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Simon Underwood promoted to Associate Principal at Corby Business Academy

Corby Business Academy’s Head of School throughout last academic year, Simon Underwood, has been promoted to Associate Principal. He is looking forward to leading the school permanently and wants to build on the improvements made so far in establishing a positive culture of aspiration and high expectations.

Simon joined the Academy in September 2018, as joint Head of School with colleague Nicola Treacy. Corby Business Academy was inspected by Ofsted in April 2019, when the effectiveness of its leadership and management judgement was increased to good. Now Simon is to lead as Associate Principal from 1 October.

He said: ‘I pursued a career in teaching to change young people’s lives for the better, both in terms of academic success and personal development. Allowing students to access a range of opportunities and giving them as many options for the future as possible is the motivational factor. It is vital that students to have as many keys to as many doors as possible. It is also about developing people who are ready to contribute towards society.’

Simon is now in his second decade of teaching. His career has included successful roles as a PE and English teacher, Director of Specialism and Assistant Head Teacher at a sports college and Strategic Leader of Inclusion. Before arriving at Corby Business Academy he was Vice Principal at Brooke Weston Academy.

‘As Associate Principal, the range of expertise and knowledge you need and the amount of people you work with increases. You are no longer focused on just one or two areas; it is that broader brush-stroke of many aspects, such as site and operational matters, financial management and successful relationships with all stakeholders attached to the Academy. It means having a more holistic picture of how a school works effectively, as well as maintaining the absolute focus on students.’

Corby Business Academy is currently operating with 1100 students on roll and 180 staff; it includes a Special Educational Needs Unit Provision and a developing Sixth Form.

Simon and Nicola implemented many positive changes over the past 12 months and plans are already in action to build on the upward trend of improvement: ‘The culture and ethos has significantly improved, the aspirations and expectations of the students are much higher and standards have increased. The communication and partnerships with the community have been good. I have met hundreds of parents over the past year and I feel the relationships with them are now strong; this is going to help the school move forward even further.

‘The most pleasing thing for me has been the buy-in from the community and the connections we are forging with the parents and carers. The aim is to ensure the Academy arrives at a status of delivering an outstanding provision for all students. The A Level increases in attainment this year were really pleasing and there have been improvements to some areas of GCSE attainment as well. We now have to focus on the progress students make from their starting points at Key Stage 3.

‘Quality of education is the main element of attention on this year, as well as making sure that students have high aspirations and high quality pathways to take. The work with our SLT and middle leaders to make sure our curriculum is fit for purpose is hugely important and it is also crucial that all staff are committed to the ethos of what we are striving to achieve. It is a no-excuse culture. Every student will get the care and wrap around support they need to achieve academically and socially, regardless of their background or ability.

‘The highlights of the past year has been the new culture, our community relationships, individual and group achievements from students, as well as the Ofsted judgement we received in such a short space of time, which was, in reality, six to eight months of work. Inspectors found our quality assurance and self-evaluation to be accurate; therefore, we have a good knowledge about areas to develop.

‘We are now at or above capacity in each year group, which is a substantial increase in uptake. The amount of applications we received last year was a record for the Academy in recent years. This year we have had more than 1,200 prospective families looking at what we can offer.’

Simon has valued the support offered at Trust level and by the other Principals: ‘I have forged many professional relationships across the Trust. There is a true commitment from everyone to ensure that our students and the community get what they deserve.’

There is also an important acknowledgement to the staff and students within the Academy. ‘I have been really humbled by the acceptance and welcome I have received. The students have been excellent and the efforts from the all staff members has been vital, they are committed to our journey. I would also like to recognise the partnership that Nicola and I established; she also deserves a huge amount of credit for recalibrating the Academy’s future.

‘I am truly excited about the prospects for Corby Business Academy.’

Trust CEO Dr Andrew Campbell said: ‘Simon is a very experienced leader who, along with the senior leadership team, has demonstrated unswerving commitment to Corby Business Academy over the past year. I and my Trust colleagues would like to congratulate him on his permanent appointment and we look forward to working closely with him to ensure that Corby Business Academy continues to develop and thrive, offering an excellent education for all.’

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