School Focus: New identity for Walton primary school as it starts new chapter with same key values at its core
September 2021 has marked a new beginning for Whitecotes Primary Academy, one which has seen the school adopt a new name and identity.
Three years ago, Whitecotes Primary Academy was rated as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted and said it was “wasting no time” in tackling the issues revealed in a damning report by inspectors.
Since then it has been on a journey of improvement and, at the beginning of the year, saw a major change when it joined The Flying High Trust – one of the top five performing primary multi-academy trusts in the country.
In May, the school welcomed new headteacher Mark Parkinson and now, as the 2021/2022 academic year gets underway, it is celebrating yet another big change as it embarks on a new chapter as Walton Peak Flying High Academy.
Speaking of joining the school, Mr Parkinson said: "The children are an absolute pleasure to work with.
"They are so eager to achieve and have a natural thirst to gather knowledge and we’ve really got a special opportunity here to mould a really special school that serves the community, provides the best education, and a curriculum driven by fun and enjoyment, but most of all underpinned with challenge.
“We’re building aspiration for our pupils which they are ready to embrace and move forward with. The children are extremely responsive and eager to learn.”
To coincide with the opening of the school as Walton Peak Flying High Academy, Mr Parkinson explained how children will be asked about what they want their legacy to be to the school as part of a new, inquiry- led curriculum.
"We’re tying that in with historical figures in the area to build aspiration and we’re asking children to reflect on their goals,” he added.
"We’ll be linking it in with geography and PSHE and will tie that off with the children making a promise to themselves on a postcard, to give them something to reflect on at the end of the year; have they met their goals, are they working towards their legacy, and ultimately what type of students do they want to be.
"Through that we’ll be instilling our visions and values in the pupils to get us off to a positive start. It is a unique moment in time that we’re looking to capture with them.”
The academy had previously been working with the Trust ahead of joining in January 2021, benefitting from the expertise available
Over the summer holidays, Mr Parkinson said work has been underway to “totally transform” the Walton-based school following major investment in the facilities for Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
The has included the installation of a new designated ‘construction’ area for children, nature areas, fixed climbing equipment, a quiet reading area and reading shelter, and a bike track in a new open plan layout.
Mr Parkinson also explained how the corridors and classrooms have been revamped and redecorated, with new windows and doors fitted across the school, to “build an environment that the children take pride in and the children feel proud of”.
Elsewhere, another change has been a new school uniform for pupils all of which is emblazoned Walton Peak Flying High Academy, allowing them to properly celebrate the new chapter and feel part of the school community.
Mr Parkinson added: “The new outdoor area will really allow our children to flourish out there and give staff the flexibility and tools to give the children the very best start.
"In the quad area at the centre of the school there’s also been some investment. We’re developing a performance area there, with a staged area and fixed seating with a bit of an auditorium feel.
"Again, there’ll be a story chair in there – we’re very much promoting oracy and reading and we have a new library area so it's very much at the centre and at the heart of our school and everything we do.”
The new chapter as Walton Peak Flying High Academy is an ‘exciting time’, says Mr Parkinson, and is one that he is eager to get the wider community involved in.
"I keep saying it’s a really exciting point in time and a really exciting journey to get on,” he said, adding: “with the community working alongside and supporting us and really developing that community ethos within the building and beyond into Chesterfield and it’s very much in line with the Flying High values and the Trust that we’ve joined.”
Looking forward, Mr Parkinson hopes to promote the performing arts even further – describing them as a “real vehicle to promote confidence”.
This will include work with musician Jacob Elliot, who will join the school throughout the year, teaching music but also helping the pupils develop their skills and love for the subject.
He added: “It’s about developing the offer that we have and through these opportunities it helps develop the whole child – their resilience, their confidence, their perseverance and the pride that they take in everything they do.
"Fundamentally, every decision we make will be child driven and is child driven and it will be underpinned with the standards that we promote in every piece of work that we do.”
To officially mark the fresh start as Walton Peak Flying High Academy, the school held an opening event on Friday, September 10.
Mr Parkinson said the children were very much at the heart of the ceremony, with each Key Stage delivering performing as groups on stage and the whole school coming together for a performance of the school song.