IN the 18 months since York High School became an academy there have been a lot of changes at the school, says head teacher Rod Sims.

After Ofsted placed it in Special Measures in January last year, the Acomb secondary become part of the South Bank Academy Trust and has seen some significant changes in the leadership team. Trevor Burton, the Millthorpe head teacher, joined York High as executive head last September, and Mr Sims was promoted to head of school responsible for the daily running of the school.

Mr Sims summed up his first year in charge as “a year in which we faced many challenges in stabilising the school and building the foundations for improvement”.

He said: "York High now feels it is ready to show significant improvement over the next twelve months in student progress including GCSE results. The first task last autumn was to bring the financial position into control."

Mr Burton said: “Most people know that schools are increasingly struggling with funding. This year, we’ve had to reduce staffing and the cost of contracts to bring the school back into financial sustainability.”

At the same time, there have been initiatives to improve teaching quality and support students needing extra help. Mr Sims said: “We are heartened by the parents and students who have stood by our school, and want them to know their loyalty will be rewarded.

“Next year, one in three teachers at York High will be new to the school, and recruited because of their commitment to help us improve as fast as possible.”

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The school believes this mix of new and established staff will boost the quality of teaching across the whole school.

Mr Sims said: “We have some brilliant staff already at the school but we can all improve. Our new staff and our high quality training programme led by Clair Kitchen gives us confidence for the future.

"Recruitment has been a challenge but the school made it a top priority. Mr Sims has used a variety of innovative approaches to recruit quality staff to the school as the supply of new teachers nationally has shrunk.

“Recruitment has been harder and more time-consuming this year: I’ve made visits to teacher training institutions, advertised on social media, worked with recruitment agencies as well as the usual placing of press and online advertisements."

Mr Sims said more attention has been paid to the views of students, parents, and teachers this year to ensure that planned changes will improve student progress.

The school has listened to the views of 450 students, 120 parents and 80 staff through surveys and working groups. “One of the initiatives that we are introducing is digital governors, a group of 20 committed parents who we will regularly consult to help shape the school’s future,” said Mr Sims.

One highly visible change from all this listening is a new Positive Behaviour system in the school from September. “In September, our new Positive Behaviour system will make York High a place where all teachers can teach and all students can learn,” said Mr Sims.

The school believes that a twin approach of improving teaching quality and minimising low level disruption is its fastest route for all students to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Just before the school broke up for the Summer they held Aspire week, which gives Year 10 students access to more than 16 sixth forms and colleges and more than different employers.

Mr Sims said: "Students take part in many activities to explore their potential and widen their future aspirations.

"The school has worked hard to bring young people, employers and post-16 providers together as an alternative to the traditional work experience often done during Year 10. We see the link between aspirations and expectations as essential in ensuring the best outcomes for our students."