Monday, April 24, 2017

Sir Thomas Wharton Officially Joins Maltby Learning Trust

We are delighted to announce that Sir Thomas Wharton was officially recognised by the Department for Education as a member and partner of the Maltby Learning Trust (MLT) on 1 April 2017.

The completion of final legal documents formalised the partnership that has been gathering momentum since September.

Our students and visitors to the Academy will notice a change of signage and colours on return from the Easter holidays. The historical patronage of Sir Thomas Wharton will continue to lend his name to the school though we will lose the Cooperative Community College element of the name. We will gradually phase out the red and black colours introducing a blue and grey branding with a new evolved logo, selected by our Student Council.

This is an exciting and much anticipated moment for our Academy. The relationship with Maltby adds significant capacity to leadership and resources from a local school, in a similar context, with proven high quality outcomes and support for children.

A new local governing body with direct accountability to the Maltby Learning Trust Board and Trustees has been founded and boasts a wealth of expertise and skills.

The strengths of both schools have been evaluated and the sharing of best practice will drive improvements at pace. Many of Maltby Academy’s impactful strategies are being adopted at Sir Thomas Wharton and developed in collaboration. We will start the 2017-18 academic year with a new curriculum providing high quality learning for our students. Our school days will be aligned facilitating joint provision for our collaborative Sixth Form operating across both sites.

With confidence growing in the future of our Academy we will have the highest intake of Year 7 students for several years in September of 2017, 20% of them choosing to join us from out of catchment.

For further news and developments please return regularly to our website.

Friday, January 27, 2017

New Year, New Developments and Resolutions

Happy New Year to one and all! I hope those of you who have made resolutions are demonstrating strong will power, resilience and persistence. Are you? Apparently the top 10 resolutions are to:

1.     Lose weight
2.     Get organised
3.     Spend less and save more
4.     Enjoy life to the fullest
5.     Stay fit and healthy
6.     Learn something new
7.     Quit smoking
8.     Help others achieve theirs dreams
9.     Fall in love
10.  Spend more time with family

Some of these are definitely on my personal list and so far I am trying, though the tub of remaining Christmas chocolates is a big temptation.

According to a BUPA poll around half of us stick to our New Year’s resolutions for less than a month. This leads me to share with you the continuing changes and developments at Sir Thomas Wharton starting with a new set of criteria for the ‘Successful Habits of a Sir Thomas Wharton Learner’. This is based on PRIDE and a significant element of this is developing learning traits such as resilience, perseverance, cooperation, learning from failure and never giving up.

PRIDE will be at the centre of a new 1-4 grading for Engagement in Learning in our reporting system and will be introduced with years seven and eight in the next tracking report available to parents. In response to feedback from evaluations, parents will have access to tracking data prior to the next Learning Review Day on Monday 6 February 2017.

The PRIDE acronym actually stands for a Prepared Learner, Responsible Learner, Interested Learner, Determined Learner and Emotionally Aware Learner.

This development of successful learning habits has been created in collaboration with one of our former students, Mr Kevin Mincher, whose organisation Unstoppable Teen is currently working with students from across all years on a range of motivational projects. There will be more to follow on this in the coming weeks.

Leaders at Sir Thomas Wharton are committed to securing purposeful partnerships with parents, staff, governors, local community groups and broader business partners to deliver the very best for every young person in our Academy.

Our improvement agenda and drive to be an outstanding school has gathered a momentum since September. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a number of the recent developments at Sir Thomas Wharton that are focused on rapidly raising standards of achievement for all learners.

Our consultation on joining Maltby Learning Trust is complete and this has been approved in principle by the Department for Education. Answers to frequently asked questions raised by parents and the community can be found on the Parent Voice page of the website. Our expected target date for transfer is now 1st March 2017.

When we transfer from the Co-operative Trust to the Maltby Learning Trust we will effectively become a new re-brokered school. As such, the name of our school will change, but not significantly.  We will lose the current lengthy title and will become known as Sir Thomas Wharton Academy.

