as we develop our pre-opening plans.

When applying to set up a free school your proposal mainly has to focus on what will happen when the school opens. There's relatively little about the set up phase, so we're now in the midst of developing our project plans for the period leading up to opening. Of course there's lots in our application that guide and inform this, such as our ethos and vision, community engagement and various policies and procedures. And we’re working closely with the Department of Education and Barnet Council’s education department to draw on their expertise to inform this and employ good practice in all we do.

So we are busy preparing our budget, drafting our admissions policy, planning the recruitment of our head teacher, producing a prospectus for prospective pupils (and their parents), setting up our financial systems, finalizing governance and project management arrangements and a host of other things. Our to do list now runs to several pages and thats before we've even produced detailed project plans for each task.

The next step will be to put it all together into a giant master project plan, mapping the relationship and dependencies between tasks - we can't do this, until that's completed etc. A marathon session with flip charts, post-it's and unwieldy spreadsheets beckons...but we know we need to be super organized to stay on top of everything.

To help us manage everything that's going on and coordinate the efforts of all our volunteers and specialist advisors and suppliers, we've decided to employ a member of our group (me, in fact) to work part time on project managing the set up phase over the next few months. Together with our Chair, Vice Chairs and our sub groups, we will be making sure that everything we need to do in order to be ready to open in September 2013.

The summer holidays may appear to be quiet, but things will start to be more visible from early September with all sorts of exciting activity planned to bring the Archer Academy to life.

Stay tuned!

Toby

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Like to get to know you well

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Yesterday we had our first official meeting with the Department for Education (DfE) after the announcement that The Archer Academy had been approved to open. It was a chance to meet the key personnel (of which there are quite a few) who will be supporting us in the pre-opening phase. These include a project manager, policy lead, premises advisors and educational advisor. They will also help us tap in to a whole host of other experts and advisors within the Department and the Education Funding Agency (EFA). That might sound like a lot of people and support, but by the sounds of it, we're going to need all the support we can muster. If you thought preparing the application was a lot of work, we were told, then wait till you see the work needing to be done now. That may be slightly daunting (I've barely recovered from the application process!) but we are also confident as we have a wonderful team and loads of people who want to help make The Archer Academy a reality.

And it is a reality. Right now. The DfE approval means we are no longer talking about our dream of opening a new school. We are now in the process of delivering its establishment. That's a significant shift, in reality and of mindset, and it's something we have to quickly get our heads round.

We were given some feedback on our application and I was pleased, not to say relieved, to hear that our overall 'score' went up after the interview (some go down!) and that they thought our proposal was very strong. Unsurprisingly (but thankfully) our passion and commitment showed through in person and on paper. 'We thought you were amazing' said one person who had been on our interview panel. Phew and Yay! :)

There is lots to do, but we are pretty clear what needs to happen - particularly after a weekend of training with the DfE and New Schools Network that some of the group attended - and are already cracking on with things.

One piece of advice we received from the Department was to hold on to the feeling we got on Friday 13th July when the school was approved. 'You'll need to remember that feeling when things are tough'. I will never forget that day and the wave of emotion that swept through the playground as news of our approval was received. I've no doubt there will be tough times ahead, but right now, I'm too busy to worry about that.

 Toby

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