Our speaker at our 16th January lunch meeting was Sue Croft head teacher of Oxford Spires Academy who turned a failing school around into a nationally recognised success story. The school was founded in 1934 as Southfield School and in 1966 merged with the City of Oxford High School (both grammar schools) to form The Oxford School on the Southfield site.
It became a comprehensive in 1972 as The Oxford Community School and after that standards began to fall. Sue arrived in 2010 at a school with a poor reputation and closed it.
Following a considerable amount of work on the school fabric, ethos and themes Sue re-opened the school as Oxford Spires Academy in January 2011 with the same staff and the same pupils but a very different regimen and ethos. The initiatives she introduced are too numerous to include here but include the introduction of a simple school uniform (designed with the students), the use of purple as the school’s theme colour and a programme to deal robustly with the high levels of lateness and absenteeism. Sue introduced four school houses all of which gave pupils a family-type atmosphere tempered with a competitive element. The previous low expectations were raised so that everyone was expected to do their best and have their efforts recognised.
All the staff underwent neuro-linguistic programming training which was used to build rapport with the students and aim towards results-based teaching. The Ofsted report in 2012 confirmed that the school had made good progress towards raising standards. Sue would anticipate an ‘Outstanding’ if the inspectors came today.
She feels the school is ready to move on and will sadly be retiring at the end of the current school year. Whatever Sue goes on to in her future, we feel certain it will be a resounding success!