Adventure Learning Academies Trust

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Colchester Academy rated ‘good’… for the first time in 26 years!

DELIGHTED staff and students are celebrating today after their school was rated “good” for the first time after 26 years.

Colchester Academy was given the rating following an Ofsted visit last month.

Government statistics show it is the fourth best in Colchester in terms of the progress children make while at the school.

Since education body Ofsted was formed in 1992, the academy, which was formerly called Sir Charles Lucas School, has never been awarded a “good” rating – the second best score.

Fiona Pierson, who became the headteacher almost three years ago, put the improvement down to the work of everyone at the school.

She said: “So much work has been put in by everyone here from the staff, to the children, to the parents.

“Having such a great school is something the whole community can look at and be proud of.

“But I think the important thing to say is the job isn’t done and it never will be done because we have to keep up the high standards we’ve set.”

Miss Pierson has also been nominated for Headteacher of the Year 2018 at the Essex Teaching Awards.

She said: “That’s a bit embarrassing really. It’s not just myself who has helped to turn things around so I think it’s recognition for the whole school rather than just myself.

“Of course, I’m grateful to be nominated and shortlisted but I think embarrassing is definitely the word.”

The school was put into special measures in July 2015 when pupils were found to be underachieving.

During the last inspection at the school in December 2015 three of the fours areas on which schools are judged were assessed as “requires improvement”.

But now all four have been ranked good by inspectors who noted teaching, achievement, behaviour and attendance had all improved.

The rating means every secondary school and academy in Colchester now has an Ofsted rating of at least good.

St Helena School in Sheepen Road, Colchester, has also maintained its “good” rating following an inspectors’ visit last month.

Proud – St Helena headteacher Zoe King with head girl Chloe Gregor and head boy Joel Barnett

Headteacher Zoë King said: “I am delighted that Ofsted again judged the school to be good.

“This is a fantastic report which highlights the real strengths which exist at St Helena School.

“It is the combined efforts of our staff, students and parents which have ensured St Helena School remains a good school delivering a high quality of education for the community.”

The report stated following a period of concern, the school has taken steps to ensure maths is improving.

However, it pointed out teaching in languages is not as strong as other subjects.

St Helena’s School’s full report can be viewed at

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Pilot project tackling tooth decay in Ipswich primary school children

A new dental health project aiming to cut tooth decay in children of primary school age has been launched in Ipswich.

Mayor of Ipswich and nurse Sarah Barber joined leaders from Suffolk County Council at Cliff Lane Primary School to kick-off the fresh scheme this week.

Cliff Lane and Highfield Nursery Primary School are taking part in the pilot, which will support pupils and parents with key tips and advice on keeping teeth healthy.

The trial is part of the ‘Keep Suffolk Smiling’ initiative, which has seen parents given free toothbrushes and toothpaste at their child’s 12-month check-up.

Teachers at the two schools will get help from Suffolk’s community dental health team to deliver important messages about dental health, alongside information to take home for parents.

Although oral health is improving in England, almost a quarter of five-year-olds have tooth decay, and oral health accounts for around £3.4billion per year to the NHS. Tooth decay was the most common reason for hospital admissions in children aged five-nine in 2014/15 with more than 24,000 youngsters admissions for an almost entirely preventable disease.

In Suffolk, 79.1% of five-year-olds are free from dental decay, compared to the national average of 75.2%.

Tony Goldson, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for health and chairman of the Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “It’s good that in Suffolk we have better standards of dental health than across England as a whole, we know more work is needed to better oral health standards for all children in Suffolk.

“This pilot scheme is another way that Suffolk County Council is working hard to give every child in Suffolk the best start in life.”

Mrs Barber, a nurse at Ipswich Hospital, said: “Good dental health from a young age is incredibly important, which is why I wholeheartedly support this project to support teachers and parents to raise awareness of the issue among children.

“By working with Cliff Lane Primary School, among others, we’re hoping to make a real difference to children’s oral health and I am really pleased to be part of this project from the outset.”

Suffolk County Council’s director of public health and protection, Abdul Razaq, was also at the launch event.