Being part of Maltby Learning Trust will bring many beneficial changes and indeed is already doing so. Mr Sutton, the CEO and Executive Principal from Maltby, has been working closely with the school over recent months to add additional leadership capacity and initiate strategies that will support our improvement agenda. Many of the strategies implemented have been proven to work in other settings and have helped Maltby Academy be recognised as a highly effective school and designated as an approved school sponsor by the Department for Education.

Our focus for improvement over recent months has been in three key areas:

1.     ‘Securing clear assessment criteria’ linked to the reformed GCSE and A Level curriculum. Leaders from Sir Thomas Wharton and Maltby have worked together on creating assessment grids that provide clear success criteria for the new 1-9 GCSE bands. This directly links to planning and providing teaching and classroom intervention that closes gaps in knowledge, skills and understanding to help all students make good progress.

2.     ‘Developing high quality teaching and learning’ through sharing expertise and resources. Maltby Academy has an excellent track record of highly effective teaching and learning. Staff across both academies, in respective subjects, are working collaboratively, sharing learning resources and shaping professional development to support teaching in the classroom. You may have noticed ‘long term plans’ appearing in your child’s exercise books. These have been created to help students and parents know exactly where they are in their course of study. (NB. These are also available on the website in the curriculum section.) Leaders and governors continue working across the two schools to build additional capacity in key specialist areas and to secure improvements in provision and outcomes. Working together in one Trust we have greater opportunity to recruit and retain high quality staff.

3.     ‘Providing a relevant and engaging curriculum’ that secures positive progression routes from Y7 to Y13 and beyond into Further/Higher Education or training and prepares our young people for employment. As part of this we are introducing a three year Key Stage 4 curriculum for all students at Sir Thomas Wharton. The impact of this is that students in both Year 8 and 9 will make their GCSE options later this term. Parents and students will receive further information about this in the coming weeks.

Working in collaboration with Maltby Academy, we will be able to offer a wider range of both Level 2 and Level 3 vocational qualifications in key stage 5 this year. The Government’s latest announcement is focused on providing a growth in vocational and technical qualifications to fill the identified skills gap in the country. We will continue to work closely with businesses and local employers through our association with Doncaster Chamber of Commerce and their education and skills academy to better prepare our young people for that transition into employment. The government are keen to promote progression routes directly into work related training or Higher Education through the introduction of more robust vocational qualifications that can complement the traditional A Level courses.

Over recent weeks Year 11 students, from both Maltby and Sir Thomas Wharton, have been accessing the Post 16 environment and courses at each of our respective schools. One of the significant benefits to our new partnership is the ability to offer a broad range of Level 2 and Level 3 courses in a collaborative Sixth Form. Geographically, Maltby is the closest secondary school to Sir Thomas Wharton and will be easy to access via a college shuttle bus service. From September post 16 students from each organisation will have the opportunity to study across our two sites and select courses that best suit their preferred progression route.

In order to offer a collaborative curriculum at both Maltby and Sir Thomas Wharton, it will be necessary to align our school days and lesson timings. This is particularly important for the delivery of the Post 16 curriculum and to enable us to transport students between the two sites. The new school day will consist of 5 x 1hour lessons with tutor period at the start of the day. Changes to the actual start and finish times are still being considered and will be communicated at a later stage. The aligning of our school days will allow joint staff development and student enrichment programmes after school.

Our students will hear more about the planned changes during assemblies in the week commencing 30 January and have opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification through the student voice council.

Parents and carers will have an opportunity to hear more about our proposed changes and ask relevant questions at the Parent Voice meeting on Tuesday 7 February.

During that same week, I hope you will take the opportunity to join the audience at our latest big musical production – Chicago. Tickets are on sale now for the evening performances on Thursday 9th and Friday 10th February. I have seen the rehearsals and I know you will be astounded and entertained by the talented performers on stage.

Providing outstanding teaching and learning to secure every student with a suite of good and appropriate qualifications, is at the heart of our purpose. However, as our motto ‘Learning for Life, Succeeding Together’ promotes, we also believe in a rounded education that develops personal qualities, resilience and competencies to make our young people not only employable but lead a healthy, successful and fulfilled life. As we progress towards the summer we will be launching our ‘Student Pledges’, an awarding system for successful engagement in a range of different life experiences, all contributing to ‘Learning for Life’. Each pledge will be an entitlement, for example like the cast of Chicago, an opportunity to perform on a stage, or take a lead in a community based activity.

