'Everyone smiles in the same language' at school that's turned things round

Park View Academy, Huyton pictured Headteacher Damian Kenny.
Park View Academy, Huyton pictured Headteacher Damian Kenny. -Credit:Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo

A school in Merseyside is changing lives for both pupils and parents in their local community.

Everyone connected with Park View Academy in Huyton is celebrating after turning around its fortunes due to the hard work, dedication and passion of its staff.

Just three years ago, Park View was 'hurt' by a disappointing Ofsted inspection which detailed a number of key areas where the school 'required improvement'. However, an Ofsted report conducted in April this year, identified many 'outstanding' qualities in the school's educational approach and has now rated the school as 'Good'.

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It is a remarkable turnaround for a school in one of the most deprived areas in the UK and something Executive Headteacher, Damian Kenny is very proud of. He said: "The two most important things for me as a headteacher is that the children are safe and that they feel happy.

"If we can get that right then you get the right environment for learning so, the children will want to come to school. For example, last year the school was in the top 20% in the country for attendance.

"One of the things I was particularly pleased by was a comment made by one of the Ofsted inspectors who said 'your not just changing children’s lives, your changing their family's lives. That is testament to everything we are trying to achieve here."

Park View Academy is part of a wider educational network under the leadership of The Dean Trust - a multi-academy group established in 2012 and managing 14 schools located across the north west.

Before Park View’s conversion to an academy, the school was rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted and noted for its 'exemplary' leadership and 'outstanding' behaviour from pupils. After the school's change to academy status, previous assessments were bolstered by a 2018 short inspection report in which Ofsted awarded another 'Good' rating.

The status was a result of a series of educational initiatives and extra curricular projects including provision for free school uniforms for all pupils and adult learning classes for parents.

Park View Academy, Huyton pictured Headteacher Damian Kenny.
Park View Academy, Huyton pictured Headteacher Damian Kenny. -Credit:Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo

For the adult learning project, Mr Kenny said they provide this to support parents who may never have had a positive learning experience and help them see the value of education - not only for themselves but also their children.

However, a 2021 Ofsted inspection reported a decline in standards and the school's status plummeted from 'Good' to 'Requires Improvement'.

Inspectors noted that while pupils felt 'happy and safe' at the school with a well-planned curriculum, progress was 'patchy' for some pupils. Furthermore, a redesigned curriculum was not fully implemented, meaning the situation for pupils was 'variable' across subjects and provision for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) were not 'achieving as well as they should'.

Nonetheless, although the school acknowledged the areas for improvement, it is impossible to ignore the backdrop of the 2021 report. The covid 19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns meant schools across the UK had to implement home learning and facilitate education via the medium of online classes.

For a school so dependent on its welcoming environment and teacher-student relationships, the rupture caused by the pandemic left the school ill-prepared to replicate their offer to online classes. The impact of covid was highlighted throughout the 2021 report.

Mr Kenny said the pandemic had a dramatic and complex impact on the whole educational sector. He said: "Speech and language is so important to child development and we were unable to provide that during the lockdown. Attendance was really good with the online classes but it's simply not the same and can never replicate face-to-face interaction."

The results of all the post-pandemic work is impressive and have been recognised by the Ofsted report which highlighted a number of areas of excellent work including an 'exceptional' approach to pupils' personal development, particularly those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

Park View Academy, Huyton pictured Headteacher Damian Kenny with Rev Irene Tuzio, Chair of Governors.
Park View Academy, Huyton pictured Headteacher Damian Kenny with Rev Irene Tuzio, Chair of Governors. -Credit:Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo

The comment on Park View's offer for SEND pupils is particularly pleasing after the last report highlighted areas of weakness. Mr Kenny said: "We have invested in staffing that will support children with special educational needs.

"We employed a new Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) and she works on early intervention and making sure the children get all the support they need before they come to us. She is reaching out to providers in the community who work with early years children and issues are identified so we can provide the right support when they come to us."

Out of all the praise afforded to the school, it is the 'outstanding' status for behaviour and personal development which they are most proud of. Asked how they achieve such positive engagement, Mr Kenny is clear about what is at the heart of their success. He said: "We are a diverse school and we want to help people and make everyone feel welcome.

"One of our mottos is 'we all smile in the same language' and that philosophy is something we try to foster and something we are incredibly proud of."

Reverend Tuzio said: “I came to this school when I was a child and have always loved this place. I know what a good education can give to people and we all work so hard here to give our community the best possible opportunities and make sure the children understand anything is possible."

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