It has been a year of change at the upper Calder Valley’s high schools and both are looking ahead to the new year with a sense of anticipation about what the future holds.
New headteachers have been appointed at Todmorden High and Calder High School in 2013, both have seen their exam results improve and both are putting policies in place to continue their upward trajectory.
Anthony Guise, who was appointed headteacher at Calder High in September, said his first term in charge has flown by but he is still loving life in Mytholmroyd.
“It’s been non-stop but I still come into school every day with a big smile on my face. I love it,” he said.
“My previous boss said to me when I got the job: ‘The only thing I can equate it to is before you have children. I can’t explain how much it takes over your life.’
“She is right. Nothing prepares you for headship.
“But I have been magnificently supported by the leadership team at the school. We come as a team and I really like that.”
After a difficult couple of years for the school, things are on the up.
Exam results improved in the summer and Ofsted inspectors praised the work that is being done to turn things around.
“There’s that much going on that I’m glad I’ve got a team to do it together,” Anthony said.
“That doesn’t mean we have cracked it. We have still got work to do and we know that.
“We have not got everything right yet - not by a long shot - and we know that. That’s why we are working so hard and are so busy.
“We have a plan and we know what we are doing about it.”
The new year will see the school continue down the road of becoming a co-operative trust school, in partnership with Brooksbank School, Calderdale Council and the Co-operative Trust, as it aims to continue to improve standards.
“We have already built up good links with Brooksbank,” Anthony said.
“The head there is kind of my mentor going through my first headship. That’s been a great support.
“To formalise that into an official partnership is good.
“We are doing the right thing and working with the Co-operative Trust is the right thing for the school. It will bring benefits for the school.”
One thing which has particularly struck him during his time at the school is how much the community wants Calder High to succeed.
He would like to say a special thank you to Stuart Chadwick at Vale Upholstery, Sue Cooper at Little Valley Brewery and the team at Sweet and Maxwell for their support.
“I really do feel that the doors of Calder High are open again and we are part of what’s going on,” he said.
“I feel that everybody has had a hand in trying to move us forward.”
Looking ahead to 2014, he said there is a genuine belief within the school that things are changing for the better.
“Everybody is working as hard as they can - students, teachers and governors. We have got a job to do and we are on it,” he said.
“I have stood in front of parents and made decisions that other schools have not.
“But I have made them for the right reasons and done what’s best for the students.
“We will see what happens in September.
“I can stand hand on heart and say we did the right thing by our students.
“As headteacher, that’s the best I can do.”
In January, Todmorden High School embarked on a challenging journey which involved recruiting a new headteacher, strengthening its senior leadership team, introducing a new school uniform and implementing a new behaviour policy as it sought to increase the rate of improvement.
Jayne Shackleton, who chairs the school’s board of governors, said: “We were in a difficult place. We required intervention.
“At that time the governing body was determined to put improvements into place.
“All the staff and the senior leadership team (SLT) have embraced the improvement plan. It was all hands to the pump.
“We succeeded in recruiting a new headteacher in Andrew Whitaker.
“We also added Adam Ryder as an additional deputy headteacher to strengthen the SLT and we called in the National Leader of Education.
“It’s been very successful since then.”
The new uniform was a talking point at first but has since become popular with the students.
“It’s so much better than it was,” she said.
“We’ve had lots of positive comments from people saying how much smarter the students look.
“There have been one or two parents who have been unhappy about it and have challenged us about it but we have got to be robust and consistent and will not make exceptions to these rules. Gradually the parents have come on board.
“The students have developed a sense of pride in their school.
“It’s looking very, very positive all round.”
Like Calder High, the school has been battling to secure funding for a re-build.
Approximately £250,000 was spent on improving the fabric of the current buildings over the summer and there was a major breakthrough in the autumn when Calderdale Council announced a feasibility study into a phased rebuilding of the school.
“We are struggling with the fabric of the building but we threw some money at it to make it look tidier, more professional and more educationally friendly for students and visitors to the school,” she said.
“I have built up a good rapport with the local authority. We are part of the feasibility study for a new building.
“We are getting the plan together for a new building and are confident that we will get the funding and be able to get cracking.
“It would be a huge improvement.”
Despite a record set of exam results in the summer, staff have said they are “pleased but not satisfied”.
“The school was not in a good place but we are coming out of that now and our exam results this next time round will be even better. We are very confident in that,” she said.
“We are moving in the right direction. The school has a great vibe to it.
“Andrew and the governors have suggested innovative ideas including bringing in mentors who are good at speaking to young people - such as former ‘Apprentice’ candidate Adam Corbally - and good at bringing out confidence and ability.
“We want every child in the school to get the education that they need and that they deserve.
“Not all children are academically gifted so we have got to include other activities into the curriculum so we ensure every child is ready for adult life.
“We want Todmorden High to be at the centre of the community and we want parents to want to send their children here.
“We want them to be confident that if they have gifted children they can do as well here as at one of the grammar schools.”