THE Basildon Academies have come through a torrid couple of years.

They were put into special measures, 76 teachers left, they lost two headteachers in the space of two years, and were investigated by the Department for Education. However, when Ofsted inspected last year a raft of improvements were noted and interim headteacher Bev Bell was praised for helping to provide stability.

New executive principal DOUG LAWSON, who was appointed in July and took over in September, spoke to David Trayner about his assessment of the situation and outlined his visions for the future.

What is your vision?

I have a very clear vision. It is that children should be at the heart of everything we do, that teaching should be at the heart of all progress and the school should be at the heart of the community.

Teaching is about developing the “whole child”, but the baseline of coming to any school is that children should have academic success, particularly in English and maths.

What assessment did you make of the Basildon Academies when you started in September?

When you go into a school you can very quickly ascertain where they are. When I first arrived, I was very struck by the quality of the children and how polite and inclusive they are. That’s what sold me on the job. I also noticed the quality of the staff and how determined and hard working they are. The thing that was missing was focus and the development of pupil progress and attainment.

What changes have you made?

I bring knowledge and a skill set that is the PiXL methodology. We assess the child to identify the knowledge they are secure with, the knowledge they are unsafe with and the knowledge they don’t know. Every child in the academy has a personal checklist for every subject, which is shared with parents. We are also running master classes after school, where we target groups of children who all need to have certain knowledge.

How is it going?

The uptake and support from parents has been tremendous.

The progress we have demonstrated from September to Christmas has been rapid.

Are there going to be any changes in staffing?

The staff was static over the summer, which is the time when changes usually happen. I’m more than happy with the staff.

They know the children really well and care deeply for every child. They know how to flick switches and get them engaged.

If Ofsted where to visit now, what would they say?

You are looking at a similar report to those made last year, in October and December. We are only a year after those reports. If they came next September, it would be a good school in every category and I would be driving for outstanding leadership and management. I can engineer success.

I have a proven track record of it.

Chairman of governors Les Livermore reportedly clashed with one of your predecessors, Dr Rory Fox, and was criticised by Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock. What’s your relationship like?

It’s brilliant. I met Les on my first day I was here. I was impressed by his passion for academia and his sheer absolute desire to give something back to the community, his willingness to create something that these children benefit from. We have a great working relationship. I don’t understand any of that nonsense that went on before with previous incumbents.

How would you describe the relationship?

I manage the academies and he doesn’t interfere. We have got very professional people in our governing body. They understand data and they challenge.

They want the school to improve all the time.

The academies’ sponsor, American millionaire banker Martin Finegold, has also proved controversial in the past, drawing criticism from former Education Secretary Michael Gove. What is your experience of him?

I have met with him about half a dozen times throughout the appointment process and since being appointed. He takes an active interest, but doesn’t interfere or get in the way. He relies on Les to keep him up to speed. He attends governors’ meetings, sometimes over the phone.

High staff turnover has been a problem in the past. What’s the situation like now?

I believe the staff are happier. I have no desire to encourage staff to leave unless it is for their self development or promotion. As we become more successful through the results this year we might then get teachers moving on for their own career development.

You are the school’s fourth headteacher in six years. How long will you be here?

I have come here and I really enjoy it. I would leave if it was appropriate for the academies and my skill set was no longer right for the academies. This is an excitable and doable job. The children are great, the staff are brilliant and it can be a great academy, not just a good one.

When the academies were facing challenges a couple of years ago, they had problems attracting pupils. What’s the situation now?

There has been an increasing roll for the past three years. This year, since I started, we have had quite a large increase in casual admissions, when children come from other schools, particularly in Year 8 and Year 10. The number in each year group goes up and down.