Free school story: Dixons Trinity Academy

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Dixons Trinity Academy is a secondary school which opened in 2012 in Bradford and is part of the Dixons Academies Trust. It was the first secondary free school to be judged outstanding.

The school is led by Luke Sparkes, one of a handful of free school principals who has been through the Future Leaders development programme and has a strong focus on literacy and numeracy. The school has gained particular attention for its impressive implementation of intensive catch-up programmes designed to ensure that year 7 pupils entering the school with lower than average attainment quickly improve. The concentration on literacy is not just for those with low attainment however - all pupils and staff take part in a daily DEAR (drop everything and read) session in order to foster a culture of reading.

In their report, Ofsted highlighted the school’s “passionate” teachers, and the methodology that they used. One example that they cited was teachers’ use of questioning: “The academy’s policy of ‘no hands up’ when a question is posed ensures that all students know they must be ready to offer an answer”. It is this approach to pedagogy, ensuring that all pupils are held to the same standards regardless of background and starting point, which means that “there is no difference in the progress of students from different minority ethnic groups, boys or girls, or those with low, average or above average levels of prior attainment”.

The school’s ethos of mutual respect is embedded throughout the school day and is even present during lunch times. Arranged into ‘families’, staff and pupils eat together with a defined role for each member. Together, they serve, eat and clear away the food, ensuring that pupils are developing social skills while promoting what Ofsted described as a “strong feeling of community and team-work within the academy”.

The pupils were inspired by an RSA video, narrated by author Dan Pink, which came to the conclusion that people are not just motivated by profit, but by a purpose. Pupils at Dixons Trinity Academy were encouraged to think about what their purposeful aspiration would be. The children thought about how they wanted to be regarded after they left the school. The aspirations vary from helping the needy to inspiring people through football to writing the world’s greatest novel. This focus on raising aspirations is what head teacher Luke Sparkes believes makes them an Outstanding school.  To listen to the ‘Class of 2019’,  ‘Class of 2020’ and ‘Class of 2021’ discuss their legacy you can find it on the ‘My Sentence’ page here.