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Success for Alde Valley Academy as school is formally recognised to be a ‘Good school’ with ‘Outstanding’ attributes by Ofsted

Alde Valley Academy, Leiston, Suffolk, a Bright Tribe Trust school is celebrating being awarded a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating with ‘Outstanding’ attributes just four years after being judged ‘Inadequate’ and placed in Special Measures by the Department for Education. Ofsted inspectors commented that since the school converted to academy status in 2014, “the level of support given by the Multi Academy Trust has been instrumental in enabling the school to move forward”, and that the Bright Tribe Trust has played an essential role in “quickly identifying the problems and then seeking out and appointing a principal who has so successfully driven change.”

Inspectors also praised the outstanding leadership of the principal Michael Wilson commenting that since his appointment, “the principal has galvanised staff, pupils, parents and the local community to support the school’s rapid improvement under his leadership” and that “leaders of the Multi Academy Trust and the head teacher have a vision for the school which staff share.”

This judgement marks the latest in a series of successes for the school which this summer included 62% of GCSE students gaining a grade 4 and above in mathematics and English combined. Just last week the school also celebrated a positive progress 8 score of +0.46 placing the school significantly above the national average for the progress of its students.

Inspectors commented on the words of one parent who stated that, “this school is now the school that everyone is talking about and considering moving their children here.”

Other improvements noted by inspectors included vastly improved behaviour which they declared to be ‘outstanding’. The report states that the conduct of pupils ‘is exemplary’ and that students, “are polite and welcoming to visitors and engage courteously in conversation, often instigating it.”

Michael Wilson, Principal at Alde Valley Academy said, “This is truly a reflection of the incredible hard work of all our staff, students and parents. Since my arrival three years ago I have witnessed Alde Valley Academy improve dramatically, a reflection of our commitment to high expectations and high standards in every aspect of the school. This is a great boost for the town of Leiston”.

Mary McKeeman, Chief Operations Officer, Bright Tribe Trust commented, “This report represents yet another success for Alde Valley Academy, following on from its hugely improved academic results. With the continued support of staff, pupils and the school community we know Alde Valley Academy can become the outstanding school of choice in the local area. Congratulations to everyone at the school!”


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Bright Tribe’s Alde Valley and Colchester Academies celebrate improvement in Progress 8

Placing both schools significantly above the national average for the progress of its students


Bright Tribe, a non-profit making, multi-academy trust, is reporting record results for Alde Valley and Colchester Academies in Progress 8 results – a measurement which benchmarks a student’s progress between the end of Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 across eight key subjects.



Alde Valley Academy celebrates outstanding Progress 8 results

 Now significantly above the national average for the progress of its students

Alde Valley Academy, Bright Tribe’s secondary school and sixth form, in Leiston, Suffolk celebrated a positive Progress 8 score of +0.46 placing it significantly above the national average for the progress of its students.  Zero is the baseline average score for schools

The school, which is on a firm upward trajectory, was also recognised in its recent Ofsted report as a Good school with Outstanding attributes just four years after being judged ‘Inadequate’ and placed in Special Measures by the Department for Education.

Commenting on the students’ progress, Principal Michael Wilson said, “We are thrilled with our result of +0.46 which shows that we are achieving very significantly above national benchmarks and clearly demonstrates the outstanding quality of teaching and learning that takes place within our school. Students at Alde Valley achieve significantly better than their prior attainment would suggest for all groups of learners.

“This goes hand-in-hand with the excellent results the school achieved at GCSE level this summer and represents a truly phenomenal outcome for us.”

This judgement marks the latest in a series of successes for the school which this summer included 62% of GCSE students gaining a grade 4 and above in mathematics and English combined.

Colchester Academy celebrates Progress 8 results – placing the school above the national average for the progress of its students

Colchester Academy, a vibrant Bright Tribe academy in Colchester, Essex, providing outstanding learning for 11–16 year-olds, celebrated marked improvements in its Progress 8 results of +0.23 – placing the school above the national average for the progress of its students. Zero is the baseline average score for schools.

Earlier this year students at Colchester Academy also celebrated marked improvements in its GCSE results which showed improved academic measures from the previous year’s results as well as gaps between key inclusion groups narrowing significantly. Individually a number of students performed particularly well, celebrating A* results as well as grade 8s or above in the new maths and English GCSEs.

