Opening up opportunities for the young people of Lambeth: Harris Academy Clapham and Sixth Form
With the opening of Harris Academy Clapham in September 2019, it has been a whirlwind for the school leaders and staff at Clapham. Despite the impact of the coronavirus slowing down construction, (the site was temporarily closed for four weeks in March/ April), Head of Academy, Gizlé Landman and Executive Principal Sam Hainey welcomed their first cohort of year 7s with a full intake of 195 students in September. With a dedicated team of professionals making up their academy team, Harris Clapham continues to bring learning alive in their state-of-the-art building as the first Harris academy in Lambeth. We sat down with Harris Academy Clapham’s Executive Principal to talk through the new build experience and their brand-new Sixth Form academy on the horizon.
Now Executive Principal for Harris Invictus Academy and Harris Academy Clapham, Sam began his career in education in 1997, teaching Economics and Business studies in Scotland before moving to England. Since then, he has held a variety of leadership roles including Vocational Coordinator with time as one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors with Ofsted. Returning to Harris in 2019, one of Sam’s passions lies with vocational education, firmly believing that, if managed correctly, it offers a wealth of challenge and opportunity to students.
Diving straight into the new build, can you tell us a bit about the working culture/environment in your team at Clapham?
Everyone is working exceptionally hard to bring our vision of ‘Everything is possible’ to life. The staff at Clapham have already demonstrated how solutions focused they are. One example is our enrichment programme – this was launched in our second week despite the challenges of the pandemic and risk assessments! Also, our Clapham Commitment is well on the way to being embedded. We are not there yet but students are working hard with staff to be Prepared, Exemplary, Respectful, Focused, Excited, Curious and Tenacious learners - we call this striving to be Perfect. So, if you come to Clapham you will see students in their full uniform with the resources that they need for learning for example.
It is no surprise that the ongoing pandemic has and is continuing to press schools with a multitude of challenges. In Harris Clapham’s case, the unique position the academy was in, as a new build must have been interesting. What challenges did the pandemic present on the opening of a new academy and upcoming 6F build?
The biggest challenge at Clapham has been the limits the pandemic has placed on us which has meant not everything we wanted to do could be done the way we wanted it to. One example of this is it is much harder for teachers moving around to teach bubbles and for them to work 1-1 with students given the need for social distancing.
Another major issue was the lockdown. This meant that the construction team lost four weeks on site, but thankfully they worked day and night to make up the time and we opened as per the original schedule.
We were lucky at Harris Clapham to have appointed all our teaching staff before the lockdown. With our support staff most were appointed during the lockdown but we were creative in the selection process to help choose the staff with the skills and qualities that we needed.
In regards to the Sixth Form new build, staff on site also have to socially distance and so that makes it harder to meet deadlines for the project, but everything (touch wood) is on track for a September opening!
Now that schools have been opened for a considerable time, navigating the new normal is a unique experience for sites everywhere. How is HAC responding to the pandemic as a new academy? What processes are in place?
With Year 7 at Harris Clapham and the year group having the building to themselves then it has been easier to have the space for students and staff to socially distance. Students are in their class bubbles and they stay in their room for most lessons. The challenge for teachers has been moving around – they have been brilliant in doing this but not having your own room is hard. Students wash hands when they come into the academy and at break and lunch. We also have sanitiser dispensers in every classroom. Staff have their designated work areas too.
We have our enhanced cleaning schedule, detailed risk assessments and one-way systems. We have systems in place for visitors and so on to make sure the building is safe. We had a review of our Covid-19 plans and actions by the Federation – thankfully we were doing everything we said we would!
Can you give us an update on your cohort and how they’re settling in?
We were absolutely delighted to be full when we opened! All 195 students have settled into their bubbles and academy life really well, for example, all students go to enrichment once a week and our library is really popular too. Our student council launched before the half-term and it is busy planning and working together. Our students who have special educational needs have all settled in well and have established positive relationships with staff. Our SENCO and specialist staff team have really worked hard to help students to have a smooth start with us and to follow some of our Covid-19 routines and procedures.
Given Covid-19 we have made sure that students are able to access remote education if they need to and staff have had training on Microsoft teams (from staff from Harris Invictus Academy Croydon) so another advantage of being part of the Federation.
Plans for Clapham continue with a new Sixth Form academy on the horizon! What can you tell us about the brand-new Harris Clapham Sixth Form?
The building is amazing, specifically designed to give teachers the environment and resources that they need to teach their subject to their full. There are absolutely first-class facilities, including for science, arts and computing for example. The whole third floor is dedicated to science teaching and has an outside learning area too.
The outside area on the ground floor includes an amphitheatre seating arrangement! Students will also have a range of study facilities for them to get their heads down and work independently. The building certainly has the wow factor.
The bigger picture for Harris Clapham Sixth Form – the vision is ‘be the best’. Students and staff will be expected to the best version of themselves that they possible can be. For me as the Executive Principal, my goal is for the academy to be the best place to learn and for staff, for it to be the best place to work. This is what will attract students and staff in the long-term.
Our values are Courage, Commitment and Confidence. These values have been mapped out in terms of expectations for students and staff (myself included!) and will be embedded into all our policies and how we will do things at the academy.
There are lots that I would like to share but one additional point is that we will have a sharp focus on helping students to develop their leadership skills both inside and outside of the classroom. This will be through how teachers teach and involve students in learning such as debates and discussions. However, it will also be through a range of out of class projects and sessions such as Women in Leadership, Mentoring, Business/Industry links, social initiatives and so on. Our aim will be for some of the country’s next political, business and/or community leaders to come from Harris Clapham Sixth Form.
For students interesting in joining or for parents looking prospectively, what would prospective 6F applicants need to know?
Please find out about us – our website is www.harrisclaphamsixthform.org.uk and this launched on 2 November with our online application launching two weeks later. This gives applicants time to look at our website and our courses before hopefully applying!
We will be opening for Year 12 students (300 places available) in our first year and will offer a Level 3 curriculum package – a choice between A levels and vocational courses. All courses and course outlines are easy to find on our website. You will also see two fly throughs on there – one for inside and the other for outside the building.
One additional pointer would be that the two academies will work closely together. For example, Year 12 and 13 students will have training to help them mentor and support younger students at Harris Clapham. We will remain two separate academies but given how close the two academies are it makes sense for us to work together in a sensible and cohesive way.
Learn more about Harris Clapham
For more information on the academy, click here. For more information on the Clapham Sixth Form, click here. Harris Clapham will have two consultation/online open events planned for 12 and 17 November 2020 (from 7.00 pm to 8.00 pm) where you can hear more. To register, please see our website – consultation events.
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