THE ACADEMY AT A GLANCE
- A member of the Aldridge Education multi-academy trust
- 11 – 18 co-educational school
- 1,600 students including Sixth Form
- Entrepeneurship and sports specialism
- Creates Entrepreneurship Bridge provides facilities & space for student and community enterprises
Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA) opened in the predecessor school buildings in September 2008, moving to its new town centre location in September 2010. The state of the art building features an entrepreneurship bridge, Darwen Creates. The Academy Sixth Form brought a new education offer for post 16 students with the outstanding new facilities at the Academy designed to be accessible to the wider Darwen community.
In 2011, its third year after opening, DACA was a finalist in the Academy of the Year category at the Education Investor Awards. On 11th April 2011 Prince William and Kate Middleton officially opened the Academy buildings in one of the last official engagements they carried out before their wedding later that month. Prince William praised the “wonderful, innovative, ground-breaking” academy and stated “I am convinced the academy will transform the lives of families in Darwen and, through its example, countless others elsewhere.”
2013 saw a first for the Academy when Khushna Sulaman-Butt secured her place at Ruskin College, Oxford to read Fine Art – the first DACA student ever to progress to Oxford University. In the same year, DACA also achieved a Good rating in all aspects of an OFSTED Inspection, a rating which was maintained across all categories in their subsequent inspection in 2017.
Since becoming an Aldridge academy, GCSE and KS5 results have substantially improved. 2018 saw a record-breaking performance at sixth form level with the average grade for all students rising to a grade B. 57% of grades achieved were A*-B or equivalent, well above national figures, and every student passed every subject. The vast majority of students who applied to go to university secured their places, including three students who secured places at Oxford University. At GCSE 63% of students achieved 9-4 in maths and 64% in English.
There is regular emphasis and assessment of the specialisms of entrepreneurship and sport at the Academy. DACA has developed the characteristics of entrepreneurship which are embedded across all aspects of Academy life to raise the potential of students.
DACA has a boys’ Football Academy (in partnership with Clitheroe FC), a girls’ football academy and a netball academy, in collaboration with Manchester Thunder. In November 2016 the Academy received a British Council International School Award recognising its “outstanding development of the international dimension in the curriculum”. The award recognised Darwen Academy’s long-term commitment to improving education and enhancing understanding of different cultures through its programme of overseas visits and project work in disadvantaged communities. An example of this commitment can be shown through the Academy’s 2017 AfriDACA programme where a group of DACA students travelled to Uganda to teach local schoolchildren, learn about the areas history, and witness first-hand the high level of poverty and that was present in the community in which they visited.
In March 2017, the sixth form was awarded a Department for Education and Ofsted recognised certificate for its outstanding progress at A level. 2017 also saw three students reach the final of the Tycoon in Schools Competition and the school recognised with a British Council International School Award for its outstanding development of the international dimension in the curriculum.
In 2018 and again in 2019 the sixth form was named in the in the top 10 per cent of A-level providers in the country and the academy’s contribution to the local business community was recognised at the Hive Business Awards. In October Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst announced that the Academy had won the Government’s national award for Building Enterprise Skills, one of four Enterprising Britain Awards 2018.
The Academy’s founding Principal, Brendan Loughran, was succeeded by Lisa Dolan who took up the role of Principal of Darwen Aldridge Community Academy in September 2017.