How are British schools meeting the challenges of our education system, and what are they doing well?
I want to take a moment to introduce you to the 10 case study schools which feature in my new book, Just Great Teaching. They are a selection of schools from all corners of the United Kingdom which share one aspect of school life they believe they are doing really well…
The practical ideas offered in this book are supported by case studies from ten schools from across the UK, each excelling in one of the ten areas of practice highlighted in the slides below. In choosing these schools, it was not a case of cherry-picking ‘the best’ schools based on accountability metrics, exam performance, political ideology or teaching approaches. Instead, I used my own experiences of working within education to identify a range of settings that are facing the challenges that all schools across the country face, including your own, and to explore what these settings are doing well in the face of these challenging contexts.
As part of my research for the book, I visited each of the ten schools and interviewed a member of staff – the headteacher, a school leader or a teacher leading on a particular area of practice. Before my visit, each representative completed an online questionnaire to identify the areas of strengths and challenges in the school, and the areas of practice in which they felt most and least confident.
You can read the full details of the research, covering over 300 references, including 10,000 data insights I have gathered together inside the book. I am confident the book will make a difference in the way in which you work.
Meet the schools
1. Layton Primary School, Blackpool
Layton Primary School is in the centre of Blackpool and is a mixed, non-denominational primary state school catering for students aged four to 11 years old. It is a three-form-entry school with 604 students on roll, with a very large majority of students of White British heritage.
2. Ysgol Henry Richard, Ceredigion
Ysgol Henry Richard is a bilingual Welsh state school, located in the market town of Tregaron in a beautiful part of West Wales called Ceredigion (kere digion). The school works with three- to 16-year-olds and has a new primary school building, which has brought three school sites onto one location. The school currently has 314 students on-roll – 131 in the primary and 183 in the secondary phase. The school has a farm…
3. Fettes College, Edinburgh
Fettes is a private, co-educational, independent boarding and day school with over two-thirds of its students in residence on campus. The school was originally a boarding school for boys only and became co-educational in 1983 for seven- to 18-year-olds. The school has had ten headteachers since it was founded in 1870 and the school building is one of ‘Scotland’s greatest buildings’.
4. Parson Street Primary School, Bristol
Parson Street is a two-form-entry primary school situated in the district of Bedminster in South Bristol. Accommodating a 52-place nursery, the school has close to 500 students when full. The school has a mixed community but serves an area of high social deprivation; the percentage of children eligible for pupil premium funding is consistently above the national average.
5. Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall
Queen Mary’s Grammar School (QMGS) is a selective boys’ school, which is co-educational in the sixth form and has 1,090 students on roll. It is one of the oldest schools in the country, founded in 1554 in Walsall, an industrial town eight miles north of Birmingham. The school is part of the Institute of Education’s Mandarin Excellence Programme and has been Cricketer magazine.
6. CP Riverside School, Nottingham
CP Riverside is an alternative provision free school located in Nottingham that provides alternative education for 56 students from Year 8 to Year 11. These students have been unsuccessful for a variety of reasons within mainstream schools, academies or alternative provisions, or are without a school place.
7. Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre, Tenterden
Homewood School is a state academy school for 11- to 18-year-olds in Tenterden, Kent. It has over 2,000 students and over 250 staff members. It is a wide-ability school within the selective county of Kent. It takes students from a wide catchment area that incorporates the growing town of Ashford, the local town of Tenterden and the many rural villages in the area. The school welcomes students of all abilities and has a strong commitment to inclusion. The school also has a farm!
8. Magdalen College School, Oxford
Magdalen College School (MCS) is an independent school for boys aged seven to 16, and girls and boys aged 16 to 18 in the sixth form. It is a selective school, with around 100 feeder schools. MCS is located in the heart of Oxford and has roughly 900 students on. It was founded in 1480 and around 60 languages are spoken at home.
9. Slough and Eton Church of England Business and Enterprise College, Slough
Slough and Eton is a co-educational secondary academy in Chalvey, Slough, for students aged 11 to 19. It has a sixth form of around 280 students studying for a mixture of academic and vocational courses. The student population is 96 per cent non-white British, and 70 per cent of students speak English as an additional language. The students are predominantly Pakistani Muslim, followed by Somalian-African Muslim, and there are currently around 35 Roma children in the school.
10. Trumpington Community College, Cambridge
Trumpington Community College is a relatively new, state-of-the-art secondary school for 11- to 16-year-olds on the southern fringe of the city of Cambridge. In September 2019, it will have its first full cohort of students from Year 7 to Year 11, eventually leading to a full capacity of 750 students in 2021. It has an award-winning architecture that facilitates innovative practice and is a school leading in the highly integrated use of technology to support new approaches to teaching and learning.
All schools are doing remarkable things with our children – the ten schools featured are a mere snapshot of the incredible work already taking place in thousands of schools across the country and I am reassured that many educators are meeting the ten challenges presented in this book.
Inisde the book you will find out where these ten schools struggle, as well as one aspect of education they are excelling.