'Dream job' for Corby-born Carly as she takes on the task of transforming 'inadequate' Lodge Park

Carly Waterman, the new headteacher at Corby's oldest school
Carly Waterman, the new headteacher at Corby's oldest school

When the toughest education job in Corby was advertised back in June, academy bosses probably weren't expecting any of the headship candidates to describe it as their 'dream job'.

But Carly Waterman has Lodge Park running through her veins.The new principal of the Shetland Way School spent her early years living just a stone's throw away in White Post Court. Her dad was one of the first cohort of pupils to go to the school and her nana, Mrs Clarke, was an English teacher there. Her mum was also a dinner lady at the school.

Lodge Park executive principal Bob Sloan and headteacher Carly Waterman

Lodge Park executive principal Bob Sloan and headteacher Carly Waterman

So when the top role at the struggling school came up for the eighth time in eight years, Carly said she knew instantly that this was the job for her.

Lodge Park Academy was judged by Ofsted to be inadequate across the board at its last inspection in January. Inspectors said outcomes for pupils had been 'too low for too long'. In April, the David Ross Education Trust received a pre-termination warning notice from the Department for Education to inform them that if things didn't turn around fast, Lodge Park would be removed from their trusteeship and another academy trust would take over.

It was the lowest point in the proud fifty-year history of Corby's oldest existing school.

"The kids ruled the school," says Mrs Waterman.

"We needed to reclaim the corridors, and that's what we have done."

So how has yet another new face in the principal's office gone down with parents?

"I know people will say that it's yet another person sitting here and they might be sceptical," says Mrs Waterman.

"But there are two things that are different: firstly, Bob's staying."

Bob is executive principal Mr Sloan - the man recruited to oversee Lodge Park at the end of 2018 after former principal Meena Wood left after a few short months in the role.

"And I'm not going anywhere. This is my town. This is my dream job. The pupils have had enough disruption. I'm staying put."

Mrs Waterman - who locals will know as Carly McQueen - is a former Danesholme primary and Kingswood secondary pupil. She did her A-Levels at Brooke Weston and has spent almost her entire career teaching at schools across Northamptonshire.

"I always wanted to be a headteacher," she says.

"I'd spent many years teaching and then being a deputy head and two years running an educational consultancy and I thought to myself that, actually, I do want to be a head and I want to be a head in Corby.

"When I saw the job advertised, I knew it had my name on it."

Mrs Waterman says she came into the role with her eyes open.

"Yes, I'd read the Ofsted report before I even knew about the job, and I'd never read another report like it.

"But actually that's part of the reason I wanted the job. People don't have enough faith in Corby kids.

"We can make a real change here. We know it's going to be a struggle and it's going to be difficult but children here should get as good an education as any other children.

"The children here are just as clever, just as capable as other children anywhere else around the country."

A new 'warm strict' discipline policy has been implemented across the school. Teachers expect good behaviour and impeccable manners from students, but implement their expectations them in a calm and warm manner.

In time-honoured tradition, pupils now line-up outside in complete silence in the morning before going in to lessons which helps them settle down before they walk into the classroom. They repeat this as a whole school at home time.

"We're very clear in our expectations, but we give them unconditional respect," says Mrs Waterman.

"We are doing this because we love these young people and because they deserve that.

"And on the whole they've absolutely stepped-up, are responding and we're getting great feedback from them. There is a core of kids who are struggling to manage with these new expectations and we are using sanctions to help them."

The school operates a three-strikes discipline system, with children removed from lessons at the third instance of bad behaviour and given a same-day, after-school detention. Three removals from lessons in a week means a fixed-term exclusion.

"We do detention on the same day so that there can be a fresh start in the morning," says Mrs Waterman.

"Teachers are here to teach. They're the experts. They can't be doing crowd control. If you exclude a child you do it with a heavy heart, but this school has to be a safe space."

Some of the persistent offenders were brought into school with their families over the summer break to lay out the new expectations. Mrs Waterman says this was largely well-received.

Mrs Waterman admits that she wishes the money was there for a full rebuild of Lodge Park, but central funding means that schools are stretched.

"I am going to do what I can here with the very, very limited budget we have," she says.

"And like other schools, we're stretched to our limit in terms of resources.

"I say to the children here, other schools might have glass atriums and digital suites, but they haven't got you. They haven't got our Lodge Park kids. We feel really privileged to have the great group of young people that we have got here."

One of the areas that Ofsted was unimpressed with was the number of temporary teachers at the school. But after a 'massive' recruitment drive under Mr Sloan, Lodge Park is now fully-staffed and teachers are being offered more personal development.

Inspectors are due back into the school 'any day' for their first monitoring visit since their damning Ofsted report and Mrs Waterman says she believes that the school has met the conditions that were imposed back in April when the school received its pre-termination notice. One was that Bob Sloan remained in post, and another was that there had been a marked turnaround in pupil behaviour.

"Ofsted will see a significant difference," says Mrs Waterman. "It's going to be a long road back to being a good school but we've made a start."

There will be an open evening at Lodge Park on October 8, for which Mrs Waterman says she's had 450 pupils volunteering to be tour guides.

"We've even had 60 volunteers to give speeches," she said. "They want to talk about their school. They're proud of it. I think we'll have to have some kind of audition process!"

A revamped governing body is in place with local representation for the first time in several years.

Long term, Mrs Waterman says that behaviour will remain a priority.

"We're already on the way with that," says Mrs Waterman, "but we need to be relentless.

"Having disruption-free classrooms will help with exam results but it will take two to three years for outcomes to really start to improve.

"We want to restore people's faith in Lodge Park. We need to build relationships with our community.

"These kids and the staff have been so messed around for so many years. No-one's believed in them.

"But this is my destiny. It's what I was meant to do."