New headteacher of Barnstaple’s Park School celebrates 100 days in the job

Gareth RoscoeGareth Roscoe

Posted on: 8 February 2016

The new headteacher of Barnstaple’s Park School celebrates 100 days in the job on Wednesday (10 February).

And Gareth Roscoe is about to begin a road tour to meet other heads in the area. He says he wants to work more closely with them to benefit all the young people of North Devon.

Gareth Roscoe has been using his first 100 days in the job to speak to staff and students at Park as well as their families. He was clear he didn’t want to make hasty changes before he had consulted fully about how the school should move forward.

“I visited the school before I put in my application for the job and was impressed by the atmosphere and the positive ethos and the way the staff were so welcoming and the students so polite and courteous,” he says.

“But I was also bowled over by the traditions of the school. It dates back over a century and those traditions seem to be rooted in the DNA of the place, in the bricks and mortar.

“People I met had strong allegiances to the school and, of course, my predecessor David Atton gave many years of service to Park.

“It is all about harnessing that history and tradition whilst looking to the future.”

And from September the whole Roscoe family will have a great deal invested in Park too. One daughter is already a student and his younger daughter hopes to start in the new academic year. His wife, who is a teacher too, is also covering maternity leave for two days a week.

Some changes have already been made though. Starting with the basics, all the students will have noticed the new emphasis on SPAG – Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar – in every lesson.  In addition, presentation and expectations of work are also under increased focus from staff.

“In January we introduced a new Marking, Assessment and Feedback Policy which is about getting our students to spend more time reflecting on their work and their teachers’ marking of it and using that to improve progress,” says Mr. Roscoe.

That followed the introduction in September of a new, whole-school structure to review and monitor student progress.

“We have also taken on a data manager to crunch the numbers on how individual students are progressing and how we can help them improve.

“So we are looking at the basics,” says Mr. Roscoe.

But, along with that rigorous academic approach, the curriculum will be changing to include an expansion of the performing arts with dance offered as a separate subject for the first time as opposed to part of the PE curriculum.

“Some schools just force their students to follow a regimented curriculum but I believe that subjects such as drama, music and dance can offer a great deal,” he says.

“You can introduce a social, cultural and moral dimension into the curriculum through performing arts and it challenges students to work creatively and collaboratively and they can then take that back into many other areas of their work.”

Mr. Roscoe has also introduced more collaboration into the staff room. Every Wednesday morning all the staff gather together and one teacher shares a piece of research or good practice with their colleagues so they all learn from each other.

And it is to discuss more collaboration that sees Mr. Roscoe embarking on his road trip of primary schools in the area.

“It’s been great to welcome many teachers and staff from primary schools into The Park” he says.

“I am keen to go out and meet all the heads and the staff and learn about their schools. I want to know about their pupils, their staff and their teaching and learning practice. If we can build on the strengths from our primary colleagues it will aid students at The Park.

“I want to find out what we can learn from them as well as saying what can we do to help other schools. This isn’t about telling anyone else how to do it, it’s about how we can learn together.”

As part of that collaboration, Park has linked up with the Jurassic Coast Teaching School Alliance based at Woodroffe School in Lyme Regis, a school which is consistently rated as outstanding by Ofsted.

Woodroffe staff have already visited Park to help with staff training and Park staff are making reciprocal visits to Dorset to observe their good practice.

“I want us to work in an open and cooperative way at The Park.  Staff and students deserve the best and by linking with other schools we can deliver this.  But I also want to work collectively with a range of other schools to provide the best educational opportunities for as many young people as possible.

“The children of Barnstaple should have the very best opportunities that are matched to those in the very best areas of the country.

“That applies equally to those students who wish to go down an academic route and those who need nurturing to get the best out of them and give them the confidence and skills they need to make an active contribution to society.”

Posted in: Education