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Your questions, our answers

This guide aims to answer some of the questions you may have about our school.  If there’s something you’d like to know that we haven’t covered, please email info@thearcheracademy.org.uk

Admissions

As with all schools, the area from which our students come will vary each year depending on demand for places; and until we have allocated all our places in a given year, we can’t say precisely how far it will stretch.

We therefore recommend that, if the Archer Academy is your first choice school, you put it as your first preference, even if you think you may not live near enough to be offered a place. By doing so, you will be able to stay on our waiting list from which, like all schools, we may continue to make offers after the Barnet deadline for accepting a first round offer.

We will review our admissions policy and criteria every year to ensure that the school serves the local community and meets the demand for which it was set up.

When we were applying to set up the Archer Academy, we had to prove to the Department for Education that there was local demand for our school. We did this by asking people in the wider area if they would fill out a survey saying that they would be prepared to send their children to the Archer Academy if it opened.

When the responses came back, around 90% came from within the N2, N3 and NW11 postcodes. So they are the areas in which we have been able to prove support for the school, and that’s the basis on which the DfE gave us the go-ahead.

Some people have asked us why we have given all three areas priority (rather than, for example, just N2), and the answer is the same: because large numbers of parents in all three of these areas have shown that they support the school.

Yes. You will automatically remain on the waiting list for any higher preference school, so there is no need to need to contact us or Barnet Admissions about this. Any lower preference schools will be withdrawn.

You can find out where you are on the waiting list by contacting Zehra Balman, our Welfare and Admissions Officer, on 020 8365 4110, or via info@thearcheracademy.org.uk. Please note it usually takes a few weeks after offers day for this information to come through to us from Barnet Admissions.

Yes. Your local authority will automatically put you on the waiting list for schools that were higher on your list and will contact you if a place becomes available.

Even after every place at the school is filled. As is common in most schools, occasional places may become available during the school year, due to people moving or changing their plans at the last minute.

You have the right to appeal to an independent appeals panel against the decision not to offer your child a place at the Archer Academy.

Appeals will not be heard until all available places at the school have been offered and accepted and as no places are reserved for successful appeals, this means that any appeals allowed will increase the intake above the admission limit.

Although each appeal is decided on individual merit, only exceptional circumstances are likely to lead to a successful appeal. The fact that a school is mixed sex or that the school is a child’s or parents’ particular choice, or that other schools with vacancies involve a long journey, is unlikely to lead to a successful appeal.

You can find more information about the appeals process here.

We understand that some people may question our request to give the school’s founders’ children priority in our admissions criteria, and so we would like to be completely open about the context and rationale behind it.

The 11 founders of the school took on a significant undertaking in terms of both time and effort to create a new school for the whole community. Despite having professional commitments outside of the Archer Academy, and in most cases young families, they nonetheless made a commitment to working at least one full day each week in a voluntary capacity on setting up the school. In reality, given the nature of the situation and the timescales, the work has invariably involved as much as two or three full days of their time during the course of a typical week. Furthermore, as founder members, they are legally responsible for the school’s development, which is a responsibility none of them take lightly.

For the founders to maintain this commitment over a number of years without any assurance that their children would be able to attend the school they have worked so hard to create, does seem unreasonable. Indeed, the founders’ children clause appears to be standard in the admissions policies for parent-led free schools.

There are 10 founders who have children who hope to attend the Archer Academy, and their ages range from a couple of children who joined in our first intake, to some who will not join the school until almost 10 years after opening. Founders’ children will therefore typically account for around two places in each year of 150 children, less than 2% of the intake for each year.

We accept that some members of our community may consider it unfair that founders’ children are guaranteed a place. But we believe that it would be equally unfair if the people who have taken on such a huge responsibility, and given so much of their personal time, to create a school for the whole community were not able to ensure that their children benefit from their hard work.

Our commitment to establish a school that reflects and responds to the needs and aspirations of our local community remains undiminished and we wish to be wholly transparent about our approach, including over the issue of founders’ children.