Returning to that top 10 list of resolutions; several of them should not just be resolutions but are actually values central to an outstanding education and life. We want our children to ‘live life to the fullest’, taking advantage of every opportunity available to them. We want them to ‘learn something new’ every day, in every lesson and through the enrichment and extra-curricular opportunities on offer. We want to help them ‘achieve their dreams’, giving them the belief, confidence and support to be successful in whatever they choose to do.

I thank you for taking the time to read this latest blog. I will continue to keep you informed as future developments are secured with Maltby Learning Trust and our wider partners across Doncaster. These are exciting times to be a student and member of staff at Sir Thomas Wharton.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

An open invitation to future parents and students following our Open Evening

Thank you to all the parents, carers and children who came to our Y5-6 Open evening and joined in the events with such gusto!

It was a true pleasure to meet you and I hope that you got a flavour of what Sir Thomas Wharton Academy – a Co-operative Academy is all about.

As always with these events, time runs away with us, so if you would like to come back and experience what it is like here during the working day then please do contact us. We will arrange for you to visit and get a true feel for the warm, positive, disciplined and purposeful atmosphere that pervades our academy.

I became Headteacher two years ago and I still have that same feeling today, as I did then, of being extremely privileged to lead our Academy. The GCSE results the summer I took over had taken a fall with an Ofsted inspection imminent. With the emphasis on exam outcomes I was fully aware of the challenges ahead. When Ofsted came, with their success criteria rooted in exam performance, they inevitably found ‘serious weaknesses’. They also reported confidently of the changes happening under the new leadership. Since then we have increased rigour and accountability, made many changes and continue to do so. Our subsequent monitoring visit reports bear testament to the progress we are making.

Our achievements are rising and compare favourably to other local schools. This summer we had a 10% record increase in A*/A grades. 27 students attained at least 5 or more A*/A grades each.

Spending most of my time in and around lessons in these first few weeks, it is heartening to see both students and staff responding to higher expectations of both standards and work.

However, whatever the politics and organisational structures, the most important priority is the education, progress and care of your children. As headteacher that is my first and only priority. Children come first. We promise to take care of your children, keep them safe and make learning fun.

Politics will come and go but throughout it all my aim, along with our staff, is to help lead our academy and community to be regarded as an ‘outstanding’ school – a school that not only provides the very best education for all its students – but one at the heart of the community it serves, leading regeneration and providing pride and self-esteem for all.

For our academy to be recognised as ‘outstanding’ is a personal mission. I have had two period of employment at this school totalling fourteen years. I live in the community, it’s my community and I am determined, with your help - to see it happen.

In many respects this is already an ‘outstanding’ academy.

Your children will have an array of opportunities at STWCC. Our staff, business and community partners provide a wide range of activities. To our future students we promise that whatever your current talents, or talents you have yet to discover, you can do them here. You can be part of our many sports and fitness clubs or successful teams. If you are musical or can sing, have aspirations to perform – you can join our school band or the most requested school choir in South Yorkshire. You can be part of our hugely successful drama and musical productions – rehearsals for our latest show Chicago are already under way. If you can dance or want to dance - you can do it here – many of our students have progressed to the top dance schools and gone on to be professional dancers. If you have ambition to be the best, we will support you. This summer our Olympic achievements amazed us all. We have 3 students in our academy right now who have a great opportunity to be Olympians – one in gymnastics, one an athlete and one in ice dancing – already champions and on the path to reaching the pinnacle in their sports.

Our Art gallery is a pleasure to view. Sir Thomas Wharton’s talented artists produce results second to none in Doncaster. Collectively our Arts provision has been recognised through the prestigious Arts Mark Gold Award.

School trips are wide and varied. Y7 have been signing up for their outdoor activities residential to Kingswood in March. Our young footballers and netballers are getting excited about their sports tour to Barcelona next year. But in addition to this in the last 2 years we have had, and will continue to have, trips to London, Germany, France, Disneyland Paris, New York, Venice, theatre trips and more.

