Determination, integrity, ambition, humility and compassion is the new motto at Magnus, where the head, Anna Martin, invites anyone, at any time, to visit the school.
She is confident visitors will be impressed with what they see, as the school aims to leave behind its recent past and — as set out in the prospectus — seeks to develop young people of good character who achieve excellence and make a positive contribution to their communities.
An Ofsted inspection said while rapid progress was being made, Magnus needed to improve its effectiveness of leadership and management; quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare; outcomes for pupils; and 16 to 19 study programmes.
Mrs Martin took up the reins at Magnus in September.
She has a history of working at schools that have had problems or are failing.
The school recently sent 25,000 leaflets to homes in Newark and Balderton inviting parents to consider Magnus, where the number of pupils is already rising.
“I want anyone to come and have a look at any time,” Mrs Martin said.
“Someone will show you around and I am that confident that you will find a calm school that is on the up.”
"We want to offer every opportunity and chance."
Magnus began life as a grammar school in 1531. It became a mixed comprehensive in 1977.
With grammar schools often still seen as offering a higher standard of eduction, Mrs Martin said she wanted to offer her pupils the same opportunities they would have at a grammar school. She wants to offer them the best start in life.
“We want to offer every opportunity and chance as if we were a grammar school without actually being one,” Mrs Martin said.
“We should strive to deliver that standard and our students should not be denied that standard because many come from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Mrs Martin, whose leadership was described by Ofsted as pivotal and transformational, praised school staff for their willingness to embrace change and their continued hard work.
She paid tribute to the former head, Gil Barker, and her team for their work in steadying the ship and halting Magnus’s decline, adding that results were starting to improve before Mrs Barker’s retirement.
Mrs Martin said she was installing a change in approach of “less teacher input and more student output.”
"We are doing everything to raise standards and expectations."
She said a sense of unity and pride was returning to the school.
“We are doing everything to raise standards and expectations. We are telling the pupils that they are important and valuable,” Mrs Martin said.
“Many have low aspirations so it is about communicating to them that they can achieve.”
A one-way system now operates in the corridors to prevent boisterous encounters when large groups meet each other at class change-over times, breaks or dinner.
A merit/demerit system is in place where students are rewarded for being polite, courteous or helpful. There are detentions for misbehaviour.
Thirteen local businesses have mentors working with sixth-formers.
"We know we have a way to go."
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme will return from September for year nine upwards.
Mrs Martin said: “We know we have a way to go. To say anything different would be an untruth.
“Everything that Ofsted said we needed to do was already in the school improvement plan.
“We want our pupils to leave here and in later years say: ‘Look at me and what I have achieved from a state school background.’
“It breaks my heart to see so many pupils walking past my door on their way to catch a bus to a school out of Newark; not to mention what it must cost their parents to send them out of the area daily.
“We want people to feel that they have high-quality education in Newark.
“We are not the finished article, but we will be.”
Sixth-former Aimee Kirk, 17, said: “All the teachers are very positive.
“They are trying to get away from the bad reputation of the past and from the bad behaviour the school was associated with and show how good we are.
“The new head is proud of this school and that motivates us to be better. Magnus is on the up.”
Head boy Joe Stanley, 18, said: “The improvements in school are starting now.”
The Ofsted inspection was the first at the Magnus since it became an academy.
The Magnus is part of the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham Multi-Academy Trust.
More options on offer in sixth form
A new sixth form curriculum is being offered at Magnus Church of England Academy.
From September 19 A-levels will be offered, including sciences and maths, up from seven, and it is hoped more post-16 students will go there.
The next step is to forge links with universities.
Sixth-formers have a dedicated common room and outdoor space, and are encouraged to spend their time studying, refreshing or revising.
Sixth-formers are now expected to wear uniform, which students helped design.
Aimee Kirk, 17, said: “When we started we wore our own clothes.
“We now look smarter and more presentable.
“We stand out as being Magnus students.”
Stefan Astle, 16, said: “We feel like ambassadors for the school when we are out in the community.”
Club link will bring back rugby
Magnus has launched a partnership with Newark Rugby Club to bring the sport back to the school.
Rugby was taught in the grammar school days but petered out gradually in favour of football after it became a comprehensive.
“I’m passionate about rugby,” said head of PE Damon Byrne.
“It will give our students opportunities that weren’t open to them.
“Some have a mindset of football or nothing.
“I always preferred teaching rugby because of the values attached to the sport — humility, determination, respect for a referee.
“Many of the attributes mirror our school values.”
The school has had support from the Notting-hamshire Rugby Football Union and has started playing competitive matches. Girls’ rugby will be added soon.
There is a drive to get parents interested, both in the sport at school and at the rugby club, where it is hoped players will join junior teams and eventually become seniors.
“Hopefully some will get into the game with a real passion,” Mr Byrne said.
“It is a kick-start into the game and could benefit the school.”
Rowing will be the next sport to return to the school.