Fiona Pierson, Principal at Colchester Academy commented, “We are absolutely thrilled with our Progress 8 results and delighted to see so many students achieve so well, with many outperforming their predicted targets. Staff and students alike have worked incredibly hard throughout the year and I am delighted with the success the school has achieved.  I wish all students the very best of luck in the next stage of their education.”

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Whoopi the therapy dog recruited to help pupils at Gulval School in Penzance with a diverse curriculum

Children returning to Gulval School, Adventure Learning Academy Trust, in Penzance, Cornwall, this term found a welcome new addition when they walked through the gates – Whoopi the therapy dog. She joins a big family of animals including twelve chickens, two rabbits and two pygmy goats.

Research studies in both Britain and America1 have concluded that having a dog in a school classroom can have many positive benefits. The presence of animals teaches responsibility, raises self-esteem, improves attendance, decreases anxiety and stress, supports children’s emotional and social development and brings the school community closer together.

Animals have played a key role in Gulval School’s transformation from Inadequate to Good in just three years. The school was in Special Measures but the appointment of new Principal, Paul Baker turned its fortunes around.

It is now a Good school and was rated Outstanding by Ofsted for the behaviour, safety and the welfare of its pupils, Ofsted inspectors commented that, “The varied and diverse curriculum offers pupils many exciting opportunities to learn. The use of the outdoors is a particular strength” and that “The Principal leads with a relentless ambition for excellence. He leads by example to create a haven where pupils make good progress.”

Since joining Adventure Learning Academy Trust and the appointment of the Principal, SATs results at Gulval have risen dramatically. Its Key Stage 2 results are significantly above national averages in Reading, Writing, Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar and Maths and the school is now an increasingly popular choice with parents.

Whoopi’s exact duties are yet to be decided but she is already impacting on the social and emotional development of pupils and acting as a Listening Dog, supporting children to improve their skills by reading to her. Research in the USA shows that reading to a dog can lead to an increase in reading levels, word recognition and more enthusiasm for reading and writing.

When she’s not at school, Whoopi is at home with Blue Class teacher Mr Goddard. He introduced Whoopi to his wife during his speech on their wedding day which upstaged the best man completely!

Paul Baker, the Principal at Gulval, said: “Whoopi started school at just 14 weeks which makes her the youngest member of our school community. She is very cute, full of fun and the children love having her around.  She has fitted in very well and I am sure she will be a real asset to our school.”

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A ‘relentless ambition for excellence’ pays off in SATs results at Gulval School

Progress in reading and writing was particularly strong

Gulval School, part of the Adventure Learning Academy Trust (ALAT), in Gulval, Penzance, is celebrating excellent SATs results for the third year running.

At Key Stage 2 the number of children meeting expected standards in both reading and writing have risen from 85% to 92%.

An inspection was carried out in May 2017 and positive comments made in the report have been reflected in the school’s SATs results. Ofsted inspectors had noted: “An increased focus on developing pupils’ mathematical reasoning skills is leading to strongly improving outcomes.” They were quite right as this year there has been a rise from 62% to 88% of children meeting expected standards in maths.

Lower down the school highlights include a rise in Early Years Foundation Stage from 75% to 79% for Good Level of Development and the phonics results rose from 67 to 84%.

Paul Baker, Principal at Gulval School said: “We have an inspirational and dedicated team of professionals who are committed and driven to providing a first class education where learning is adventurous and challenging.  This ensures that all our pupils aim high and have the very best possible chances of success.”

Mary McKeeman, Chief Operating Officer, Bright Tribe Trust, commented, “This is an excellent result for Gulval School and really reflects the hard work put in by staff at the school as well as the support of the regional team at ALAT. I would like to congratulate everyone at the school, including the pupils on this excellent result!”

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Hard work pays off as Gulval Primary School officially recognised to be a ‘good school’ in latest Ofsted

With ‘outstanding’ for ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’

Gulval School, an Adventure Learning Academy Trust (ALAT) school, in Gulval, Penzance, has been awarded a ‘good’ Ofsted rating with ‘outstanding’ attributes just four years after being judged ‘inadequate’ and placed in special measures by the Department for Education. Ofsted inspectors commented that since the appointment of new Principal, Paul Baker, there has been a renewed faith in the school and that as a result of rigorous school improvement the quality of teaching, learning and assessment has rapidly improved. Inspectors stated that “the principal’s vision and moral purpose has created an inclusive school where expectations are high”.