You may be aware that South Yorkshire police offer free football coaching here on Tuesday nights, promoted by one of our more famous ambassadors – Howard Webb – the recently retired world cup final referee.

Our staff also offer many subject specific enrichment activities and go out of their way to provide extra help in passing exams.

We also specialise in Business and Enterprise, which means not only do we get exceptional results in these subjects, but also provide a variety of opportunities to engage in enterprising activities and business and work placements.

When you choose our academy for your children we expect you to choose us for 7 years. With compulsory education now to 18 we want your children with us right through into the sixth form. Most of our students want to stay with us. That’s hardly surprising because they love it here. They know that in addition to the nurturing, leadership opportunities and careers support provided, students have attained amazing individual performances in the last two years with the progress of both Y12 and Y13 last in the top 20% of all schools nationally.

We have a strong belief in the importance of smart appearance and the togetherness it creates. We and the students are proud of their appearance. We are strict on our rules and expect adherence to the uniform policy. I am sure you will respect this too.

To you the parents I say - there are few decisions you will make for your children as important as which school to send them to. I actively encourage you to look at other schools, so when you choose here, you know you have compared and chosen us for the right reasons. I am confident we will be your school of choice.

At Sir Thomas Wharton we have high expectations and traditional values.

We promise:
  • We will provide a safe, secure environment for your children
  • We will work them hard
  • We will teach them well and furnish them with the skills, knowledge and qualifications to compete in a rapidly changing world.

With you as parents:
  • We will create a culture of true partnership
  • We will keep you informed
  • We will listen to you

I trust that you enjoyed the Open Evening and will join us as a proud member of the Sir Thomas Wharton community - your school of choice!

We look forward to welcoming you!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Social Media – a necessary evil?

How much time do you spend on your phone or digital device scanning posts, tweeting, reading and responding to messages, chatting, researching and the like? Do you go in to meltdown when your phone dies because you forgot to charge it?

There are very few of us not on one form of social media or another. I certainly enjoy the ability to keep in touch with my friends who are scattered across the UK and indeed the world. I also find tweets and blogs by fellow educationalists really useful in my professional role. However, there is a dark, dangerous side to social media that I find utterly abhorrent.

Young people have always had developing, passionate, sometime naive views that they wish to share; others less confident may think things but not say them out loud. Either way social media gives them a platform to express views without censure and often about others.

The rapidly growing number of young people with emotional and mental health issues can be often attributed to their negative self-image and self-esteem caused by their perception of what others think of them. And the modern place to find that out is on social media. I despair at the number of young people, and adults for that matter, who feel the need to digitally change their photos to make themselves look ‘better.’

At Sir Thomas Wharton we constantly remind our students of the dangers of interacting on social media and the internet, particularly around safeguarding. However, safeguarding from potential adults with immoral intent, as in the latest case with youngsters on ‘Tinder’, is not the only problem facing our children on the internet. Bullying, hurtful, spiteful and slanderous comments is sadly rife on social media. It is the biggest problem that schools face in terms of protecting our children and dealing with the conflict and complexities around it. In the past, a fall out between children was usually within a small circle of youngsters. Teachers and pastoral staff could more easily contain the issue, identify the miscreants, put support in place and nip it in the buddy. Here at Sir Thomas Wharton our highly experienced staff are excellent at doing just that.

 The use of social media to cause distress for others is becoming increasingly difficult to manage. The fallout from unpleasantness on apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and more, no longer involves one or two children. Comments are seen instantly by all who are part of that friendship group or following; they are often added to and re-posted. Things that have allegedly happened or been said out of school go viral. Victims may come into school the next day knowing half the college community have seen it whilst staff are unaware. When it happens, we act quickly. Invariably it is complex, difficult to gather evidence and challenging to unpick. Often it is as a result of an incident socially out of college or a relationship fall out. Worse still we find some parents, rather than take the role of responsible adult, add to the abuse and threats.

