Christopher Whitehead Language College, Worcester has become a Centre of Excellence.
The School’s Ethos
The school’s ethos is captured by the following statements:
“At Christopher Whitehead Language College, we aim to pursue excellence in all we do.
We are an inclusive school that gives equal voice to all, in a context of tolerance, consideration and cooperation.”
Throughout my two-day visit there was ample evidence that these are simply not just straplines but the living embodiment of life at Christopher Whitehead College. It is an excellent school. The Headteacher and SLT lead by positive example and set the tone for the supportive, caring framework. Governors are fully supportive of the school’s ethos, its values and its aims. Staff continuously model school expectations and have excellent relationships with learners throughout the whole school day.
An Inclusive School
Leadership at all levels is shaped around a set of values and visions determined to create an inclusive school, with a focus on core shared values of raising standards of achievement underpinned by the promotion of the personal development and well-being of all students. There is a focus on ensuring that the curriculum and provision for all students offers a depth and breadth of learning and the curriculum is regularly reviewed. There will be a new curriculum structure in place for September 2017.
Leaders Set High Expectations
I was impressed with the infectious desire of the Headteacher and his senior leaders to create a happy, friendly and caring school and the humility with which they lead their school. Leaders set high expectations of students and staff and are ambitious for all students.
The Physical Environment Changing Rapidly
The physical environment of the school continues to change rapidly with the addition of a new building project that opened in May 2017. New classrooms and facilities within it have created spacious, modern learning spaces which will undoubtedly enhance the experience of students and teaching staff. The dining hall has been recently extended in response to the request and need voiced by students and parents that this is an area shared by the whole school community and should reflect this aesthetically and practically.
A Wide Range of Resources
Students have access to a wide range of resources across the curriculum e.g. Flip cameras, Mac books, laptops, netbooks, tablets, specific software to support students with specific learning needs and equipment related to practical subjects such as Art, Foundation Learning, DT and Music.
Experience and Skilled LSAs
Experienced and skilled LSAs are linked to subject departments and are deployed by subject staff in collaboration with the Additional Needs team. This contributes to confidence within a subject and an opportunity for LSAs to forge excellent working relationships with teachers. Consistency of support directly affects the learning experienced by students. LSAs undergo regular training within their role and are highly skilled in the learning and emotional development of young people.
A Shared Ethos of Respect
The school has a vertical house system which is well established and very successful. Students spoken to were supportive of the system highlighting the many advantages and positives. Throughout my visit, I saw students behaving very well and clearly demonstrating a shared ethos of respect. The vertical house system creates small communities within the larger school. Students demonstrate support and tolerance of members of their community, often assuming supportive roles which take them beyond the classroom. Peer mentoring is increasing to include Y12 as well as Y10 students.
The values’ and ethics’ programme was set up to ensure that the students receive a wider curriculum which discusses and investigates topics such as friendships and relationships, puberty, sex, drugs, tolerance and understanding. All year groups access the comprehensive V&E curriculum which highlights Anti-Bullying, LGBT, racial discrimination and disability. In the entrance to the school, there are ‘Pledges against bullying’ written by students.
Taster days, some of which are subject specific, are offered to students in years 5 and 6. Open days and evenings for parents and carers are held in the summer term prior to entry. Two transition days have been scheduled for the new cohort of students prior to entry. Extended transition opportunities for vulnerable students throughout the summer term prior to entry. A buddy system is in place to support students new to the school. A peer mentoring system is in place for year 7 students; all peer mentors are trained in their role. Students within their Houses work with newly arrived students within their LM groups; they are carefully selected so that they are able to offer guidance and support.
The school constantly updates and amends the extracurricular provision. Currently included are: Dungeons and Dragons Club, Animal Club, Orchestra, Ukulele Club, Choir, Wheelchair basketball, History Club, Science Club, Maths Club, Creative writing club, Drama Club, Art Club, Football, Netball, Rugby, Butterfly Club, Debate Club, Filmosophy Club. Diverse enrichment opportunities are offered to Y12 and 13. The programmes are designed in conjunction with the student body.
A Range of External Speakers
A range of external speakers are invited in to school to work with students across all phases, one notable example being Lord Robert Winston!
Mental Wealth Programme
I was rapt with admiration when I was introduced to the school’s Mental Wealth programme. The school’s website contains comprehensive information including a handbook from which the following statement of intent is extracted:
“CWLC promotes the mental and physical health and emotional wellbeing of all its students and staff. The school has decided to approach this in terms of mental ‘wealth’ with the aim that we teach people in our school the skills and resilience to deal with pressures and events in life and will be referred to as such throughout the rest of the policy where appropriate.”
“Mental health issues can be de-stigmatised by educating pupils, staff and parents. This is done through mentoring and the V and E programme, through staff training and parent discussion.”