Factors contributing to the school’s transformation include not only a spotlight on progress in Maths and English but also a focus on improvement across the entire breadth of the curriculum, with opportunities for children to get involved in events such as ‘expedition week’ which saw over 80 pupils walk 12 miles to raise money for the school. Community events such as popular ‘Big Dig Days’ also give a chance for parents and other members of the community to get involved in the life of the school. Ofsted commented that “the varied and diverse curriculum offers pupils many exciting opportunities to learn. The use of the outdoors is a particular strength”.

Results at the school have also risen since its conversion to an academy, with Gulval celebrating its best ever results in 2015. In 2016 the school enjoyed outstanding results for a second year running, sitting comfortably in the top 5% of all schools nationally for reading and writing and the top 25% for Maths. Ofsted made reference to the dedicated staff who “share the principal’s passion and high expectations” stating that “teachers go to great lengths to make learning accessible and fun for the pupils”.

Following the inspection Ofsted representatives commented that “the school’s work to promote pupils’ personal development and welfare is outstanding” and that “Pupils enter the school at the beginning of the day with broad smiling faces. Lessons are typically a hive of buzz and excitement. There is an air of harmony and happiness as pupils play together in the vibrant and enriched environment.”

Inspectors also commented on the outstanding progress in the behaviour of pupils noting that: “Pupils have a powerful voice in this school. They are outstanding ambassadors for the school. Their eyes light up as they speak with immense pride and genuine enthusiasm about their school. They truly live out the school’s values of ‘Respect yourself, respect one another and respect the environment’.”

Paul Baker, Principal at Gulval School said, “I am absolutely delighted to see the hard work and dedication committed by my staff team formally recognised. This report demonstrates that by ensuring a real breadth of curriculum and focusing on the whole child, by setting high expectations, driving an agenda of positivity with a ‘can do’ attitude that anything is possible. Through this we have been able to achieve this success for our community – a message we strive to instil in our pupils every day”.

Mary McKeeman, Chief Executive Officer at Adventure Learning Academy Trust commented, “This is an excellent result for Gulval School and really reflects the hard work put in by staff at the school as well as the support of the regional team at ALAT. I would like to congratulate everyone at the school, including the pupils on this excellent result!”

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Altarnun Primary School pupils celebrate end of term success at Cornwall Athletics Final

Evie Williams wins gold medal and becomes the county champion at the 60 metre sprint

Students at Altarnun Primary School celebrated success in this year’s Cornwall Athletics Final at Par Running Track. Over 300 children from 22 different schools attended the day making it a hotly contested event. Ten children made up the team from Altarnun School making them the smallest, but certainly not the least enthusiastic team at the competition.

Events took place throughout the day with field events consisting of long jump, standing triple jump and vortex throw, and track events including short distance sprints, relays and long distances of 800m and 1500m.

Within the sprints three pupils from Altarnun Primary; William Carter, Toby Adams and Evie Williams, progressed from their heats to the finals. Once the finals started all eyes were on the sprinters with the runners showing the grit and determination needed within such a high-calibre event. Evie Williams, who won her heat, had a lot of pressure of her shoulders as the fastest qualifier going into the final however she handled the pressure superbly winning the gold medal and becoming the county champion at the 60 metre sprint.

The were also exceptional performances from the school’s relay team and long-distance runners with two pupils finishing in the top 10 in the 600 metre and 800 metre runs. Altarnun Primary also enjoyed success in the field events with pupil Shannon finishing third in the Vortex win, gaining another medal for the school.

Sarah Dinsdale, Class Teacher Altarnun Primary commented, “After visiting this event last year, we understood that the level of competition would be high, something that would push the children after their successes this year at Launceston’s athletics and within Cross-Country races.

The performance by all the children, through their efforts within their own events and the support they showed to their teammates, was a delight to see. We look forward to returning to this event yet again, and seeing where our athletes may progress further.”

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Using Thrive in our primary schools

For all of our schools, our first priority is to care for every child in a secure, friendly environment enabling them to skip into school and leap into life!

Here at ALAT, we have embraced the Thrive Approach for our primary schools to support all children’s emotional and social learning throughout their school day.

