George Croxford is Head Teacher at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy in Wiltshire – one of eight schools shortlisted for the Secondary School of the Year category that we're supporting at this year's TES Awards. In the fifth in our series of stories profiling the nominees, George tells us how, as a National Support School, the Academy has supported several schools to improve – most notably, helping two schools out of Special Measures to a 'good' Ofsted rating within 18 months…
Royal Wootton Bassett Academy (RWBA) is an outstanding school near Swindon. It is an 11–18 Academy with a fully comprehensive intake. It is oversubscribed and has an intake of around 300 students into Year 7 each year.
RWBA has had two "Outstanding in every category" Ofsteds in November 2010 and November 2013. It is the only school in the country to do this since the framework changed in September 2009. Values-led education is everywhere at RWBA with the school putting equal emphasis on developing the whole person as much as students achieving academic success.
We are a designated Teaching School and lead the North Wiltshire Teaching Alliance. Head Teachers of the 13 primary schools and 3 secondary schools highly praise the academy for assisting their partnership and school improvement work. We are also a National Support School, and as such have supported several schools to improve – notably two out of Special Measures to a good Ofsted rating within 18 months. It is a designated School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) institute which will take its first trainees in September 2015.
The school is the only designated Olevi Centre in the South West and it can therefore run all Olevi's range of teaching and learning, leadership and coaching programmes. It quality assures other schools that offer them, including the Improving Teacher Programme (ITP) and the Outstanding Teacher Programme (OTP). Olevi is an organisation which has a world-wide reputation for developing teaching and learning and has commissioned the academy to facilitate work on its behalf. RWBA has built its strength on a robust quality assurance system supported by an in depth Continual Professional Development programme.
The school is a founder member and Senior Partner in Challenge Partners and runs its own hub. The hub is growing and has schools from Bristol, Shaftesbury, Witney and Calne as well as Royal Wootton Bassett and the surrounding area. This "Global school in a local Community" thrives on collaboration, is outward facing and is on a never ending journey of school improvement. Students are encouraged to raise money for charities and in 2013 raised over £15,000 for the "Stand by Me" charity to build a school in Burma. This is a remarkable effort particularly as the Year groups that raised the most money were Years 7 and 8.
The school truly helps to develop the character of young people. This is achieved through its innovative Growth Mindset programme, which grows their resilience and encourages them to learn from their failures. The school also has an internationally renowned Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights programme which improves tolerance, consideration, and empathy as it inspires, educates and empowers young people to change the world they live in for the better. Through our beacon school status, this programme is shared and developed across hundreds of schools, impacting upon literally thousands of students and staff.
One of the most important issues affecting our school is funding. Wiltshire is one of the lowest funded authorities and our AWPU is one of the smallest in the country. If our school was moved to Swindon we would get nearly £300,000 more every year; move it to Bristol we would get approximately £1,800,000 per year more; move to Reading, and it would be £1,500,000. There are other important issues too – like curriculum change – but for me they are all topped by the fairer funding issue.
The thing I am most proud of is the truly amazing relationships between the staff and the students. They all work together in a selfless way to succeed at everything – whether that is raising money for charity, a music concert, a maths lesson, a sports team or a mock election. Staff/student relationships are the bedrock of everything.
The whole school is thrilled, honoured and excited to be on the shortlist for Secondary School of the Year. There was a massive cheer in the staffroom when it was announced. The excitement is not confined to the school, with people in the town talking about it and governors positively buzzing. We have had many emails from other schools congratulating us on being on the short list.
The school deserves to win because it is a truly inspirational community. When the Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb, visited here, he said, "I have never been to such an outstanding school before!" We work constantly at developing the whole person to improve everyone's chances of success in life. This is a two-fold approach: one part to maximise their academic success and the other to develop them as a health conscious, responsible member of the community who will give to society.
Our school has success in every field from drama to music to sport to Maths Challenges to academic results, but most of all – as Ofsted said at the core of everything in this school – is the amazing relationships between staff and students. Finally, a parent sent an email to the school after an Open Evening which simply said, "Mr Croxford, if Carlsberg did schools…"
If we win, we will share the honour with our wonderful students, our amazing staff, our numerous partners and our community. The students will decide how we celebrate the achievement.