Developing a strategic vision for improving education

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Following the arrival of a new headteacher at Bryntirion Comprehensive School, a leadership team was put in place that enabled the school to focus on delivering high quality education.

Number of learners: 1121
Age range: 11-18
Date of inspection: October 2016

Information about the school

Bryntirion Comprehensive School is an English-medium 11-18 mixed comprehensive school maintained by Bridgend local authority.  There are 1,121 pupils on roll, including 177 in the sixth form.  The school population is growing rapidly and in September 2017 the school will be oversubscribed in several year groups and close to capacity.  Most pupils come from the Bryntirion, Broadlands, Cefn Glas, Laleston and Penyfai areas of Bridgend.  Around 13.6% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, which is below the national average of 17.1%.  Around 12% of pupils live in the 20% most deprived areas in Wales.

Most pupils are from a white British background.  A very few pupils are from other ethnic groups and around 1.4% of pupils speak English as an additional language.  Very few pupils are fluent Welsh speakers.  Approximately 19% of pupils have special educational needs; this is lower than the national average of 25.1%.  The percentage of pupils who have a statement of special educational needs is 1.1%, and is lower than the national average of 2.4%.  There is a communication resource base for pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorder attached to the school.  Pupils who attend the resource base are included within the school roll and fully integrated into the life of the school.

The current headteacher took up his post in September 2013.  The senior leadership team also includes two deputy headteachers, three assistant headteachers, a business manager and a seconded associate assistant headteacher.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Following the appointment of a new headteacher in September 2013, a new leadership team was formed with a mixture of existing post holders and new appointments.  This enabled the school to develop a strong strategic vision and direction, focused on improving educational outcomes for all and delivering a high quality education for the students of Bryntirion.  This strategic approach was supported by the development of a strong middle leadership team and the creation of an inclusive ethos for students and staff alike. 

During the period 2013 to 2016, Bryntirion Comprehensive School improved significantly in all areas, and maintained strong outcomes in all performance indicators across all key stages.

In September 2015, the headteacher was asked to lead an additional school, Coleg Cymunedol Y Dderwen, following a period of significant instability.  The school was placed in special measures following inspection and required rapid and sustained improvement.  The school was removed from special measures in June 2017.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

On taking up his post, the new headteacher reviewed and clarified roles and responsibilities at senior and middle leadership level, and established new line management arrangements.  Regular meetings focused on school improvement priorities were developed, including daily senior leadership ’catch-up’ sessions.  New arrangements for self-evaluation and improvement planning were introduced, led by the headteacher but involving senior leaders and key middle leaders.

Staff consultation and relevant training helped to create a collaborative culture of high expectation.  This, balanced with excellent working relationships, has ensured that staff feel empowered and involved in all areas of school life.  A focus on staff wellbeing has had a positive impact on work ethic and contributed to a very ‘happy’ working environment.  For example, a counselling service has been made available to staff on the school site.

A middle leadership programme was also developed, which enabled staff to develop their skills and understanding of successful school leadership.  This included a focus on issues, such as developing your team, establishing a clear vision, leading learning and teaching, intelligent use of data, leading and managing from the middle and managing change.  Professional development opportunities were provided to embed these skills, including secondments to the senior leadership team.  This approach has led to effective succession planning and enabled staff to develop their careers.

Governance arrangements were revised to increase levels of accountability and to strengthen the governing body’s focus on standards.

From September 2015, the headteacher was deployed in an executive headteacher capacity across Bryntirion and Coleg Cymunedol Y Ddderwen.  To ensure that this change in role did not impact on standards in Bryntirion, a new leadership structure was developed.  This enabled senior leaders at Bryntirion to take on enhanced leadership roles in the absence of the headteacher and to develop further the skills gained through training and modelling.  A distributive model was created, which provided opportunity for wider leadership development. 

As Bryntirion Comprehensive School has progressed on its improvement journey, an effective learning community has been established with a culture of sharing and striving to improve key areas of performance.  Systematic quality improvement arrangements have contributed well to strengthening provision, and levels of accountability are clear and robust.  This culture and approach have been mirrored successfully in Coleg Cymunedol Y Dderwen during the last 18 months, with well-designed and effective leadership and quality assurance processes. 

How have you shared your good practice?

In September 2015, the headteacher was asked to lead an additional school, Coleg Cymunedol Y Dderwen, following a period of significant instability.  The school was placed in special measures following inspection and required rapid and sustained improvement.

Many of the principles of strong leadership and effective succession planning behind the success at Bryntirion were implemented at Coleg Cymunedol Y Ddderwen.  These included a senior leadership re-structure, and establishing a new leadership team with greater clarity regarding roles, responsibilities and lines of accountability.  Line management procedures were clarified, with fortnightly link meetings and daily senior leadership ‘catch-up’ sessions.  Professional development for middle and senior leaders was established as a priority and all leadership development focused on improving quality and meeting the recommendations from the core inspection.  In particular, the focus on high quality outcomes, developing teaching and learning, self-evaluation and improvement planning, curriculum development and improving literacy and numeracy remained important factors for achieving and maintaining momentum for school improvement.  The extended leadership team provided clear succession planning arrangements and enabled strong middle leaders to gain valuable experience at senior leadership level. 

Good practice and strong leadership were shared across both schools.  This included, for example, a two-year secondment of a head of science to the Coleg from Bryntirion, and collaboration between senior and middle leaders in such key areas as:
• assessment
• the intelligent use of data
• curriculum planning
• additional learning needs
• teaching and learning
• literacy and numeracy
• provision for NQTs

In addition, shared governance arrangements helped greatly in developing a strong working relationship between the chairs and vice chairs of both schools.  Essential to the success of the collaboration was the underpinning principle that staff from both schools are equal partners.

A new governing body standards sub-committee and a revised accelerated improvement board also contributed to improvements in levels of accountability and leadership development.  Senior leaders were regularly invited to present on key areas of responsibility.  The chair of governors also conducted regular standards reviews in conjunction with the executive headteacher and head of school.  The appointment of the vice chair of governors at Bryntirion as consultant governor to the Coleg further strengthened the experience and impact of the governing body.

This practice has been shared across the two schools and through local and regional partnerships.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

In October 2016, Bryntirion Comprehensive was inspected and judged to be ‘excellent for current performance and ‘excellent’ for prospects for improvement.  Leadership was judged as ‘excellent’ and the report referred to ‘exceptional strategic leadership’.  Outcomes at Bryntirion are outstanding, with performance at key stage 4 in the highest quartile for all indicators. 

Coleg Cymunedol Y Dderwen was removed from special measures in June 2017.  School performance now compares favourably with that of similar schools, and the rapid improvement in all areas of the school is well recognised.  The school has moved from standards group 4 to 2 in national categorisation within an 18-month period.  The most recent Estyn visit stated that strong progress had been made in improving leadership at all levels, improving curriculum arrangements, teaching and learning, care, support and guidance, and self-evaluation and improvement planning.

In terms of leadership development, opportunities provided have enabled senior leaders in both schools to develop and enhance their skills, knowledge and experience of leading at a strategic level.  Most recently, two senior leaders have been successful in gaining headships elsewhere and other senior leaders have been promoted to new, more senior, roles.