We are watching our children thrive and grow in confidence right in front of our very eyes as we encourage and teach them to face new challenges, become more independent and believe in their own abilities.

What is the Thrive Approach?

Children cannot always put their needs into words, but the way children behave can tell us a lot about how they are feeling. The Thrive Approach draws on the latest research from current neuroscience, recent attachment research, current studies of effective learning and current models of child development – in order to help the school to understand the needs being signalled by children’s behaviour. It gives us targeted strategies and activities to help them re-engage with learning and life.

Why do we need Thrive? 

Unfortunately, like all of us at some point in our lives, children may face challenges that knock them off course. What is needed during this time is understanding and support to get them back on track. Many children will respond to the care, understanding and support given by parents, family, friends and teachers. However, some children need a little bit extra.

What is a Thrive Action Plan? 

A Thrive Action Plan is a plan of activities tailored to support a child’s identified social and emotional learning targets. The activities are one-to-one and small group relational, play and arts-based activities designed to help the child feel better about him/herself; become more resilient and resourceful; form trusting, rewarding relationships; be compassionate and empathetic; and/or be able to overcome difficulties and setbacks. They might include playing in the sand, puppets, cooking, painting, model making, exploring difficult situations through role-play or comic strips, playing strategy games or projects focusing on the child’s own interests. Action Plans are shared with parents and they are encouraged to do some of the activities at home if possible. They are reviewed regularly to see the progress children have made.

So who gets Thrive? 

Everyone! Though they might not realise it. All of our pupils have access to regular class-based Thrive activities; most art and sport activities are taught within the Thrive Approach and we want to use specific whole class Thrive PSHE across our curriculum.

What makes our schools Thrive? 

We don’t consider Thrive to be an intervention for just a few children, we consider it to be a whole-school approach. We believe that all behaviour is communication and that communication needs to be understood and supported. Thrive feeds into everything we do; assemblies, getting to know everyone and their families, sharing all achievements not just academic ones, celebrating our diversity and our collective spirit play-times and of course learning time.

If you want to know more about Thrive, please visit the Thrive Approach website.


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How we’re supporting teaching and learning in our primary schools

Our new Teaching and Learning Lead, Simon Danby has been doing some fantastic work with our primary schools since joining in September, including working with our enthusiastic and talented teachers to develop tailored professional development to enhance their teaching and support progress.

This has been very productive, with all staff keen to action their ideas. On working with the schools, Simon says: “It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience so far, and inspirational to work with our senior leaders and principals on a day to day basis, assisting them with pushing through ideas to raise standards and move the schools forward.

“I will be spending quite a lot of time at Altarnun Primary School in Cornwall in the coming months, and have already started to look at developing the guided reading and phonics sessions there.”

Working for Adventure Learning Academy Trust (ALAT), Simon’s role is a bridge across the Trust’s primary schools and he has been sharing the good practice that takes place within each school amongst teaching staff and principals. Simon continues: “We are in the process of trialling a forum to encourage staff across the Trust to further share ideas and plan resources. The recent Maths Moderation Day was a great example of our schools working together and networking to share ideas and expertise, as well as to validate levels.”

Simon has spent considerable time developing the marking and feedback policies at Tywardreath School and Gulval School, working closely with the senior leadership teams, and has followed this up with planning and work scrutiny to raise standards and make sure that policies are followed correctly at staff meetings. Simon continues to support schools and is currently working with subject leaders so that they can monitor the books as effectively as possible and have confidence to review them independently.

At Tywardreath School, Simon was tasked with improving the learning environment and has given much more focus to teaching and learning in the staff room, and looking at how the school can improve and share what it does well. Simon talks us through his process for this: “Initially I worked with the Year 5 teacher, who was very responsive and made behaviour charts, role play areas and outdoor topic displays. This has worked particularly well and the staff at Tywardreath School are all taking this on board with classrooms and entrances of a high standard, geared towards stimulating and improving children’s topic work.

“Science is another area on which I have spent some time to improve within our schools, having the opportunity to work with teachers to raise the subject’s profile and make sure that it is covered effectively by staff in schools. It would be lovely to see some of our science trail park ideas come to fruition in the schools in the not too distant future – some of these are already starting to happen.”

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