Costessey academy boss spells out vision

Steve DownesThe boss of the new �27m academy at Costessey has promised to 'aim for the top' as she outlined an ambitious plan to transform the lives of children in the area.Steve Downes

The boss of the new �27m academy at Costessey has promised to 'aim for the top' as she outlined an ambitious plan to transform the lives of children in the area.

Rachel de Souza wants the school to be rated outstanding by Ofsted within three years of its opening this September.

The �135,000-a-year principal-designate also aims to emulate what she has achieved as principal of Barnfield West Academy in Luton, which went from being in the bottom 100 schools for its GCSE results to every student getting at least five A*-C grades in just three years.

And she hopes to deliver that vision by making it such an 'exciting' place to attend that youngsters 'run to school each morning'.

At the same time, Ms de Souza promised a diet of 'traditional' values, including smart uniforms and good manners.

Alongside leading Costessey's academy, she has been appointed executive director of a clutch of academies sponsored by Ormiston Trust in the eastern region - including the one to replace Oriel High at Gorleston.

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In her first media interview since being appointed to the role, she said: 'We are committed to building Costessey as a flagship for the region.

'We are aiming for the top. We want to achieve the highest possible results.

'There's some real strengths in the school already. It's on a good trajectory of improvement. The ability of the students is good. And the aim is for it to be an outstanding school within three years.'

She added: 'I've been looking under the skin of it and there's strength in the teaching staff and real commitment to change. I spoke to the student council, and the members said to me that they feel they are good and hardworking, and want to show people in the Norwich area that they can be outstanding.'

Ms de Souza is currently at Costessey High for a few days each week to plan for its opening as an academy in the existing buildings in September.

She replaces highly-respected former head Phillip May, who stood down at Easter, having missed out on the role of principal.

She said her ambitious plans were 'deliverable', and cited her track record in Luton, where the academy tripled the proportion of students gaining the benchmark five good GCSE grades in her first year.

Ms de Souza said: 'The first thing is you have to believe it can be done. It's about having the highest aspirations, having the vision and communicating that to the senior staff.

'I've had a lot of experience in creating a new curriculum. We will be looking at every child and creating a curriculum around them.

'It's also about motivation: making sure what we are planning motivates the students. We want to make sure school is exciting and that the students run to get here each morning.'

She added: 'I'm a firm believer that traditional things need to happen. There will be a traditional uniform with blazers. We will have a formal lunchtime where everybody stays on site. People will be expected to eat properly, show good manners and talk to each other properly. We will be raising the bar on standards.'

The current school will get a facelift during the summer, while Ms de Souza said there would be 'heavy' investment in 'top quality staff', new policies and new structures.

She said: 'What local parents want is a really successful local school that provides the best possible education. When the parents see us deliver that, they will be very happy.'

And she reassured parents who may be fearful of a move in the direction of some academies, where pupils are selected according to ability, not address.

'There is absolutely no way that we will ever select students on the basis of their ability. We are 100pc committed to being the first choice school for all our local parents.'

The project is being run by lead sponsor the Ormiston Trust, alongside the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Trust and Norfolk County Council.

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Do you have any ideas about what the Costessey academy should be called? Should it simply be the 'Costessey Academy'? Or should its moniker include the name of a local hero? Is there any place for the sponsors' names in the title? Email with your ideas.