TES Schools Awards 2015 – profile of St Aidan’s High School

Published: Friday 15 May 2015

Tony Rooney is Head Teacher at St Aidan's High School in Wishaw – 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 fourth in our series of stories profiling the nominees, Tony tells us about the school and how a few years ago they adopted a new motto 'No child is anonymous in St Aidan's HS', which has placed relationships and personal support to students at the forefront of their thinking…

St Aidan's is a Catholic secondary school serving a wide geographic catchment area, in the Wishaw area with over 1100 students, aged 11 - 18.

Our postcode of ML2 is noted as an area of socio-economic deprivation, but has some of the most wonderful students that any school could have. Through close working relations with partner primaries, transitions are smooth and the students, in the main, love their school. The staff provide excellent personal support to students and our daily contact provision with dedicated tutors supports this.

The curriculum is broad and meets the needs of the students. We work closely with other local secondaries and colleges to provide an upper school curriculum that suits both academic and vocational needs. We have had national successes on Health and Wellbeing and through the Prince's Trust.

One of the most important issues affecting our school is combatting deprivation. Breaking the lure of part-time jobs to see money in their pockets in the senior phase of the school, and impacting adversely on their studies, to combat parental expectations that they should be out earning money at early stages, and that the real investment is what is happening inside the school.

Another important issue is setting high expectations. Breaking the cycle that suggest locally that students do not have the self-belief that they can achieve, like students from more affluent schools, when they can. At Easter, for example, we had 5 students trek across Greenland, after a year of intensive training and much sponsorship, sleeping under the Northern Lights and who will now tell all of our students about their experience and that they lived out a dream that they would never have thought possible. We need to share widely the 'can do' culture and share inspiration, to inspire others.

There are so many things that make me proud about the school:

  • I am proud of the commitment that staff give to students.
  • I am proud of our improving results.
  • I am particularly proud that staff embraced, when I asked them to, the belief that building quality relationships with students will not only see students love their school, but also help them to do well, and this has proved to be the case.
  • I am proud of the fact that there is not a child in the school who does not want to say hello to me each morning. So it is really about the quality of the relationships within the school and that students know that we are all very much interested in them as individuals. Improved results follow naturally.

We do not claim to have the best academic results of any school but we can claim to be performing really well, and certainly way beyond what might be expected of a school set within the socio-economic profile of the area - our submission outlined the significant numbers of our students who come from the less affluent deciles - 50% from deciles 1 - 3, and how we buck the trend on deprivation and attainment.

Improving results over a number of years, and systematic and structured approaches to personal support, coupled by the wealth of opportunities that we provide, have extended student horizons and encouraged an ethos that says 'all is possible with effort and commitment'. 

We adopted a new motto 5/6 years ago - 'No child is anonymous in St Aidan's HS' to ensure that the focus was clearly centred on individuals, and staff have undertaken a culture shift that has placed relationships and personal support to students at the forefront of our thinking. 

I believe that our improved results are rooted in a stable educational environment, where encouragement to do well and to enjoy school with a staff who are interested in students as individuals, has been the foundation of any successes we may have.

We are delighted to be on the shortlist and the staff, who give so much of their time to supporting students, are thus being recognised for their efforts and the students are equally recognised for their contributions. 

At today's assembly with one stage I could see pride in the faces of the students at hearing the news. I believe in this school, as does my local authority, and I see an opportunity to promote the school further, boosting the confidence of our young people.

If we win, I will use this to endorse the work of the staff and to promote how worthwhile their contributions are, to highlight the concept of success to students, and to say to the catchment area that their local school is a centre of excellence. I would want the parents to be energised by the result. If the school does not win we will still do all of the above, being nominated is a success, and as head teacher I will carry on exactly as I am doing at present.

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