Blue Coat CE Academy in Walsall has achieved Flagship School status for the second time.
Blue Coat Church of England Academy is a smaller than average 11-18 school in the centre of Walsall. It converted to an 11-18 academy in September 2012. As a Church of England school, the school’s ethos and values are based on Christian traditions although many of the students come from varied backgrounds and faiths. This diversity brings a richness to the school which is used well to enhance learning opportunities.
Following a period of stabilising the school leadership, outcomes improved but in summer 2018 results were disappointing. School leaders have analysed the results and are aware of areas where significant improvements need to be made. Staff have worked hard this year to address underperformance resulting from a wide ranging set of factors and school leaders are confident that results this summer will be better.
Positive and Articulate Students
The school’s population is diverse and the number of pupils for whom English is not their first language is very high and pupils eligible for free school meals remains significantly above the national average. The local area presents a variety of challenges to the school notably anti-social behaviour, knife crime and gang culture. IDACI measures show that 70% of the student population come from the most deprived areas of Walsall. Despite these factors, students are positive, articulate and behave very well. The school is an oasis of calm and order and students feel safe and welcome in what they described as the “Bluecoat family.”
Youth Crime Forum
Facing up to the challenges of youth crime and the apparent lack of a coherent strategy to tackle it, the Principal set up a Youth Crime Forum in April this year to which he invited a host of organisations including Integrated Behaviour Support Services, West Midlands Police, a variety of local charities and community groups including One Palfrey Big Local, Church groups, school advisors and other schools, council members including the cabinet member for Education and Skills, the Mentors for Violence Protection (MVP) local coordinator and school MVPs.
Safer Walsall Partnership Board
A variety of speakers contributed to the event followed by a series of workshops. The event was positive and concluded with a range of key areas to be focussed upon in subsequent meetings and all participants were invited to make three pledges for action. One outcome is that the local authority have expressed a commitment to supporting future events and schools will now be represented on the Safer Walsall Partnership Board.
I met with a group of students including sixth form who have made a significant contribution to the life of the school and their community. Students present represented a range of enrichment activities and youth social action including teens and toddlers, police, sea and land cadets, Antibullying Ambassadors, School health project, bereavement counselling, Walsall Against Single Use Plastics (WASUP), The Prince’s Trust Mosaic project and Mentors for Violence Prevention. The students were articulate, enthusiastic and clear about the benefits to them, their school and community from participating in this impressive range of enrichment activities. I also met with a group of prefects who explained their roles as champions for the School Health project, Bereavement counselling and peer to peer mentoring and as Mentors for Violence Prevention. Once again, the students were articulate and respectful of each other.
Warm and Welcoming
During the course of the day I visited a practical motor vehicle maintenance lesson and saw students engaged enthusiastically in their work supported by equally effusive staff who created a very positive mood around the workshop. At lunchtime, I joined students and engaged in some discussion as well as observing good behaviour inside the canteen and around the grounds of the school. I was very impressed with the standard of uniform and especially the warm and welcoming nature of the students and staff.
Support for Students
Last year, the school implemented its plans for a KS5 level 1 pathway for SEND and EAL students. During my visit last year, I concluded that it had been a “resounding success” and so I was keen to see how it had developed. I was not disappointed! A new role of coordinator has been created which the Assistant SENCO has assumed. There is also a dedicated Teaching Assistant who works in partnership with the coordinator. Initially designed as a one year course, the school has sensibly extended that to a second year for those students who still require academic, social and emotional support. I was presented with a number of case studies including an International New Arrival who very quickly moved on to A-Levels and two students who, at the end of year 11 were at risk of being Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) and who will now leave this summer at the end of their year 13. Another case study described the many strategies put in place to successfully support a student with a diagnosis of autism and who displayed anxiety and aggressive behaviour. This student has now enrolled on an access course having successfully completed year 13.
A Coaching Culture
School leaders continue to develop a coaching culture for teachers and teaching assistants and have modified their professional development programme. This year all teachers have received some level of coaching training and three senior leaders will receive a higher level of instruction to enable them to train colleagues. Additionally, the course has introduced the use of web cams to record lessons for staff to analyse post lesson and use the GROW model as a process to structure their coaching.
Good Relationships with External Agencies
The school and, in particular, the Success Centre, has developed good working relationships with a vast number of outside agencies and bodies. They are outward looking and always prepared to learn from others and engage in new initiatives when appropriate. They are also very keen to share what they have learned and what they do well.
IQM Cluster Group
The school is an active member of its cluster group and has worked closely with two other schools from the cluster outside of the IQM cluster meetings.
Positive and Ambitious
In spite of the many challenges that this highly inclusive and diverse school faces, I find it to be a positive and ambitious place and school leaders and staff always strive to put in place the best provision for all of its students.
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