Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA) Principal Brendan Loughran has welcomed their recent Ofsted Report as further confirmation of the progress that the innovative school has made since it opened in September 2008. The Inspectors, who visited the school in January, gave it a “Good” rating on every aspect of its assessment, commenting ‘The focus and drive is very clearly on improving the life-chances of every student, whatever their circumstances, so that they can make a difference not only to their own lives but to the community in which they live.’
The Academy, the first to be sponsored by the Aldridge Foundation, has a strong focus on entrepreneurship, using innovative teaching and personalised learning with the aim of becoming the highest performing, most truly inclusive Academy in the country. It moved into new, state of the art premises in September 2010, which include a unique, school-based business centre – reported to be the first school in the country to host such a centre. The buildings were officially opened by Prince William and the now Duchess of Cambridge in April 2011. At the time the Prince said of the Academy: “It will transform the lives of families in Darwen and, through its example, countless others elsewhere.”
Mr Loughran said: “The report confirms the great progress we have already seen in students’ learning, in their exam results and in the numbers going to university. In 2012 we again broke our own record for A Level results, with a pass rate of 99.4%. Over three quarters of our leavers have moved on to University, and three quarters of these were the first in their family to enter higher education. And we have seen our first ever offer of a place at Oxford University.”
“We are pleased with the Inspectors assessment that improvements are set to continue with ‘Students currently in Year 11 are set to exceed challenging targets for attainment and progress including in English and mathematics’. Teaching and support staff have worked incredibly hard for this outcome and they are delighted with the judgment.”
The OFSTED Inspection was one of the new wave of one-day-notice inspections. As a result, the inspectors saw the Academy as it really is, day in, day out. The Inspectors also commented on the good behaviour of the students, the good standard of teaching and the quality of the Sixth Form, particularly highlighting ‘The good number of sporting academies established within the sixth form to provide talented students with excellent opportunities for academic and sporting success.’ DACA has established Cricket, Golf, Netball, Table Tennis and boys’ and girls’ Football 6th Form Academies, building on a series of sporting partnerships including with the Lancashire Cricket Board, Manchester Thunder Netball team and Chorley FC.
Mr. Loughran added: “We have a wonderful group of students whom it is a real pleasure to work with. The Inspectors remarked that attendance is above average and that ‘many students are keen to attend extra sessions to support their learning.’ We are proud that there have been no exclusions at all since the Academy opened.”
DACA sponsors The Aldridge Foundation are currently finalising plans to open Darwen Aldridge Enterprise Studio School as well in the town in September. The Studio School will provide a professional education for 14 – 19 year olds in the region, specialising in business and creative and digital technology sectors. It will build on the strong focus on entrepreneurship that has been integral to the Academy’s success.
The Foundation’s chief executive Honor Wilson-Fletcher said: “We are delighted that the achievements of the students, staff and governors at DACA have been recognised by the Ofsted Inspectors in this report. They also noted that that ‘The work of the Academy is exceptionally well supported by the sponsor and the Darwen Academy Trust ‘. We are committed to continuing to support Mr Loughran and his team as they take the Academy toward Outstanding Status, and to ensuring that the Studio School delivers life-changing opportunities for a new group of students in the region.”