|To create a school which strives for excellence in all that it does. A school that delivers outstanding outcomes in a safe and secure environment, a love of learning, nurtures fine young people and that empowers all students to achieve heights they did not imagine possible.|
Severn Vale has been transformed in recent years and can now rightly claim to be one of the most improved schools in Gloucestershire. The vision statement above is not empty rhetoric. It is what unites the efforts of everyone who works at Severn Vale, both teaching and support staff. It is frequently repeated and helps ensure all staff are focused on key priorities.
The transformation at Severn Vale has been startling and is reflected in every aspect of the school’s provision. Go back to the 1990s and only 11% of students were gaining five good GCSEs. The school’s reputation within the local community was not strong. In 2014 over 66% of our students have achieved 5 good GCSEs including English and Maths and the school has been recognised by the DfE as one of the top 100 in England for sustained improvements in GCSE results.
The school has been recognised by the DfE as one of the top 100 schools nationally for sustained improvements in GCSE results.
The school’s reputation is one we are now proud of. That is reflected in parental choice also. We are an 8 form of entry, with 235 Year 7 students joining us each September. This year 230 of those families put Severn Vale down as their first preference. There are other indicators of transformation also. In recent years we have invested significantly in student voice and in relationships. We are now a happier, healthier school with exclusions reduced by 75% since 2005, when we introduced a new behaviour policy.
But still we are not satisfied. Indeed one reason why the school has been transformed is because we have a culture that promotes the very highest expectations. “Good enough” is not good enough. “Good” is actually the enemy of “Great” and we aspire to become a great school. That drive is relentless because we feel that our students are entitled to the very, very best. Ofsted recognised this when they inspected us in 2011 and described us as a good school “moving rapidly towards outstanding”.
Indeed one reason why the school has been transformed is because we have a culture that promotes the very highest expectations. “Good enough” is not good enough.
Some facts about the school. We are proud of our inclusive credentials and, in an area that has retained selection, subscribe instinctively to the comprehensive ideal. We are an 11-16 school with 1175 students on roll. In 2011 we converted to academy status.
One motive for conversion was to strengthen our links with our partner primary schools. Together we have formed a partnership entitled the Quedgeley Learning Community (QLC). The vision is clear: QLC believes in working together to provide an outstanding educational experience which benefits young people, parents and an entire community.
We have high hopes of QLC and the possibilities are tremendous. This is about more than simply strengthening the primary/secondary transition (although that is something we are enjoying doing). It is about a family of schools saying that only the very best will do, not just for one institution, but for an entire community.
There are, of course, a number of factors behind Severn Vale’s transformation. Central to these are a set of Core Beliefs which inform all that we do:
We believe that all children, however challenging their circumstances and whatever their background, can achieve.
Above all else a place of learning
We believe great teaching and great learning are at the heart of all that the school does. What goes on in the classroom is integral to this and any barriers that get in the way of learning will be removed. Teachers will be freed up to teach and they will be expected to be learning and developing all the time.
We go the extra mile to help students achieve
We believe that every student needs to be given the encouragement, guidance and support to achieve. We are committed to doing everything we can to achieve great outcomes, but also expect 100% effort from all students.
A values based education
We believe that being the best you can be means not only striving for academic achievement, but also developing the personal qualities that characterise fine young people. Our job is to teach our students knowledge and skills and to instil in them our school values: courtesy, compassion, honesty, integrity and perseverance. These quintessentially British values will help students make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.
Home and school are united in the same hope for every student – that they will emerge into adult life as good citizens, well-prepared and willing to lead fulfilling and useful lives. We can best ensure this by working together. As such we recognise and welcome parents/carers as partners in the educational process.
A recipe for success
We feel we have developed a recipe for success at Severn Vale, one that will help us deliver further improvements for our students. So what is this recipe for success? First and foremost we are blessed at Severn Vale with a highly skilled and dedicated staff. They operate in a culture that values professional development. For some time we prided ourselves in being a school that “grows good teachers”. Now we are an academy that seeks to “grow great teachers”. We recognise that professional development has to be highly personalised and differentiated. It is this professional development at all levels within the school that help explain why the quality of teaching is higher than it ever has been in the past. Also notable is the high quality of leadership that exists at different levels throughout the school, amongst both teaching and support staff, all of it focused on ensuring that our school’s vision is not mere rhetoric, that we do actually deliver.
Other ingredients in the recipe for success include very effective School Improvement Planning, helping ensure that we operate in a disciplined manner, focusing on key priorities rather than diluting our effectiveness by trying to do everything at once. We also use data effectively so that we are asking the right questions about performance and how it might be enhanced. There is also a sharp focus on assessment for learning, ensuring that students know where they are in terms of their learning, where they should be and how they’re going to get there.
One key achievement in recent years has been the creation of a far better designed curriculum, one that was the fruit of widespread consultation and which now engages and motivates students far more that in the past. At the heart of the curriculum is a focus on the key subjects of English and Maths with significantly increased curriculum time dedicated to these subjects. The result of this is that 73% of our students in 2014 achieved A* - C grades in both of these subjects. We have also reduced the number of subjects taken by students in Key Stage 4 so that a greater focus on fewer subjects results in deeper learning and improved outcomes.
Complementing all this work is a corresponding emphasis on ethos and attitudes to learning. We actively promote a key set of values: courtesy, compassion, honesty, integrity and perseverance. We have also invested heavily in student voice, ensuring that students have a say in the strategic development of their school. The School Parliament, for example, is far more effective than in the past. We also encourage students to make a positive contribution to the work of the school and this is reflected in the growth of groups that now operate. They include Prefects, the ‘Time to Talk Team’ (T4, an anti-bullying group trained in peer mediation), an Eco group, Newshounds and also a Can I Help You? group.
Discipline at Severn Vale is firm but fair and clearly defined. We follow a system of Behaviour for Learning with an emphasis on praise and clear consequences. It works, although of course we continue to work to improve the system yet further. We promote the Golden Rule at every opportunity, helping students understand that they should treat other people the way they would like to be treated themselves. Just as a characteristic of successful parenting is a high degree of positivity, so too do we work hard to catch students being good. There are high levels of praise and of optimism. We were pleased when an Ofsted inspector commented up on the amount of humour he had seen during his visit. We think this matters and that students learn best in an environment which provides high levels of challenge but also high levels of support.
Hungry for more.
Put all this together and you get a flavour of what has driven the school’s startling improvement. However we know there is more to be done, indeed we are hungry for further improvements. We are a school with robust systems of quality assurance and this ensures that we know ourselves well. We know we need to focus yet more sharply on Literacy, on Assessment, on Revision Skills and also on Differentiation. We are keen to learn from others and derive great benefit from involvement with PiXL, the Partners in Excellence Programme, which originated in London. Equally we are keen to share what we have learned in recent years with other schools. We currently help deliver a ‘Good and Beyond’ Course for teachers across the county as well as a ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ course for the county’s middle leaders.
There are, of course, other facts about the school which applicants will want to know. We are situated on the southern fringe of Gloucester City in Quedgeley, an area that has grown substantially in recent years. We are one of the best equipped schools in Gloucestershire, especially now that a £4 million building programme has been completed. All of this is important but what matters more than anything else is that Severn Vale School is proud of what it has achieved in recent years, is proud of the way that students are enjoying more success than ever before and yet remain hungry for even greater improvement.
If you want to find out more, if your beliefs and values chime with ours and you want to become a part of all that we stand for, then do contact the school. We will be keen to help.