In September 2010 I took over as the new headteacher at Baverstock School in Birmingham. The school serves a disadvantaged area of the city with high free school meals.
Historically the school was below floor targets in almost every category. In 2009, 27 per cent of students gained five A* to C including English and maths, fixed-term exclusions were very high, managed moves and the Sharing Panel system were used to move students on, and permanent exclusions were running at eight or nine a year.
The school had been in an Ofsted category, then became a National Challenge school and was being considered by the Department for Education and local authority to close and merge as an academy with another local school. All this has now changed.
We introduced an inclusive policy based around learning and achievement. Fixed-term exclusions have reduced by more than 70 per cent, no Baverstock students are sent to Sharing Panel (although the school is very supportive in taking students), and permanent exclusions for this period are zero.
So what did we do? In January 2011 we introduced an area called LEAP – Learn, Enjoy, Achieve, Progress. Nobody remembers what the letters stand for now because it really means: “You will achieve a minimum of five A* to C grades.”
Initially, using the behaviour database, the “naughtiest” most disruptive 20 students were selected to join LEAP. I met with every parent and student and explained the philosophy – guarantees were required from all sides. The parents had to agree to support us and their children. Students agreed to attend, work hard and smile, and the school guaranteed to get them a minimum of five A* to C grades.
We currently have 40 students in the LEAP area. This is made up of four year 9, 20 year 10, and 16 year 11 students. They are the students that have some of the most complex behavioural needs in the school. Many of the students do not begin the year group in LEAP but are integrated in during the academic year.
All students’ needs are individually looked at and a personalised curriculum is put together to support them. LEAP works closely with Focus (a year 7 and 8 nurture provision) to ensure a smooth transition.
During the last summer term, our year 11 LEAP students were working towards 73 A* to C grades having already gained 51 GCSEs at C grade or better.
The new year 11 LEAP cohort started this month with 46 GCSEs at C grade or better already banked, while their peers in year 10 have achieved 29 GCSE A* to C grades during their year 9 studies.
They all now have a real sense of achievement and a real belief in what they are capable of. For many students behaviour has improved so much that they are able to access some of the mainstream curriculum.
Students are passing GCSEs in subjects including English, maths, PE, music and ICT, with BTECs in health and social care, science and sport. The curriculum is personalised to the individual.
The department has one qualified teacher and four support members of staff and is located in the centre of the school.
Ofsted visited us in February 2012 and reported: “The school’s LEAP facility in years 9 to 11 has had an outstanding impact on students who were previously not engaged with learning, with its focus on achievement as well as re-integration into mainstream classes when behaviour had improved.”
LEAP is also supporting eight students from other schools in Birmingham. They have all passed GCSEs with grade C or higher and non have been excluded or ask to return to their on-roll school.
The changes have had an impact throughout the school. Students in mainstream lessons where LEAP individuals would have been are now able to learn without the distractions that were occurring before.
Teachers are enjoying being in the classroom and challenging students to do even better. We have also significantly developed the quality of our teaching with the help of the Teacher Effectiveness Programme (TEEP), a national programme based on a model led by classroom practitioners focused on peer-learning. In February, Ofsted saw more than 69 per cent outstanding or good lessons during its visit.
This summer, we knew we would be above the 40 per cent “floor target” and indeed our five A* to C including English and maths came in at 47 per cent – although I should add that we are appealing a number of English GCSE grades after falling victim, like many other schools, to the grading boundary changes.
Maths is perhaps then currently a better benchmark for how far we have come. In 2011, 33 per cent of year 11 gained a C grade or better in maths. This year, 60 per cent achieved a C or higher in maths, with significant improvements in the three levels of progress being made. Overall the school has made great strides over the last year and a half.
Thomas Marshall is headteacher of Baverstock School in Birmingham.
CAPTION: Transformation: Students across Baverstock School benefit from the LEAP Department