A pupil surrounded by his friends is on his way home at the end of a school day when he hears his principal’s voice.
“Tuck your shirt in please, all the way home, you’re representing your school now,” says the principal, as his target quickly smartens himself up.
Just weeks into the job following the sudden departure of Alison Ross, acting principal Ged Rae is already making his mark on Stanground Academy, formerly Stanground College.
Pupils are greeted cheerily by Mr Rae as he passes them in the corridors, with those failing to meet the now rigidly-enforced rules on school uniform given a polite reminder to make the required alterations and those making excessive noise told to quieten down.
The college was given notice to improve by Ofsted following an inspection in February, two months before it was taken out of local authority control and turned into an academy run by the Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust.
And the tenets of the “foundation” Mr Rae is trying to create to use as a starting point for the school’s improvement is putting in place an easier environment in which pupils can learn, which he says is achieved through high standards of presentation and behaviour.
All pupils in Years 7 to 11 have been given, free of charge, new school jumpers, ties, PE kits and stationery to help them achieve this level and are given reminders by senior teachers regularly patrolling the corridors and even the streets in and around the school at home time.
Some have fallen foul of the new uniform rules, with around 10 children from each year group - so around 50 not including the sixth form - stopped at the entrance gates each morning since the start of the new term last Wednesday and sent home to change if their clothing is deemed unacceptable and no immediate solution is apparent.
It may seem strict to some but Mr Rae said that fewer are having to be stopped every day now, while others have taken on a new-found respect they are expected to show for their uniforms, and each other.
He said: “We have had a really positive start and our students have really embraced the new high standards we have set in terms of uniform, personal presentation and general behaviour.
“I think if pupils come in and are given a foundation of basic standards, the attainment will follow on from that.
“We want to provide an environment in which our teachers can get on with teaching.”
Nowhere are the changes more pronounced than in Year 7, with pupils lining up each morning in the schoolyard and then escorted, single file and in silence, into the school by their teachers.
The transition of the new cohort into the academy has been an important point of focus for Mr Rae, with primary school liaison teachers brought in to teach “transition classes” to bring pupils struggling to make the jump to secondary level more quickly up to speed.
Year 7s eat at a different time to other pupils, which Mr Rae says better develops their social skills and manners, as well as finishing a few minutes earlier so they can be escorted to the school gates by their teachers.
Some of these practices may have been in place when the academy was a college but Mr Rae thinks now there is a real onus placed on pupils to uphold the ethos, whereas previously similar rules on presentation may not have been as regularly enforced.
There is certainly nothing draconian about the punishments, which don’t differ from any other secondary school through detention, isolation or, in extreme cases, exclusion.
But Mr Rae says that early intervention is something he tries to get across to his teachers, such as a well-placed phone call to the child’s parents to ensure that negative behaviour is not repeated.
Again, there is nothing ground-breaking about this, it is just that now far much more is expected of pupils and those who show respect will be given respect back.
And they seem willing to rise to the challenge, with those observed by the PT on Tuesday seeming polite, friendly and genuinely enthusiastic about being at the school.
The results don’t lie, other Greenwood Dale academies have seen big improvements in the five A* to C GCSE including English and maths benchmark since the trust took over.
The teaching environment will improve further next year when a £22.4 million re-build project is complete, making the academy one of the most modern in the country.
Mr Rae finished by saying: “We want to change the perception of this school, which hasn’t always been very good, and provide an academy which the community needs and deserves.”
Role of parents is vital
While the PT has received the occasional call from parents complaining about the changes at the academy, Mr Rae says on the whole they have been “fantastic” and says communication with parents is vital.
As he carries out supervision duty along Peterborough Road at the end of the day, intermingled among the odd pupil with a loose tie is one puffing on a cigarette. Mr Rae immediately takes her aside and speaks with her.
“Detention?”, the PT asks, but the verdict will have to wait.
“We’ll contact their parents this evening,” Mr Rae says, “then we’ll deal with it tomorrow.”