Origins and structure

An independent state funded school. The money comes from central government and approval is given by the Secretary of State for Education. Once established, a free school becomes an academy; the term free school simply refers to how the school is set up.

As with all academies, our school has a degree of independence from the local authority. For example, we have more control over our budget and curriculum than a maintained school. This allows us the flexibility to make decisions like offering an extended day, or having tutor groups of just 25 students.

However we are building close relationships with other local schools and Barnet Council, so that our students and staff can benefit from the wide experience and expertise that exists within the Barnet education community.

Although the free schools programme was initiated by the 2010-2015 coalition government, it builds on the previous Labour government’s academies policy. Post-opening, we are simply an academy, and there is no distinction between us and other academies that came about in different circumstances.

The school will be subject to the same Ofsted inspection regime as all other academies. Our first inspection took place in June 2015; you can read the full report here

Our Stanley Road campus is home to our lower school – that is, students in years 7, 8 and 9. Students in years 10 and 11 will be based at Beaumont Close once the school is at full capacity, but will come to Stanley Road for PE lessons.

It has always been our ambition to ensure that our students have access to excellent sixth form provision. So we are delighted to announce the creation of a strategic partnership with Woodhouse College, in North Finchley, which will create exceptional opportunities for both partners, and a clear 11-18 pathway for Archer Academy students.

The partnership will see us working closely together across a range of areas, such as leadership and governance, staff training, curriculum development and student mentoring. And, under the terms of the agreement, any Archer Academy students who meet the expected criteria for their courses will be given priority admission into Year 12 at Woodhouse College.

You can read more about this strategic partnership here

Curriculum, teaching and learning

We feel strongly that the success of our school lies in the hands of our teachers, so we are happy to state on the record that we are NOT using the opt-outs that free schools are given regarding staff and curriculum.

We are actively choosing to follow the national curriculum, to only employ qualified teachers and to adhere to national pay and conditions for our staff, even though as a free school we are not obliged to do so.

We expect our teachers to enthuse and inform our pupils in equal measure, and ensure that they are given the time and training they need to maintain outstanding levels of performance.

We are committed to safeguarding the welfare of children and will expect every member of our team to respect this commitment. All staff will be subject to an enhanced DBS check.

Our curriculum is rooted in our desire to provide our students with an education that is relevant to life in 21st century London (and beyond!), and that will fully prepare them for adult life. It is a broad, balanced curriculum, based on the national curriculum, and delivered in a way that is both engaging and challenging.

Whilst academic attainment clearly matters, and is a high priority for the Archer Academy, we recognise that exam results are only one part of what school leavers require to be successful adults. The labour market is changing, and is placing an increasing emphasis on analytical and creative thinking. We have responded to this by ensuring that core problem solving skills are incorporated into all aspects of our teaching.

In line with the 2011 Wolf report, we also recognise that Maths and English are absolutely fundamental skills upon which all learning and success depend. We have therefore made these subjects our specialisms and placed them at the heart of our curriculum.

We also strongly believe that every child should be challenged to fulfil their own potential, and so we develop an individual learning plan for each of our students. These allow us to make sure that we stretch the most able, give extra help to those who need it and don’t allow those in the middle to become overlooked.

On a practical level, we believe that teaching is a two way process – done properly, it is about involving, encouraging and enthusing children, rather than simply imparting information. We don’t want passive learners; our lessons will be stimulating as well as informative and will require our students to roll their sleeves up and join in.

Our students are divided into six mixed-ability tutor groups of 25 when they join us in Year 7, and are initially taught in mixed-ability groups for all subjects.

After the first half term, students are set by ability for Maths, English, Science, Humanities and PE, with setting for Foreign Languages taking place later in the year. This allows us to stretch the most able, encourage and enthuse those in the middle who might otherwise be overlooked, and give extra support to those who need it. We regularly review the range of ability and make appropriate arrangements for setting to ensure the best possible rates of student progress.

