Sir Robert Woodard Academy, A Parents View

Sir Robert Woodard Academy, A Parents View

Silver linings at Sir Robert Woodard Academy

by Sue Smith

As we return to the school application process for our second child, I wanted to share the experience we had with our first child, in the hope that it may help others feel less anxious.

Where to begin? It is hard to write about without becoming emotional, as the admissions process was so traumatic with our son’s placement, mostly due to the shock of the reality versus our expectations.

We live near Swiss Gardens Primary School and traditionally the majority of the children locally had gone to Shoreham Academy. After four years of ‘community games’ and an array of sporting events, we had assumed that our son would join his friends and peers at our ‘community’ school. This was not to be!

After first being placed at the Storrington campus of Steyning Grammar School, we reapplied for Sir Robert Woodard, where we knew our son would have some Shoreham friends, since we felt that this was important for him, in terms of confidence. By the end of July, however, he was the only boy from his class going to Sir Robert Woodard Academy, (SRWA). This was pretty much our worst-case scenario – no close friends and a journey to an unknown school.

So – the Silver Linings.

A year on and our son was actually looking forward to going back to school in September (an absolute first, despite having had a fantastic primary experience!) This is in part due to the strong friendships he has made, particularly with the other Shoreham boys going to SRWA, but also due to the ethos and practices of the school itself. There have been many advantages for our son, which include:

  • All lessons initially took place within a stable class base, which allowed children to feel secure and enabled them to form good friendships quickly. By half term, the base was adjusted for maths and for PE to allow children to feel confident and have the help/ challenge that they needed.
  • Small classes allowed children to become well known by their teachers.
  • Vertical tutor groups gave children the opportunity to meet older children across the school. This particularly helped children like our son, who didn’t have the advantage of knowing older siblings and their peers.
  • A range of new subjects; he loved learning history, geography, art, design technology, drama, dance and music as separate subjects. He really enjoyed the chance to learn French and Spanish in year 7 and this continues in Year 8. In the current climate, I am especially happy that he has the opportunity to continue with two languages.
  • The ASPIRE days which focused on issues affecting the whole child. The school tagline of ‘be known and be nurtured’ always seems to apply but was especially pertinent on these days.
  • The staff – all the teachers we have met have been warm, but professional in their attitudes and their communication with us.
  • The homework projects have been interesting and have allowed for choice in how to present the findings.
  • The assessments have been carried out regularly, but mostly in a low key, low-stress way, with just three tests (maths, english and science) carried out in a formal way at the year-end, to help children prepare for later examinations.
  • The reward/sanction system allows for plenty of praise and reward, but gives children a chance to be reminded before they are punished/penalised (I understand that for some this may not be an advantage, but for our son it was)
  • The journey to school! This is rather ironic as it was one of the biggest reasons why we hadn’t originally considered SRWA. However, the school has put on a minibus for £6 per week (less than any public bus to SA), which picks up and drops off from outside the Domino’s Pizza shop in Shoreham. This means that our son has travelled to and from school independently from the beginning of Year 7, without carrying money and with our peace of mind as we knew that the driver would wait if he was late.

And the disadvantages?

  • Well, he couldn’t go to secondary school with his primary class friends – but many continue to be his friends. Shoreham based clubs have really helped with this. Many of his old classmates have also made new friends and/or switched friendship groups.
  • He definitely isn’t taking up all the after school or before school club opportunities (yet), due to the journey without the minibus. However, this seems to be true for many of his peers at a range of secondary schools; with those attending the most clubs still relying on parents to pick up/ drop off. Once he is confident to take the train it is a regular 4 minute journey to Shoreham, after a 15-minute walk to the station.

So, my advice…Take a good look round at all the schools now, before choosing your preferences, but try to stay open-minded if you don’t get the school of your choice. We really are very lucky that all the schools nearby have their individual advantages; we just need to look for them and help our children to see them.

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