"I've Got The Best Job In The Country"

Hammersmith Academy head prepares to take up post

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www.mercers.co.uk and www.wcit.org.uk

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Shepherd's Bush's newest secondary school is still more than 18 months away from opening its door to its first ever students but the new had teacher, appointed last September, is already raring to go.

Gary Kynaston will be taking up his Hammersmith Academy post this April and has until September 2011 to recruit a full complement of staff for the school, organise the curriculum and get to know local parents. But despite the enormity of the task ahead of him, his enthusiasm is palpable: “It's the most fantastic and exciting opportunity. There are not many opportunities where you open a school without any previous legacy. I feel I've got the best job in the country,” Kynaston told ShepherdsBushW12.com.

Leaving his current post as Senior Deputy Head at Quintin Kynaston School in Westminster, Kynaston now has to set about creating a school where the high aims set by the Hammersmith Academy Trust can be met. The Trust say they want to establish a local school 'where excellence is the norm', where students 'achieve high standards of attainment', and where 'the curriculum will be tailored to the needs of individual students, including the gifted and talented and those with special educational needs.' Kynaston is undaunted: “I only work with high expectations,” he said. “It is only with high aspirations that you can achieve. I have a sense of belief that all young people, no matter what their background, can achieve and my responsibility is to ensure they can reach their potential and continue with a life-long attitude to learning, to give them an opportunity to have long carers in their chosen field,” he said.

The school, which is co-sponsored by the Mercers’ Company and the Information Technologists’ Company, will specialise in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Creative & Digital Media. Older children will get a chance to gain specialised diplomas in subjects such as graphic design, publishing, advertising, film, television, radio, interactive media, animation and computer games with a great emphasis on preparing students for the modern workplace – something that is particularly relevant to the local area where there are a large number of television production companies, as well as the BBC. “The Hammersmith Academy is very much about being leading edge. Creative and digital media is very pertinent to the local area. There is a big demand for digital technologies to access the workplace,” says Kynaston.

A high proportion of Hammersmith and Fulham parents currently send their children to secondary schools outside the borough – a trend the Hammersmith Academy is aiming to reverse, and judging by some of the responses to the early phases of the consultation process, many local parents are extremely enthusiastic about the idea of a brand new secondary school on their doorsteps. “This area is desperate for the new secondary school - I welcome it wholeheartedly,” was a typical comment. Kynaston says he is confident parents will not be disappointed. “I'm aware there's been a great demand in the local area over the years. Together with the two sponsors, I feel that we have an attitude for success.”

Parents, in fact, will play a key role in school life and in the months leading up to the Academy's opening, Kynaston says he will be holding a series of meetings with potential parents to discuss what the school will be offering. Then, once the school is up and running, parental involvement will also be a key feature: “Engagement with the parents will be through a parents' group which will act as a sounding-board and will be able to pass feedback to the Headteacher on behalf of the parents. The I.T. environment will allow parents to directly engage with the school and communicate with the school via the website. This will be a key way of communicating with the parents,” he said.

As well as building up contacts with parents, relationships with other local schools and colleges will also need to be carefully managed. In the initial consultation process, they said they wanted to have a collaborative rather than a competitive relationship with the Academy and perhaps to avoid any potential conflict, the Hammersmith Academy Trust makes a point of stating that 'The Academy will be a new build, with no migration from an existing secondary school.' Kynaston says the purpose of the Academy is not to compete with other schools but simply to give local children more options: “It is important to have good relations - I have worked in Hammersmith and Fulham previously so already have good relations with local schools, but ultimately it's about choice for the students - the local population want choice,” he said.

Kynaston himself is no stranger to the local area. “I am from west London. It is home. I do feel that I understand the local area, the local need and local history,” he said. He spent five years teaching English at Phoenix High School where he set up a literacy and numeracy summer school to give weaker students a boost. While programmes like this have now become a regular part of school life, Kynaston says personalised learning will be a key element in the new Academy: “There will be plenty of opportunities for bespoke learning and extra-curricular activities at the Hammersmith Academy,” he said.

After its first year in operation, Kynaston says the Hammersmith Academy will already have built itself a solid reputation: “People will say how confident, excited and happy their children are, and will see that the importance of learning, achievement and individual success is clearly demonstrated in the behaviour of the children. The students will be good citizens within the local community,” he said.

Kynaston is currently based at an office at St. Paul's Girls' School in Hammersmith, where he will stay until the new building is ready in June 2011. The Academy will receive its first intake of students in September 2011, into Year 7 (age 11) and Year 12 (age 16) and will gradually fill to a capacity of 780 students by 2016.

Yasmine Estaphanos

14 February 2010