However, setting is not a cure-all for managing our students’ different needs, as even within a set based on ability there can still be differences between one child and the next. We therefore prioritise the ability to differentiate teaching according to different abilities when recruiting new staff.

We also put together an individual learning plan for each student soon after they join us, and use this to track their progress and ensure that they are reaching their potential.

We are fortunate to have Ian Warwick, director of London Gifted and Talented, as an associate governor, with special responsibility for supporting our provision for able, gifted and talented students. Ian has worked closely with us to develop an ambitious programme for stretch and challenge.

At the beginning of Year 7, all students sit a CAT test paper, in addition to their baseline assessments in core subjects. From this, we are able to identify students who fall into the gifted and talented cohort as classified by the government. We also identify a second group, which we classify as highly able, who sit just beneath the gifted and talented threshold.

These students who have been formally identified as academically highly able, gifted and talented are supported in a number of ways including: additional targets at learning review day; termly stretch and challenge projects; a Philosophy for Children lunchtime club; subject enhancement lectures delivered by university students and specialists; parent workshops, and involvement in national competitions and performances.

However, we recognise that gifted and talented students come in many forms, and so offer opportunities for stretch and challenge to any student who shows the potential to excel in a particular subject or curriculum area. For example, our highest
achieving dance students have taken part in a workshop with a professional from Matthew Bourne’s dance company, and our finest historians are invited to attend a lunchtime history club.

We also create a large number of stretch and challenge opportunities which are available to all students. For example, students of all abilities are given the chance to apply for extra-curricular trips to special exhibitions or performances, such as visiting the Saatchi Gallery or taking part in a performance at the Royal Albert Hall.

Our provision for students with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) is driven by our determination to be an inclusive school for the whole community.

Our SENCO works closely with SENCOs in local primary schools to ensure a positive transition for all students. We have put procedures in place to identify any barriers to learning quickly and take any necessary steps to make sure that any students identified with special needs are able to access the extra help and support they need.

We have a team of experienced teaching support assistants who work with SEND students within the classroom as well as leading creative intervention programmes in areas such as reading, spelling, mental maths and self-esteem. We have also built strong and supportive relationships with external agencies such as the Hampstead Dyslexia Clinic.

Our curriculum also includes a Functional Skills pathway which is followed by some of our students with SEND. This pathway enables students to study and enhance their practical literacy and numeracy skills to support their wider curriculum. Functional Skills lessons take place instead of the study of a foreign language.

Our support for students with SEND is far reaching and includes comprehensive provision for students with additional physical needs. Please do contact our SENCO if you would like to discuss your child’s specific needs in more depth.

We consider homework to be an important part of school life, allowing students to strengthen and develop their knowledge of each subject. We also believe it encourages independent learning and organisation skills. Homework is therefore set regularly and a variety of sanctions, ranging from verbal warnings to detentions, may be given for non-completion.

Students are given a homework timetable at the start of each half term and are expected to record their tasks in their student diary, which is signed by parents each week. The timetable includes minimum and maximum time guidance for each task. Year 7 students should expect to spend a minimum of seven hours each week on homework, and this will increase as they progress through the school.

The majority of homework is set to be completed over the course of a week. Sometimes students are set tasks with longer deadlines such as essays or projects, in which case they may be given a checkpoint date so their teacher can support them.

We offer a supervised homework club after school each day, at which students can access computers and books to support their study.

In Year 7, students study either French or Spanish, depending on which half of the year group they are in. Parents are able to express a preference at their transition meeting which we will accommodate if we can, but cannot guarantee to do so. For Year 9, students have the opportunity to add Italian or Latin as a second language; these students can then choose to take one or both of their languages forward to study at GCSE level.

We also offer Mandarin, Latin and Italian as extra-curricular opportunities after school; these are paid for in the same way as music tuition. Year 9 students can also study Latin as one of their enrichment choices.

Archer Academy students follow an accelerated national curriculum in Year 7 and Year 8. This allows them to begin their GCSE courses for English Language and Literature, Mathematics and Science in Year 9.

