Deputy head Jenny Gaylor discusses how new approaches to leadership, teaching, curriculum, behaviour and data took the school from a 4% to 100% pass rate. This is from the Guardian…
Today students and staff at Carshalton Boys Sports College are privileged to be participating in one of the momentous occasions in the history of the school, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and chef Jamie Oliver are visiting us to celebrate our journey from one of the lowest achieving schools in the country to one of the most improved. Their focus, to investigate the way that food culture has permeated through every aspect of the school and is contributing to improved achievement at every level. Joining them will be a host of stars from the restaurant and sports world, as well as representatives from champions of food growing, preparation and education in schools, all gathering to discuss the way that we can work together to ensure good food is at the heart of all schools. For us, introducing high-quality freshly-prepared food, growing our own vegetables, making sure every student learns how to cook and more recently adding 12 chickens and a cockerel to our flock has just been a part of a much bigger mission to raise achievement beyond even our own expectations.
So, how did a school that 10 years ago had a GCSE pass rate of just 4% 5 A*-Cs make this transformation? It has taken us hard work and relentless enthusiasm, but now we are proud to say that at Carshalton Boys every boy really does achieve and 100% of students have attained 5A*-C grades at GCSE or equivalent for the past three years in a row, and more importantly every single one has gone on to further education, employment or training as a result.
As a non-selective school in a selective borough it is this success which makes us most proud and it is for this reason that we continue to go from strength to strength. Analysing the blueprint for this shift has probably been the hardest thing to do, and it is only now that we think we have the answer. There is no single factor, no magic trick, instead it comes down to five things: leadership, teaching, curriculum, behaviour and the laser sharp use of data.
So, what do these look like at Carshalton Boys? Great leadership at every level, from the headteacher to students as leaders has been essential. We encourage everyone at the school lead on a project they feel passionate about and celebrate their success as often as possible. Whether this be through assemblies, staff briefings or our regular newsletters, website and bulletins, our whole community shares the belief that they can succeed. Our teachers are inspirational and many of them have been with us since they trained.
Our Best to Better programme based on Dylan Wiliam’s ‘Teacher Learning Communities’ model personalises their own professional development and encourages staff to share good practice and ideas for improving teaching and learning with their colleagues. Our curriculum team constantly reviews and revises the diet of our learners to make sure that every student is in the correct pathway to maximise achievement, whether this be a traditional academic or more vocational route. It is this which enables learners to progress smoothly into appropriate education, employment or training post-16 and ensures that these transitions are successful. Our amazing A-level and other level 3 qualifications achieved by students in our sixth form are a testament to this fact. Good behaviour, and more importantly ‘behaviour for learning’ are vital and our new school approach ‘achieving excellence through PRIDE’ (persistence, respect, independence, discovery and enthusiasm) permeates every aspect of school life.
Finally, it’s about good data. We know what every student is capable of and we track their progress with laser sharp accuracy, making sure that if a student falls behind appropriate interventions are put in place to get them back on track. It is only when you get these things right that the outcomes for all learners will be transformed. Can you do this overnight? No, but by putting into place systems and structures that ensure these areas are good or outstanding, you can go on a journey which we once thought was impossible.