More recently we have uncovered chatrooms where youngsters are involved in posting offensive and slanderous remarks about staff. Fortunately we can turn to the law for protection from cyberbullying and use the UK Safer Internet Centre and The Professional Online Safety Helpline. Through this route we can access online material and deal with the offenders and we do.

The first and foremost role of our staff is as educators. They work hard to remove barriers to learning, inspire children to be successful and teach them not just the academic curriculum but how to be happy and respectful citizens in society. Increasingly this is also about how to use the internet safely and constructively.

To the students reading this I reiterate what we have told you repeatedly; before you post anything about anyone else or respond to someone else, STOP and THINK 1) How would I feel if this was about me? 2) Would I be happy for my parent or grandparent to read this? If the answer is no – don’t do it. If someone posts something that causes you distress – tell and show someone – a parent or adult at school.

To parents reading this don’t bury your head in the sand. I know we would prefer not to pry in to our children’s private lives but find a way to respectfully check your child’s interactions. Watch for signs of distress, talk to your child about the dangers of social media. If necessary take them offline or unsubscribe from that App. The hardest of all is not to instantly take sides. Check the extent of your own child’s involvement in any unpleasantness. Our children are so easily drawn in to inappropriate behaviour on line by peer pressure or a desire to be part of the group and especially not to become a victim themselves. When you are concerned about your child, when you do become aware of anything, please let us know. By working together we can support our children, deal with the issues and help them to use social media appropriately. #stopbullyingonline

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Government Position on Holidays in Term Time

The Government have set out their position on pupil absence as a result of term time holidays. All Headteachers received this letter on 9 June 2016. We also understand, as I indicated in my blog ‘Attendance Matters’ on 27 May, that the Government intend to change the legislation to tighten up the regulation around holidays in term time.

The letter below is from Nick Gibb who is the Schools Minister.

Department for Education

High Court judgment on unauthorised pupil absence

Dear Colleague,

I am writing to set out the Government's position on unauthorised school absence and next steps following the judgment by the High Court on Friday 13 May regarding the case of the Isle of Wight Council v Jon Platt.

I am disappointed with the High Court ruling. I am clear that no child should miss school apart from in exceptional circumstances.

Over the past six years, schools and local authorities have taken the lead in reducing overall absence to make sure more children attend school every day. Overall absence in primary, secondary and special schools has been on a downward trend since 2010/11. In particular, since introducing the changes to the regulations in 2013 so that absence is only granted in exceptional circumstances, the rate of absence due to term time holidays has decreased by more than a third.

This is a significant achievement. As you will be aware there is clear evidence that absence from school is linked to lower levels of attainment. The Department's latest analysis published in March shows that every extra day missed was associated with lower attainment at age 11 and at age 16. In other words, every extra day of school that is missed can affect a pupil's chance of gaining good GCSE results.

I wish to advise you on two matters.

1. The High Court's judgment did not establish a hard and fast rule that a pupil's attendance above 90% is regarded as 'regular' attendance. Instead a decision will have to depend on the individual facts of each case. In the Isle of Wight case, for example, the magistrates thought it was a pertinent fact that the school itself had described 90% attendance as 'satisfactory'.

2. We understand that some parents who have already been given penalty notices and have paid the penalty are asking local authorities to withdraw the notices under regulation 8 of the Education (Penalty notices) (England) Regulations 2007 and refund their payments. However, the view of the Department is that the decision in the Isle of Wight case does not require local authorities to do this, and I would expect applications of this kind to be refused in the ordinary course of events. We will set out any additional steps necessary to secure children's attendance at school in due course.
In the meantime, it remains the case - as set out in the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 amended in 2013 - that headteachers continue to have the power to authorise leave of absence, but only in exceptional circumstances. While family holidays are enriching experiences, the school year is designed to give families the opportunity for these breaks without having to disrupt their children's education. It is for schools to consider the specific details and relevant context behind each request. Schools know their pupils best and are well placed to make those judgements.

I am clear that we need to continue reducing absence, building on the success schools and local authorities have already achieved, to support attainment and ensure all pupils fulfill their potential.
With best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Gibb MP