Being the new Principal of a school is always a challenge, particularly when part of your role is to drive development and expansion in preparing young people for adulthood.
Anne Price was appointed Principal to Kedleston’s High Peak School during the Autumn term. She is passionate about encouraging pupils, staff, and families to aspire to things they never thought possible. Her tenure got off to an excellent start with a ‘Good’ across all areas from the latest Ofsted education report.
‘I was keen to set out my vision for the school and to bring staff along with me. Schools like High Peak are always going to be challenging and it’s important for the staff to know that they are supported from the top. I also wanted to put in a step change and make High Peak not just an excellent school for our young people but a valuable member of the local community.’
Anne and her team have three main areas of focus: Education and care, community involvement and networking. She feels that High Peak is a good school, will be a good neighbour, and can build long-lasting partnerships with commissioners.
In terms of education, a vocational curriculum has been introduced for those young people who can benefit. ASDAN Employability pathways are now available and, following consultation with the pupils, she is working to introduce the Peak Apprenticeship. There is also the soon to be opened Peak Café in part of the school. The cafe will give pupils the opportunity to gain experience in catering and customer service plus it will be a venue that the local community can use. There is added potential for use by walkers because there is a public footpath about 100 meters away.
‘It’s an opportunity for High Peak pupils to experience work in a safe and controlled environment’
Work experience is an important element in any school and Anne and the team are developing links with a local primary school and ‘Long lunch’ a local Disley community project.
In order to develop the curriculum, the Upper and Lower schools have been restructured to make a more coherent structure. This includes ensuring that pupils have access to local colleges and off-site vocational provisions. This is in addition to the Key stage curriculum and GCSE offers that the school provides.
The care provision is currently nearing the end of a comprehensive refurbishment programme involving all of the houses and an independent flat has been created within the school. The flat is part of the school’s strategy to help young people with the transition to independent living.
There has also been a focus on enhancing the therapeutic options at High Peak. Great strides have been made in getting every pupil an appropriate EHCP. An on-site occupational therapist is now available to complement the clinical team and the school is currently developing a specialist sensory integration room.
Anne’s vision is to make the school a leading asset to the local community in the area and further afield. She is in discussion with several of the local parental support groups to explore partnership opportunities and with local schools to share resources. High Peak is fortunate to have its own swimming pool and Anne is keen that the schools nearby should be able to use it.
‘By sharing our facilities we will be saving local schools time and travel expenses. It will also help to develop a sharing mind-set, where we can share other facilities and staff development opportunities.’
An important activity for any school is to ensure that local authorities know what the school offers. One of Anne’s primary tasks was to reach out to the local authorities nearby. High Peak is located at the meeting point of several local authority areas. Its home authority is Cheshire East but a stone’s throw to the west is Stockport and a stone’s throw to the east is Derbyshire, with Stoke and Staffordshire being within easy reach. Being a residential provision, it is also attractive to authorities from across the country.
‘One of my prioritises was to get round the Directors of Service as soon as possible and share my vision for the school with them’
Anne’s vision is that High Peak School will be the provision of choice for day and residential placements from nearby local authorities and those further afield.
Anne’s vision is to make High Peak the outdoor activities hub of the Kedleston Group, offering activities to other schools in the group.
‘High Peak can be a place where young people from the schools in the Midlands, London and the North West can come and experience the outdoors. The school has a large estate that we can develop to offer a range of activities, from bushcraft to mountain biking.’
High Peak School is a specialist residential and day school for young people who may have social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), moderate learning difficulties (MLD), autism (ASC), Asperger’s and other communication and sensory difficulties.