Steps to improve performance will include a greater degree of self-evaluation and a more structured approach to the way the curriculum is monitored. Monitoring has been transformed. This has involved classroom observation by the Head of Learning as well as by subject leaders, triangulated through regular scrutiny of children’s work, talking to children and the external support of the Plymouth Leadership Adviser (PLA) and our Area Adviser from CAST.
Staff development, too, has taken a more directed approach. Areas that are identified in the School Development Plan and through Appraisal are targeted. The changing nature of Performance Management has led to staff taking more responsibility for their own development.
As an oversubscribed school, it is always difficult to turn down anyone wanting to come to Holy Cross. The decision to have an additional class in one year group required careful management over the years but it was a reflection of our commintment to our community.
The school has gone through a lot. In spite of huge personal difficulties, the staff have always supported each other and grown in strength because of this. The fire at the beginning of 2010 could so easily have been a major catastrophe. Whilst it has caused considerable additional work, through a positive attitude, we have grown through this experience and become an even stronger community.
We were asked whether the school should expand to accommodate more children. The opportunity to embrace the fabric of the church and not have to turn children away was a unique one but measured against the impact of expansion on this constrained site. Whilst consultation rightly led to a decision not to expand initially, the issues of playground space and parking have continued to be looked at. This led to our own purpose-built MUGA being built in Beaumont Park.
Basic Need funding was approved and from 2015-2016, the school underwent major expansion work. We now have a PAN of 45 and continue to take an additional 15 pupils each year.
I see the school role as steadying at just over 315. This helps stabilise financial planning and allows us to plan within a set budget, although this is not always easy due to national and local politics. The role of the Senior team is critical in playing a key part in decision-making.
Although our school is only small in terms of space, we have made tremendous inroads into maximising all opportunities for learning. The Roof garden as an outdoor playground space (and outdoor classroom) should be celebrated. The development of the Parish Garden has also improved our outdoor environment and the provision for the Early Years. An additional outdoor play space has been added to the back playground.
The acquisition of the church space has been a blessing. The architects did so well to maintain so many of the features of the church whilst making it work as a wonderful school hall with its own altar space, side chapel and adjacent kitchen in the old presbytery. The added floor now provides us with three additional classes.