Cheryl Goodchild, Assistant Principal, Goffs-Churchgate Academy, describes the journey of rapid school improvement at an SSAT Educational Award-winning school.
The predecessor school was experiencing a rapidly falling roll, high staff turnover, a huge financial deficit and was producing outcomes in the bottom 5% of the country. Following many years of underperformance, the reputation of the school within the local community was particularly poor.
The Big Change and Initial Success:
The Generations Multi Academy Trust was established in the Autumn of 2017 following a direct approach by the DfE. Significant and immediate improvement was needed, and so a “new” school was created. The two schools within the Trust were very deliberately linked by name, uniform and branding to capitalise on the success and very positive reputation of Goffs School within the local community. Goffs-Churchgate Academy was formed under new leadership, and although the schools were aligned by common values, expectations and procedures, the new school was given the autonomy to grow in its own direction.
The changes were made in consultation with all stakeholders and with complete transparency throughout the process, and the strong sense of community already embedded in the school was further nurtured. Being part of a MAT allowed numbers to be capped at 600, a strategically deliberate move to promote a strong family feel. The overarching improvements in the school happened more rapidly than many had expected, and within the first year the school had doubled its intake.
Goffs-Churchgate is a small secondary school, with 20% of students having special educational needs, and 40% coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. If the reputation of the school was to continue to grow, and for the school to be a success in its own right, we needed to achieve and maintain a significant improvement in outcomes.
Greater staffing stability and high-quality professional development facilitated through combining the work of both schools in the MAT, resulted in a marked improvement in the quality of teaching and learning throughout the school, ensuring that students across all year groups were receiving quality first teaching.
However, in the older year groups, we faced the challenge of filling the gaps in the students’ knowledge that had resulted from the historical issues in the predecessor school, with the added complication of receiving multiple in-year admission requests for Key Stage 4, as the vacancies in these year groups were rapidly being filled as the reputation of the school continued to grow.
The first step was to ensure that we had robust assessments in place so that we could accurately assess each student’s knowledge. This enabled us to produce very detailed question level analysis for each student, to prioritise their learning in each subject.
The assessment data was then scrutinised at a whole school level to review the impact of each student’s outcome in every subject, and this information was used to create a highly targeted, evidenced based raising achievement strategy, with an intensive targeted intervention programme at its heart.
A personalised programme of support was created for each student in Year 11. This included targeted after school small group intervention sessions, 1 to 1 support sessions, pastoral and academic mentoring, and support from external agencies. We created a personalised timetable for each student and held regular review meetings.
As part of this personalised approach, we reviewed each student’s curriculum to ensure they were on the most suitable courses, and held a series of parent information events to closely involve the family in the student’s progress. This was combined with a comprehensive careers strategy to raise the student’s aspirations, and to support their applications to suitable post-16 destinations in order to provide a target for them to strive towards.
Every half term, the data was reviewed and the individual programmes for each student were amended to focus on the key areas that the changes in the data were now showing.
Creating a Balance:
Our main aim throughout was to give the students the best possible opportunities for their future. We have been careful throughout this process to make sure that we do not prioritise school outcomes over the needs of the individual students. We have kept a broad and balanced curriculum for all students, and included non-examined elements into our curriculum to develop life skills, which we believe, are just as important. The sense of community in our school is one of our core values and we encourage students to take an active role in the life of the school. We have increased the range of extracurricular clubs and trips, and given all students leadership opportunities, both within school and in the local community. This investment in improving each student’s cultural capital, and our commitment to investing in the student as a whole has greatly supported academic development.
- The outcomes in the final year of the predecessor school yielded a Progress 8 score of -0.74.
- At the end of the first Goffs-Churchgate year in 2018, outcomes were brought in line with national average with a Progress 8 score of +0.03
- By the end of the second year in 2019, our outcomes exceeded national averages with a Progress 8 figure of +0.47
- During these two years we have seen a 21% increase in the number of students going on to study A-Levels. This reflects the increasing aspirations of our students, which has been facilitated by the improvement in outcomes
Our experience has shown that rapid school improvement is possible, and that this can be done in conjunction with student and staff development, rather than at the expense of it. At our school we have implemented big changes, but we focused on the small details to make this effective.
We now have a proven raising achievement model in place that maintains breadth and depth, ensures quality first teaching, and combines strategic rigour with promoting the value and development of each individual within our school.