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iStudy speak with Lisa Matthews, Principle at Bamford Academy

Posted: 22nd February 2019 09:48

Lisa Matthews, Principal at Bamford Academy, started her teaching career in a secondary school in deprived inner city area of Manchester. She has taught in mainstream and independent primary and secondary schools in the UK, Ireland, South Korea and Thailand and her experience spans from primary to Sixth Form. Lisa has a passion for teacher development and has been a teacher trainer for the British Council in Thailand, Cambodia and Burma and has lectured on the PGCE course at the University of Manchester. She is an A Level English Language examiner and holds a Master of Arts degree, a Master of Science in Education and the National Professional Qualification for Headship. Lisa has also taught Yoga and Martial Arts for the University of Manchester for many years and once lived in a temple in South Korea with Buddhist monks. She brings the qualities gained from spiritual study into her philosophy of education and school ethos. Nothing, however, can match her main job of being a parent – which she admits is the hardest and most rewarding thing she has ever done!

How would you describe the Bamford Academy experience?

Bamford Academy is a family. The whole community is involved in the school and we run lots of events and fundraisers. When you study with us we expect you to be your best self, to be respectful, to persevere but most of all to be positive and to make a contribution as a global citizen. As teachers, we will do everything in our power to give our students our best selves every day. Life at Bamford is hard work but fun with relentless activities and community events. Everyone is welcome into school and school is open from 7.30am to 6pm every day and even on weekends when we operate as a Performing Arts school. Whatever you are interested in, we will nurture that talent and interest; we love to celebrate uniqueness.

Over the years Bamford Academy has won many local, national and international awards. What is the secret behind your continued success?

We don’t ever give up striving for excellence. Our KS2 results in 2017-18 were considerably above the national average and also exceeded the average for outstanding schools. Good enough isn’t good enough. We believe there is no ceiling to attainment and whatever your dreams you can achieve them with enough hard work, self-belief and support from family, friends and school. We like to be a school of firsts: we were the first primary academy in Rochdale, the first school to bring the World Peace Flame to the North West and this year we were celebrated as being the youngest cast to take part in the Shakespeare Schools Festival where children from ages 5 to 10 performed their version of The Tempest alongside high school drama students in a professional theatre to a public audience. We have held the British Council International Award for over a decade and have partner schools in India, Mexico and Columbia. We have taken children and staff all over Europe as part of the Comenius project but also have an annual trip to London to visit the houses of Parliament and teach children about democracy and the rule of law. Some of our children have had the opportunity to play the role of magistrate in a mock trial organised by one of our governors. We are always looking for unique and breathtaking experiences for our children to be involved in, to show them that the world is a magical place and they can be anything they want to be.

What subjects does Bamford Academy specialise in?

We are very fortunate to have two native Spanish speaking teachers and children learn Spanish from the age of four. By the time they leave they are very proficient with some taking Entry Level Certificate which is the equivalent to half a GCSE. We also teach Latin and French in Upper KS2 to prepare children for high school so they have a choice of language when they start in Year 7. We offered Mandarin this year but there was little take up – perhaps Rochdale is not quite ready for the language of the future. We’ll offer it again next year. Performing Arts and Music have been particular specialisms throughout Bamford’s history and we have a long tradition of industry professionals teaching these subjects. Each year we participate in Young Voices which is the largest choir in the country; over 8,000 children come together to perform at Manchester Arena. It’s a wonderful experience for both children and their families who watch them perform in such a colossal venue.

Bamford Academy has had some exceptional links in drama and performing arts such as its connection with Coronation Street. Can you tell us more about this?

The previous headteacher, Cherie Rivero, was an industry professional herself who starred in Emmerdale and she brought her joie de vivre, expertise and of course many contacts to Bamford. For many years we had professional actress and storyteller, Ursula Holden Gill who played Alice Dingle in Emmerdale as our artist in residence. Ursula started us off on our Shakespeare Schools festival journey and established Bamford as a LAMDA assessment centre – we’ve had many children achieve distinctions in this eminent examination. We are home to Rush Performing Arts, the prestigious theatre school of Debbie Rush, who played Anna Windass in Coronation Street and her daughter Poppy, who is a Bamford alumnus. We are extremely grateful to have so many creative and inspirational people dedicate their time to our children.

The Academy has also excelled in sporting excellence. Can you tell us more about the different sports and facilities on offer?

We have had a long working relationship with Rochdale Football Club (RAFC) who run a charity penalty shootout with us every year and support our aspiring youngsters, many of whom attend RAFC’s Soccer Factory. RAFC are very involved with the community and our children have had the opportunity to meet the players, go to matches, and even play tournaments at the stadium. We have had talented footballers, boys and girls, play for other youth clubs too such as Manchester City and Manchester United. Our success isn’t just limited to football though; one of our young ladies currently plays tennis for Lancashire County. We also have links with England Rugby, the local Lacrosse, tennis and fencing clubs and offer gymnastics, athletics, rugby, dance, netball, basketball, hockey, archery, swimming, yoga and martial arts as part of our curriculum and extra-curricular clubs.

How is the curriculum comprised?

Some subjects are taught discretely such as English, Mathematics, Science, Computing, PSHCE and Philosophy for Children; Languages, Music and PE and Sports are taught by specialist teachers. We believe in enquiry based learning so pupils will learn Drama, Art and Design, Design Technology, Geography and History and as part of our Learning Challenge curriculum which allows for transfer and development of key skills across core and foundation subjects. Art is another strength of the school and we have many visiting artists who enhance our curriculum provision. Visitors often comment on the quality of art produced by the children and displayed around the school.

What does Bamford Academy look for in its teaching staff?

There is something special about the Bamford community which is difficult to articulate. We share an intense commitment to do the very best for the children, to use all our skills to do whatever it takes to make this school into the very best it can be. The recruitment process at Bamford is very rigorous and involves a half day of activities linked to teaching and the children taking prospective candidates on a tour and then feeding back to SLT how affable and interested they are in the children’s interests and ideas. We look for people who are dynamic, positive, inspirational with a deep sense of integrity and professionalism. To work here, you have to put children at the heart of everything you do. Every teacher at Bamford has a little bit of magic in them.

What have some of your alumni gone on to achieve?

The vast majority of our children go on to achieve very highly at GCSE and A Level in mainstream schools and colleges in the area but we have a steady proportion of children each year who are accepted at local grammar and independent schools. I mentioned previously Poppy Rush who went into Performing Arts and now has her own theatre school here. We have a number of alumni who are working in the Performing Arts sector as actors or dancers or on TV in commercials; one boy who left last year will be playing the piano on Britain’s Got Talent in 2019! Many of our alumni come back here to work – our office manager is a Bamford girl – or they come to train as teachers as we are a teacher training hub for Manchester Metropolitan University.

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