Working with students, staff and parents to re-establish pride at Driffield School & Sixth Form is one of the goals for new headteacher Scott Ratheram as he takes up his new post this week.
The former head of Cottingham High School said he was delighted to take on his new role at the school on Manorfield Road which he described as having “lots of potential”. Mr Ratheram believes he can make a real difference and is looking forward to working with the whole school community to understand the ‘essence’ of Driffield School and create a shared vision to build a great school.
Born and brought up in Sheffield, Mr Ratheram has worked at schools in the East Riding since 2001, having first worked at South Hunsley before moving to Headlands School in Bridlington as acting head when it was in special measures in 2009. After leading Headlands School out of special measures, he became head of Cottingham High School where he has moved the school from requires improvement to good.
Despite his track record in troubled schools, Mr Ratheram insists he is not a “troubleshooter”. He told the Wolds Weekly: “Trouble-shooter does not describe what I am about or what motivates me. It is the potential of a school and of its students which attracts me to a post.
“At Driffield, I have the opportunity to work with CEO of The Education Alliance Chris Abbott again and with executive principal Jonny Uttley and The Education Alliance team and come to a big East Riding school with lots of potential, where I feel I can make a difference and be a good fit.”
His first priority in his new role is to gain a solid understanding of the school and its essence before creating a shared vision for the future.
He said: “I don’t want to make any snap judgements, but I want to get a handle on things as quickly as possible.
“I will listen to staff’s views and meet students and be around so parents can speak to me, so that I can gain the essence of Driffield School.
“Everyone tells me how important the school is to the community and I need to understand that, as well as understanding the areas we need to improve and to consolidate.
“During the first term I will work closely with those people who know the school well to establish a shared vision. It is about setting the highest aspirations.
“Trying to build a great school that the whole community wants will become our unshakeable goal.
“No path is smooth and there will be bumps along the way, but if you have that shared vison then you can build people behind you.
“My ambition is for Driffield to be a great school and play a full part in The Education Alliance, alongside the other great schools, as an equal partner.”
Although Mr Ratheram officially takes up his post this week, it will be a phased start as he completes his hand over at Cottingham High School, but in the visits he has made to Driffield School over the past two months he has already gained a positive feeling about the school and its pupils and staff.
He said: “The biggest asset of any school is its students and those who I have met have been incredibly polite – they hold doors open for you and are a really lovely mix of students.
“What is really key is that the students, staff and parents are proud of their school and it is crucial we re-establish that pride.
“All of the ingredients are there and fundamentally what we all want are happy students who enjoy school and all the rest will follow.
“We all came into teaching to put the students first and a good indicator of happiness is attendance.
“If you have got happy students then they attend school and attendance here is some of the highest across the East Riding and above the national average, which indicates generally happy students who are enjoying coming to school and therefore they will achieve as well.
“We also have to look after our staff and we have cracking staff here and we want to ensure consistency in every lesson.
“We also want to see a healthy turnover of staff and nationally recruitment of teachers is not easy.
“We want the staff who arrive in Driffield to have opportunities and they might take on promoted posts elsewhere and some will stay here for longer and be able to take internal promotions, but I believe you need that positive turnover of staff.”
He added that he sees his role over the coming weeks and months to build on the solid foundations which have been built over the last 18 months.
“I see my role as a continuation of the great work which has gone on here for the past 18 months,” he said.
“One of the strengths of being involved in a multi academy trust is that Chris Abbott has been able to be here for three or four days a week and Jonny Uttley on the other days, so the capacity they have been able to bring and the experience has been incredibly beneficial.
“We have seen improvements in exam results last year and large numbers going into the sixth form and the A level results were a really strong set of results for the school; so we can already see those green shoots.
“Being part of The Education Alliance also brings expertise in recruitment and having the Wolds Teaching School Alliance and the training strands attached means that we can continue to grow and develop staff here and also bring in great staff as well.”
He added that a comprehensive revision programme has been put in place for the students in Years 11 and 13 who will sit their GCSEs and A levels this summer, which he hopes will help build on the improved results seen in 2017.
He also hopes the new uniform, which will come into force from September, will be worn with pride by the students.
He said: “I think the new uniform looks great. We introduced a similar change in uniform at Cottingham and the students wore it with such pride; it was more grown up and business like and looked very smart.
“I think the consultation over the new uniform at Driffield has been very comprehensive and it looks really smart and it could help to create a real buzz about the school.”
He concluded: “I would like to help build a team, which includes students, staff and parents, and to lead that team to give us all a school we are really proud of.”