Crickhowell High School in Powys achieves Flagship School status.
Crickhowell High School has around 1000 pupils aged between 11 and 18. Although the proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals is relatively low at just under 8% (3-year average), this has increased quite sharply since 2015 and continues to rise.
A Welsh Pioneer School
Outcomes remain exceptionally strong and the school has been consistently in the top quarter of similar schools on many national indicators since 2011. Disadvantaged pupils at Crickhowell continue to outperform their peers from other schools and again places the school in the top 25% of similar schools on most indicators. The school is currently one of Welsh Government’s “Pioneer Schools” and is accordingly working with other schools to take forward developments related to the new curriculum and professional learning.
Estyn recently described the school as one with “a culture of high ambition…” and one that “makes sure that pupils are supported to achieve through the highly effective care, support and guidance it provides. Wellbeing and Attitudes to Learning and Care, support and guidance were both rated as “Excellent”.
The Pursuit of Excellence
Following an assessment process in March 2016, Crickhowell High School was awarded the Inclusion Quality Mark. During that initial assessment, the school was described as “deeply impressive” and that “inclusion and high standards go hand in hand.” It was noted that the pursuit of excellence is not at the expense of vulnerable groups or individuals.” This is still very much the case. A further outcome of that process was a recommendation that the school should be awarded the Inclusion Mark Centre of Excellence Award subject to incorporation within its plans of several areas for development. In March 2017 and 2018, reviews have been carried out to evaluate the school’s status as a Centre of Excellence. On both occasions it was agreed that the school had continued to make considerable progress as an IQM Centre of Excellence. Further areas for development were again identified for 2018-2019.
Further Improvements Secured
As detailed below, the school did incorporate the agreed development points and again, improvements have been secured. In addition to these, there are some further recommendations outlined in this report that were discussed as part of the review process. This review also considered the school’s suitability as an IQM Flagship School.
Committed to Inclusive Principles and Practice
The school remains committed to inclusive principles and practice. The senior leadership team “walk the talk” and display highly professional behaviour, with values consistently and prominently espoused and enacted daily. During the initial assessment, it was noted that the team (and other staff) go the extra mile for each other, for the staff, for the pupils and for the pupils’ families. That is still the case but importantly, the school has continued to develop increasingly effective systems that go hand in hand with their highly inclusive values in order to ensure that this high quality of care is even more systematic and consistent.
Powerful Evidence of Inclusion in Practice
As is often the case during visits to schools, in addition to the structured meetings and discussions that formed the core of the review process, there were examples that were observed “incidentally” that provided powerful evidence of inclusion in practice. In particular, the way two individual cases developed during the day illustrated the remarkable professionalism of senior leaders. It is not appropriate to provide further details of the incidents, but members of staff were tolerant, thoughtful and reassuring but without compromising standards. It was notable that the Headteacher involved her colleagues fully in the decision-making process and it was clear that the viewpoints of colleagues were listened to and considered. Sixth form students also commented on how they fell listened to by senior leaders when suggestions are taken forward for consideration. Another example of the school’s impressively inclusive nature came from observing the school’s sixth form council. It had been proposed that the school considers a programme of mindfulness and wellbeing during examination periods. When one member proposed that this should be extended to year 11, the suggestion was met with unanimous and enthusiastic approval. There was no sense of exclusivity at all.
Keen to be Challenged on Effectiveness of Practice
Throughout the review process, Nicola Thomas and Claire Jones, senior leaders who drive the inclusion and wellbeing agenda, and Jackie Parker the Headteacher, were exceptionally accommodating and keen to be challenged on the effectiveness of their practice. The degree of openness from senior staff has a clear and positive impact on their colleagues and pupils.
Support for Families is Strong
Support for families remains a strong feature of the school and again, there were “live” examples throughout the day that provided evidence of a school that is prepared to go “the extra mile”.
Positive and Purposeful Environment
The review included the opportunity to visit a significant number of classrooms across a wide range of subjects. Without exception, the working environment and ethos was positive, pleasant and purposeful. Good relationships between pupils and teachers were in evidence throughout.
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