The key to success – demand and believe that pupils can achieve the highest standards possible

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The key to success – demand and believe that pupils can achieve the highest standards possible

Caerleon Comprehensive School, Newport, continually insists on and achieves high standards in the classroom. This has been due to the development of a number of strategies, and an unwavering belief and confidence that the vast majority of pupils can and will achieve the highest standards possible.

Number and age range of pupils: 1671 students 11-18
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2011

Brief contextual information about school

Caerleon Comprehensive School is an 11-18 mixed community school maintained by Newport Unitary Authority. Pupils of all abilities are received by the school. The vast majority of pupils come from socially and economically advantaged areas. In 2009-10, 3.11% of pupils were eligible for free school meals. This figure is well below the national average of 17.1%. There are 2.9% of pupils with a statement of special educational needs and a further 8.1% require additional support; the percentage of compulsory age pupils on the special educational needs register is 11%, which is well below the national average of 20.9%. The school’s aims are to provide a culture appropriate for future citizens, a caring and inspiring learning community in which all learners have high order skills and grow in self-worth and self-esteem.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Since the ending of National Curriculum tests, the school has consistently performed in the top quartile at key stage 3, with the core subject indicator being around 85%, and individual core subjects achieving level 5 or better scores around 90%. The school has developed a number of strategies to ensure that this level of performance is maintained, and is constantly seeking to improve its practice and results. Two areas of practice have been identified as significant factors in achieving these consistently high outcomes: the holistic approach to partnership working in education, and the emphasis on pupil well-being and the resulting high levels of expectation that pupils have of themselves.

Description of nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

The school’s motto, to maximise the potential of all in a happy, caring and disciplined environment’ contains a clear indication of the approach that is taken to learning and teaching within the school. The school has always aimed to ensure that education at key stage 3 is regarded as a partnership where a range of stakeholders are involved in ensuring that all pupils can achieve the highest standards. These partners include our partner primary schools, parents, teachers, support staff and the pupils themselves. The transition links include establishing relationships and undertaking events with Year 5 pupils, and build towards a range of projects that start in Year 6 but are not completed until well into Year 7. As a result, staff from both phases have well-established professional relationships and this aids effective cluster moderation. This, in turn, means that pupils are well placed to undertake work at the correct level from the moment they enter Year 7. The school has invested considerably in appointing specialist subject teachers, and involves parents through a very effective ‘link book’ system that encourages two-way communication with the home. In addition, there is a strong and highly regarded literacy intervention programme involving sixth form students as peer supporters that targets younger pupils needing additional support. At the end of Year 7, and throughout their time at school, pupils undertake practice examinations in a formal situation so that these skills are taught and they become comfortable with the expectations and confident in that environment. The emphasis on pupil well-being remains a key element in the school’s success. The pastoral system has been highly praised over more than a decade by inspection teams, and seeks to ensure that all pupils are able to feel secure, confident and happy in the school. This embodies the principle that, under these circumstances, individual pupils are best placed to learn effectively and succeed in their studies. Different groups of pupils are supported by a dedicated team of teaching assistants and teachers, and all pupils are able to call upon the support of form teachers, heads of year, a school youth worker, a trained counsellor and a network of peer support. Underpinning all of this is a comprehensive personal and social education programme that seeks to ensure that all pupils gain the life skills they need. There is no one strategy that can be held up to account for the excellence of the school’s results. However, the consistent application of a series of principles and approaches outlined above has had a significantly positive impact.

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

It is clear that achieving consistently high results at key stage 3 has had a major impact on the approach of staff and pupils to their work. There is a definable level of belief and confidence that the vast majority of pupils can and will achieve, and this in turn leads to raised expectations of all involved. We are very aware that we must not be complacent, and that to ensure that we continue to raise our standards further, we will have to redouble our efforts. Nevertheless, at the centre of our work remains an absolute determination that learning and teaching are our core functions, and a belief that our insistence on the highest standards in the classroom will continue to produce the results.