Mock Elections and on course for 'Outstanding': all the latest news from Aspirations Academies Trust

By Staff Reporter [email protected]

Published: July 9, 2024 | Updated: 9th July 2024

Welcome to the July news roundup from Aspirations Academies Trust, a group of 16 academies in the South of England – including seven in Dorset.

This month, Magna Academy students took part in Mock Elections; Ocean Academy found out they are on course for ‘Outstanding’; and we meet Budmouth Academy Principal, Mike Hoffmann.

Magna Academy’s Mock Election ‘Good Practice’ for the Real Thing

While adults across the UK were placing their ballots in the box for the General Election, students at Magna Academy, Poole were taking part in their own democratic exercise.

As part of an initiative to aid the understanding of democratic processes, students were offered a hands-on learning experience in the form of a mock election. 

In the weeks leading up to the election, a team of senior students researched the policies of the different parties and shared their findings with their fellow pupils who were encouraged to debate them with their tutors.

On election day itself, each pupil attended the ‘polling station’ in the school library where an electoral commission had established its base, with booths and ballot boxes.

Year 11 electoral officer Nikodem Grabowski believes the experience will build confidence in future voters: “I think it’ll get people used to how an election is run when they do get a chance to vote,” he said. “It won’t seem so strange. Even today we’ve asked voters to bring ID!”

His classmate, Moss Bradford-Piper, is keen to see more education around politics:  “I’ve been interested to see how the vote splits,” she said. “I think people don’t always know as much as they could about politics. It’s important that we hear from people who are more experienced and that we have these conversations.”

The mock election was overseen by Assistant Principal, Katie Stafford. “At Magna we’re always looking to engage students in learning and by staging our own election we hope to foster a deeper understanding of democracy and what it means to have a vote. I’m very proud of the way our Electoral Commission ran the election and of the leadership they demonstrated.”

Voting by all year groups resulted in a win for Labour, with the Green Party in second place.


Ocean Academy on course to be Outstanding

Ocean Academy, Poole, is on track to an ‘outstanding’ rating according to inspectors who conducted an ungraded inspection in May. 

The school, which is operated by Aspirations Academies Trust, was told it continues to be a ‘good’ school. To the delight of school officials, the inspector also added that ‘evidence gathered suggests the inspection grade might be outstanding’ if a graded inspection were carried out.

With a full graded inspection now due in the next two years, Executive Principal Jo Quarrie, is proud of  the interim report:

“It has been a privilege to work with such dedicated staff and parents. We could not be more proud that the journey we have taken over the last few years, striving for strong outcomes for all our children, has been realised. Our children are an absolute credit to us!”

Colleen Duggan, who was appointed as Principal at Ocean Academy in January, added,  “The report reflects the hard work and commitment of the entire Ocean team and our wonderful pupils. I feel incredibly proud to be the Principal of this ambitious school and the team and I look forward to continuing our journey of excellence.”

The report recognised the school’s ‘broad and ambitious’ curriculum, and that the children ‘achieve exceptionally well… Results from national  tests are significantly above average at key stage 2.’ It described the wider development offer as ‘exceptional.’ ‘Pupils,’ it said, ‘benefit from a curriculum well beyond  the academic. Everyone has plenty of exciting opportunities to  expand their interests and talents.’

The school’s leadership was praised for its development of staff and their delivery of the curriculum. It noted that ‘skilful sequencing of  knowledge ensures pupils learn effectively,’ and that ‘there is no ceiling placed on pupils’ progression through the curriculum.’

There was also high praise for the behaviour and attitudes of pupils, with the report noting: ‘Pupils’ behaviour and their attitudes to their learning are impressive. They work hard in all  subjects. They meet the high expectations teachers have, producing work that is of a  consistently high quality across the curriculum.’

Dr Jeffery Quaye OBE, National Director of Education, Standards, and Quality at Aspirations Academies Trust said, “I am very pleased to see Ocean Academy recognised for the outstanding education the teachers provide, which is reflected in excellent outcomes for all pupils, including the disadvantaged and pupils with SEND. This report is a testament to the strong leadership and high-quality staff who are committed to providing the best education for our pupils.”


Aspirations Staff Spotlight: Mike Hoffmann

Mike Hoffman has been Principal of Budmouth Academy, Weymouth, for three years.

What do you consider the strengths of the school to be?

We have very strong relationships with our students and their families which results in excellent behaviour and strong attendance. We have a big team of superb, passionate and specialist teachers who teach all the way up to pre-university stage and we are proud of our students who take up places at the top universities in the county, or who take up apprenticeships and training courses, locally and nationally. We have a very strong commitment to the three guiding principles of self worth, purpose and engagement. Our very broad and highly personalised extra curricular programme helps with this, but we also have amazing student support and learning support centres. We encourage all students to follow their dreams and we try our very best to help them become part of a society of which we can all be proud. 

What are the challenges of leading such a large school?

Leading a large school is exciting because our academy community is so big, no day here is ever the same. I trust my staff and students to be leaders themselves, and providing the help and support to make this happen is very important to me. Leading is about forming strong partnerships, be that with parents, pupils or outside agencies. It is these partnerships that create the environment for every pupil to be successful, sometimes even against the odds. 

Have you always been a teacher? 

I left Aberystwyth University still not knowing what I wanted to do. This is why I always say to students that working hard enables you to make more choices later in life, and that this is more important than deciding what job you want to do early on! I was always sociable and enjoyed jobs where talking to people and/or helping them was the main ingredient. Looking back, I always liked the idea of being a writer or an ecologist. However, I found that when I started teaching I enjoyed it far more than I even expected. 

What brought you to Dorset?

Before I moved to Dorset I lived and taught just outside of London. When we decided to have children, my wife (also a teacher) and I decided to move to this beautiful corner of the country to bring up our children. 

What do you enjoy about the area?

There are thousands of amazing places here! The Jubilee Cycle Trail which takes you from Dorchester to Maiden Newton is stunning. The area in-and-around the village of West Stafford, which features heavily in the novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy is also stunning. 

What do you do to unwind? 

I read a lot, cycle and I play the guitar. I still play football (badly), golf and cricket and love a good game of petanque!

What one thing about you would surprise your pupils? 

They may be surprised to know I like heavy metal (!) and also that I am one of seven children. Large families like this are much rarer these days.

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