Students also make some curriculum choices at the end of Year 8, allowing them to gain a solid foundation in a range of subjects during Year 9, some of which they may choose to take forward into Year 10 and their wider GCSE studies.

You can read more about Key Stage 4 and the curriculum choices we offer here

Music is a prominent part of life at the Archer Academy. We believe that it is important to have a wide range opportunities for all our students to foster their musical talents and enjoy the creative outlet that music provides.As well as teaching music formally through our curriculum, we also offer provision for instrumental tuition through our partnership with the Barnet Education Arts Trust. Tuition is available for students individually, in pairs or in small groups, in: violin, cello, flute, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, drumming, guitar (classical, folk, electric and bass), piano, keyboard and trumpet. It is paid for by parents on a termly basis.

Additionally, we have our own voice teacher who provides singing tuition on one afternoon per week. Our voice teacher also supports our students in preparation for school performances and productions.

Our enrichment programme provides our students with a range of other musical opportunities across the choral and instrumental spectrum. These include a choir, jazz band and orchestra and are all free of charge. Alongside these performance programmes we also offer composition, song writing and music theory.

We put on regular arts showcases during the year, giving students the chance to perform to an audience of parents, staff, governors and other community members.

We believe that an outstanding education does not just take place within the classroom but also through the broad range of extra opportunities which make the Archer Academy such an exciting place to be.

Central to this is our enrichment programme, which offers students a choice of activities designed to help them feel enthusiastic about learning and school, teach them important skills that help them in and beyond their lessons, and enable them to discover new talents and passions. The programme is tailored to the different age groups, with Year 7 and Year 8 students following a different programme to those in Year 9 and beyond.

Enrichment takes place twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at the end of the formal school day. Both staff and students are incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunities and experiences that this compulsory programme offers and it is a real highlight of Archer Academy life.

You can read more about our enrichment programme, and see some examples of the activities we offer, here

Behaviour and pastoral care

At the Archer Academy we live by the principle that every child matters, and have put pastoral care at the heart of our plans for the school.

Experience has taught us that children who are in need of extra care are often the last ones to ask for it; and that while some students are happy to push themselves forward and ask for help, others try to disappear into the background when they’re experiencing difficulties at home or school.

We therefore work hard to ensure that there are no invisible children at the Archer Academy. Our small tutor groups of just 25 children and nurturing house structure make it easier for issues to rise to the surface, and equip our teachers and support staff to recognise and manage any issues that our students may be experiencing.

Children develop at different rates and have individual strengths and aims. We aim to support our students to discover and develop their personalities, interests and confidence, ensuring that they can each achieve their personal potential. As well as supporting our students, we see our role as working in partnership with parents so that we can collectively nurture our young people.

Underpinning our behaviour policy is the philosophy that if you treat children with respect, they will usually respond positively. We have therefore ensured that a culture of mutual respect exists at the Archer Academy. That said, as every parent knows, it is vital to set clear, realistic boundaries and then make sure you stick to them.

Students are left in no doubt about the standards of behaviour we expect from them, as well as the consequences for students who choose not to live up to these standards. And having set out our behaviour policies, we ensure that we follow them through.

However, we also don’t believe that managing challenging behaviour begins and ends with sanctions. We have a rigorous plan for following up on issues, and work with students to ensure they have a way to move forward, make amends and get back on the social and learning journey.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that when learning is going well, it is fun; therefore part of our plan for engendering good behaviour has been to create a teaching and learning environment that students will want to contribute to in a positive way.

We have a clear rewards system in place which encourages good behaviour, motivation and progress. We believe in recognising celebrating and rewarding achievement of all kinds, from excellent work of a high academic standard and tremendous effort to cooperation and teamwork.

Throughout the year, students can be rewarded in a number of ways including: house points; postcards and letters home; celebration assemblies and lunches, and time in our reward room. We also hold an annual prize giving ceremony, at which prizes are awarded for both exceptional achievement and outstanding effort in every subject, as well as a number of prizes for achievements outside the classroom.