With nursery, primary, secondary and sixth form, MAP has specialist school status for its focus on the marine environment, which encompasses science and engineering. There is a strong focus on employment pathways for the marine sector as a whole, and not only marine science but also for careers in engineering, tourism, medicine, catering and construction.
The school journey starts at Marine Academy Nursery, where quality childcare is available for ten babies in the baby unit, which opened in 2011, alongside over-twos in the wider nursery complex. It continues at Marine Academy Primary, which opened in September 2013, and this year was named as the first primary free school in the South West to be ranked as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. The school was graded at the highest rating in every one of the five categories, with its team praised as being “passionate and showing a determination to provide the best education they can for pupils”.
Headteacher Siobhan Easton, who took over the helm in 2015 and at 27 is the UK’s youngest headteacher, was given special praise by the Ofsted team for her “exceptional leadership skills and ability to motivate and inspire whilst not compromising her high expectations”, and there was acclaim too for the supporting team of staff and governors, which includes staff from the University.
Vikki Matthews, Chief Talent Officer at the University, and Chair of the Board of Governors at Marine Academy Plymouth, said: “We were thrilled that Ofsted recognised how outstanding the school is, and are so proud of the school team and amazing pupils. The entire leadership team at MAP and MAP Primary is wholeheartedly committed to raising aspirations, and has a very clear idea of how the school can do that.
“This work is encouraging pupils to love learning and to think about their futures, and the best option for them as they leave school, whether that be apprenticeships, getting a job, or indeed coming on to Plymouth University for further study. Our role as lead sponsor has enabled students to get used to being in a university environment, so they already feel like part of the family.”
There has been a significant increase in the number of A level students choosing to come to the University, and this, Vikki says, is evidence of the sponsorship working on a “symbiotic” level.
“There is a real alignment of values between the University and MAP – the importance of respect and engagement – and that is why this partnership works so well,” says Nick. “MAP believes in nurturing and developing talent wherever it is found, not putting a label on it, and we believe that all of our young people can be brilliant, treating each individual student with the utmost respect, and a compassionate, but essentially never patronising, approach. This has established a real strength in learning, and led to life-changing differences for the students at MAP.”
The secondary school at MAP has also seen improved performance over the last five years, with two Ofsted inspections reporting positive improvements, and an overall upward trajectory in examination outcomes since 2010. The exam results for 2013 were the best ever, with 95 per cent of students achieving five GSCEs at A*–C grades, and A level results included 100 per cent pass rates in English literature, photography, biology, maths and Italian, and an overall pass rate of 92 per cent.
Over the last 18 months, students and staff have also worked together to transform the appearance of public spaces at MAP, again in conjunction with the University to benefit from its expertise and resources. The University’s Brand and Campus Design Director, Tim Guy, worked with MAP students to create a giant mural for the central atrium and dining area at the school, incorporating a marine theme, and the 38-foot high, 90-foot long piece of art was created with the help and input of designers and graduates including BA (Hons) Illustration students, and staff in the Design and Print Centre.
Professor David Coslett, Interim Vice-Chancellor of Plymouth University, said: “In the last five years, MAP has become the University’s school, and a positive way for us to share our passion for marine studies, as well as helping to nurture and develop the skills of the next generation. We look forward to continuing this relationship, and continuing to raise aspirations for pupils at MAP, for many more years to come.”