Head of new Archer Academy talks about school’s future plans

Archer Academy headteacher Mick Quigley. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archer Academy headteacher Mick Quigley. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Earlier this month, 150 children walked through the gates of the Archer Academy for the first time.

Overlooking East Finchley High Road atop the Tube station sits the archer statue by late British sculptor Eric Aumonier, unveiled in 1940.

Over the years it has become an iconic emblem of civic pride at the heart of the local community.

It is no wonder then that a new secondary school located just yards from the station should take inspiration from the famous landmark.

Earlier this month, 150 children walked through the gates of the Archer Academy for the first time with three archer’s bows on their uniform.

For headteacher Mick Quigley the new school’s nod to local heritage is at the heart of the Archer Academy’s central philosophies.

“We want to be serving the local community,” he said. “The vision was to create a school based on three key statements – realising potential, inspiring creativity and engaging with community.”

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The free school opened in the old Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute (HGSI) building in Beaumont Close, off The Bishops Avenue, to its inaugural Year 7 cohort on September 9.

The purchase of the building from the financially beleaguered institute in November was a landmark moment in a two-year campaign by local parents to open a co-educational, non-selective and non-denominational school in the area, using the controversial free school model.

“This year, we were oversubscribed and opened to a full cohort,” said Mr Quigley. “I think it very clearly illustrates the fact that there was a need for a community secondary school in East Finchley.”

Mr Quigley, who had left his role as Barnet Council’s assistant director of schools and learning, was able to pick his staffing team in the lead-up to the opening.

There are currently nine full-time teachers who have been employed as heads of department ahead of a doubling in staff numbers next year when the new crop of Year 7 pupils arrive.

Mr Quigley added: “The current staff will be involved in the recruitment of staff in the future. I think that was an attraction for our staff – to be able to build their own team.”

The school is set on three levels with a multi-purpose room for assemblies and break times on the ground floor, and classrooms on the second and third floors, including a performing arts studio on the second floor. There is a large science laboratory – overlooking some of Britain’s most expensive homes in The Bishops Avenue – on the top floor.

During break and lunchtimes, Mr Quigley leads pupils across the road to Cherry Tree Wood for some outdoor refreshment.

Without playing fields of its own, the Archer Academy currently takes all its Year 7 pupils to Allianz Park, rugby club Saracens’ new ground in Hendon, for games lessons every Wednesday.

Plans for its own sports facilities are nearing fruition as the school prepares to submit a planning application to build a lower school, to accommodate Years 7 to 9, as well as a sports centre and all-weather pitch on the site of Stanley Road Playing Fields in East Finchley after purchasing the land in a £3.5million deal from Barnet Council.

Currently, the school capacity extends as far as Year 11 but plans are in place to develop a sixth form.

At the heart of the curriculum is a focus on maths and English with a specialist interest in the creative arts.

“It’s about opening doors for children, taking them to places they wouldn’t have imagined they could go to and providing the best possible standard of education,” said Mr Quigley.

n Archer Academy will be hosting an open evening on October 9 between 6pm and 8.30pm.