The benefits of submitting an Area of Excellence: Mary Rose Academy
Mary Rose Academy is a special school in Portsmouth for 164 pupils aged 2-19 years who have severe and complex learning difficulties, physical disabilities and medical needs. An increasing proportion of pupils have a diagnosis of Autism. Mary Rose Academy recently received accreditation for its post-16 practice, ‘Life Beyond Mary Rose Academy’, and Hannah Richardson, Assistant Head (Sixth Form), talks about the process and benefits of submitting an Area of Excellence.
At Mary Rose Academy, we’ve found the Quality Assurance Review process offered by Challenge Partners really beneficial over a number of years, and it is now a key fixture of our self-evaluation and continuous improvement as a school.
We’ve had three Areas of Excellence (AOEs) accredited as part of the Network of Excellence, and the most recent was for our work with Post-16 learners in preparing them successfully for life beyond Mary Rose.
While the process for submitting and accrediting an AOE can appear daunting, our team found it to be a valuable reflective exercise. It was a chance to pull together everything that we were proud of as a Sixth Form, and articulate our journey and the impact on our young people as clearly as possible. Incidentally, although we don’t do what we do for Ofsted, it’s certainly true that the process of compiling that portfolio of evidence can serve you well as Ofsted has increased the number of ‘deep dives’ in inspections.
Once the review started, the lead reviewer and review team interviewed staff and students, and there was a real collective sense of investment in demonstrating our strength in this area. Learning that we’d been accredited was then a fantastic confidence boost for the Sixth Form staff, and we observed the amazing sense of pride that students felt for being part of it!
We’re now planning to share our practice with the wider national network by running a Sharing Leading Practice webinar focused on our post-16 provision on 17 November – and we hope to welcome staff from other schools in person (COVID-19 permitting) to Mary Rose, in February 2021. Although many of the benefits of seeing the Sixth Form first hand are irreplaceable, we’re excited at the prospect of sharing our practice – with the digital platform opening up opportunities to connect with schools in all corners of the country.
What would I say to other schools who are considering submitting an Area of Excellence as part of their QA Review? Bite the bullet and do it! The supportive nature of the QA Review process, and the opportunity the AOE process offers for a rich review of practice, make it well worthwhile for any school.