Student Voice is Given a High Priority
Student voice is clearly given a high priority and plays an integral part in the life and development of the school. I was amazed at the quality of discussion held with the school council. Their energy and sense of responsibility was staggering and their commitment to the ethos and values of the school was absolute. One member of the council described them as being “self-sufficient” and I have no doubt that this is the case. Various members described how they had contributed through a variety of ways. This was my final meeting of the two day visit and it was a superb, inspiring note on which to end!
Consistently Outstanding Progress
Students are making consistently outstanding progress, developing secure knowledge across a broad and balanced range of subjects, as a result of good and outstanding teaching. Students’ progress is tracked termly; we monitor their performance against individual targets currently based on achieving 3 and 4 levels of progress. Each subject has a progress flightpath which tracks KS2 data/baseline assessments to KS4 end points in all year groups. At KS5 students are tracked from their KS4 data to end of KS5. Students who are falling behind are highlighted for intervention which is coordinated across the school. The school uses external providers to set and moderate targets and to track and monitor progress (ALPS/FFT Aspire).
Staff Use Data Effectively
Staff use data effectively to track progress across all year groups and the SENCO analyses the data of the different groups of students. The data team produces termly data packs which highlights the progress & attainment of all groups of students in all year groups. Middle Leaders analyse this data with their Senior Leadership Team link. Teaching staff reflect on the progress of their classes. Students who arrive “mid-term” are also given targets based on their previous data and monitored during the year. Intervention is then planned for students who are not quite on target.
Teaching and Learning Deemed Outstanding
Teaching and Learning at Christopher Whitehead Language College has been deemed outstanding at the last two Ofsted inspections. The Headteacher is an experienced Ofsted inspector which undoubtedly contributes to an understanding of developments and initiatives in the broad field of education. A highly experienced Assistant Headteacher drives the school’s developments in the field of Teaching and Learning and works tirelessly with all staff to ensure that the experience offered to the students is of high quality and helps them achieve their true potential in all subjects.
Good Communication with Parents
Parents I spoke to told me how they valued the high-quality communication that exists and the speedy response staff make when parents contact the school. They appreciated the school website saying that it was full of useful information and that it was easy to use.
Commenting upon the vertical house system, which was seen as a positive feature of the school, one parent said:
“It’s like a big family”.
The school regularly surveys its parents and results are very positive.
Supportive of the School’s Ethos
Parents I spoke to were supportive of the school’s ethos and were clear that the school had “an excellent Headteacher” who was “always around and did some teaching too”. They pointed to his positive attitude and they also appreciated his “rules and values”.
The Governing Body is Committed to the School
The Governing Body is entirely committed to the school and its strong inclusive ethos. Weekly meetings take place between the Chair of Governors and the Headteacher. Policies are regularly reviewed and updated in conjunction with the Governing Body; the implementation of the policy is monitored by link governors with expertise in the field. Governors often attend “Governor Meets” at the local university when broad issues relating to their roles are explored and discussed.
Governors Hold Leaders to Account
Governors are effective and fully aware of their responsibilities and the context of the school and its community. During discussion, it was clear that Governors hold leaders to account and are robust in their pursuance of improved standards. It was also evident, that they are extremely supportive and Governors I spoke to were eloquent in their articulation of a vision for inclusion. They take an active role in the life of the school. There is a good breadth and wealth of experience and skill present amongst members of the Governing Body.
The Heart of the Village in the City
The school is known as the school at the heart of the village in the city and plays an intrinsic part in the local community having been placed in the centre of the suburb of Worcester many years ago. Many parents and grandparents speak fondly of their old school and are proud of their knowledge and understanding of the school in relation to the broader community. The school’s strong Duke of Edinburgh programme ensures that its population is highly familiar with opportunities within the local and wider areas.
Developing Links with the Community
The “Friends” of the school actively work within the community to develop links and work alongside the community. The highly successful annual Christmas Fayre demonstrates the commitment of the community to the school and its efforts. Each House works with its own local charity and forges strong links with disadvantaged people around the area. The school collects items for the local Foodbank which is forwarded to the local office on a termly basis.
The school works closely with a local PCSO based at CWLC who contributes highly to the school’s pastoral team.
Exceptional Features of the School
This is a school that is providing a very good experience for its students and their families. All staff are dedicated, work hard and are very skilled at what they do. Outcomes are very good and improving. There is a clear sense of warmth and an ethos and culture that ensures that everyone is respected and offered every opportunity to achieve their potential. The school most definitely lives up to its mantra
“In pursuit of excellence”.
That said, it is far from complacent and is constantly seeking to improve and share its practice. It was a pleasure to visit this inspiring school.
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