Future ‘bright’ for Unity College

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THERE is plenty of cause for optimism at a Burnley school which has been rated satisfactory with many good features by government inspectors.

Unity College, which moved into its new home in Towneley Park in September last year, must improve its “benchmark” figure of pupils gaining five A to Cs including English and maths which headteacher Sally Cryer was confident would be achieved.

Speaking after the recent Ofsted inspection, she said: “There is a lot to be happy about with this inspection, it is broadly what we expected. There are many good aspects to our school which we are pleased the inspectors picked up on.

“We are currently three years into a five-year plan aimed at improving our percentage of students gaining five A to Cs including maths and English to be in line with the national average. We recorded 39% in the last school results for this but I am confident we will reach 50% this year.”

Unity College, formerly known as Towneley High School before changes were made under the Building Schools for the Future programme, was last inspected in January 2009 when it was also graded satisfactory.

The school was graded “outstanding” for the effectiveness of care, guidance and support it gives pupil and was also judged to be “good” in many areas including pupils’ behaviour.

Mrs Cryer said she was confident the school’s GCSE results would improve and says this was backed up by Ofsted grading the school’s capacity for sustained improvement as good.

She added: “The five-year plan we have in place will help us to raise our GCSE results. Increased use of our school’s intranet is improving communication between staff and helping us to track every student’s progress. I am confident no students fall out of the loop so to speak.”

Mrs Cryer admitted Unity College had not undergone the same upheaval as other Burnley schools which had been merged and forced to operate on split sites, but said there were still challenges which have been presented by the BSF programme. Chief among these was the massive turnover of staff in 2006.

She added the school, which has 975 students, was now settled in its new home which she said had helped the culture of learning.

Ofsted inspectors noted attendance had improved significantly since the last inspection and is now above average. The report added most students feel safe, enjoy college and behave well.

Unity takes pupils from 24 feeder primary schools with a range of different backgrounds and abilities – a situation which inspectors felt was handled well.

Mrs Cryer said: “Our transition arrangements are very good. I think our new building helps enormously. It is a lovely design and really helps our culture for learning.

“We have a ‘treasure island’ room which supports younger students very effectively and helps them adjust. The inspectors also noted how pupils work well together on our climbing wall and were blown away by our school choir.

“I think the future is bright for Unity. We are single minded in our pursuit of raising standards for all our students.”