The NACE Challenge Award
We are the only Secondary School in the County and only one of around 200 schools Country-wide that hold the prestigious NACE Challenge award for Able, Gifted and Talented Provision. This is regarded as the highest and most recognised award in the Country for this provision.
Here is the independent feedback taken directly from the NACE Challenge Award Lead Assessor’s Report:
Feedback from reviewing the G&T Portfolio, Interviews and Work Samples
- There is a whole-school commitment to and passion for challenging all learners. It underpins the ethos of the school, is reflected in the mission statement “Aiming for Excellence in all that we do” and in comments from parents, governors and students.
- There is a clear structure led by Senior Leadership Team, with the Leading Teacher [Assistant Head] supporting the Gifted and Talented Coordinator. Both the latter have been central to enthusing colleagues and providing appropriate guidance and training to develop provision both in and out of the classroom. Staff colleagues commented on the G&T Coordinator’s “passion and enthusiasm” and spoke of him as an “inspirational leader” who has “completely transformed provision for Gifted and Talented students in the school”. The evidence presented by the school was thorough, reflective and shows continually strengthening practice.
- There is a culture of celebration in the school from academic success to achievements in sport, art, music and drama. Regular updates appear in newsletters, on notice boards and through presentation evenings. As one parent reflected “My son changed the day the school had an awards evening, he won the most identified Gifted and Talented student across a range of subjects. His peers applauded him, boosting his self esteem, a wonderful way of celebrating”. Individual success was also acknowledged through ‘praise postcards’, which the students appreciated, they “like being praised” and recognised staff tried to “include everyone”.
- Students are aware of being identified as Gifted and Talented, commenting it was “really cool to be clever, it encourages others”; they liked being recognised. They are confident that in class they are provided with opportunities to become creative, independent and self motivated learners, “teachers are really helpful and approachable”; “they [the teachers] mix G &T with everyone” and “you may as well do the extension work because you are going to have to do it anyway”.
- Parents are supportive of the schools’ ability to stretch and challenge their sons and daughters. They could not speak too highly of how their children had “grown in confidence”; “taken ownership of their own learning and had the confidence to challenge their teachers for not stretching them in all classes at a Parent’s Evening”; “building self confidence from the outset - at the first Year 6/7 meeting the Headteacher told parents she wanted their children to “....believe they can fly”.
- Provision is underpinned by a well structured gifted and talented policy. Identification is robust and involves parents and students, as well as relying on thorough analysis of data and departmental nominations. All departments have agreed their own identification criteria, hold their own ‘shadow’ gifted and talented cohorts, ensure strategies to support those identified are embedded in schemes of learning and provide enrichment opportunities. There is a departmental Gifted and Talented working party and all departments’ minute regular discussions about either identified students or G&T provision within their area. There was a recognition from the parents that the school were not paying ‘lip service’ to the identification of Gifted and Talented students but were “committed to provision”.
- The school uses its specialist status to enhance the programme for Gifted and Talented students and support identified pupils in feeder primary schools by using their Advanced Skills Teacher to teach specialist timetabled sessions throughout the year.
- High aspirations for provision and outcomes for able learners are woven into both the school Self Evaluation document and whole school development plan. There is an independent action plan for gifted and talented provision which is regularly updated and monitored by Senior Leadership Team.
- Governors are continually informed about the work of able learners. They are happy to allocate a budget and to support gifted and talented programmes. There is a designated Governor for inclusion which encompasses Gifted and Talented provision who is totally committed to supporting the school coordinator.
- The school tracking system consistently monitors the progress of all students. Continual assessments of students ensure any potential underachievement is quickly spotted. Both parents and pupils acknowledged that the targets set are challenging, as one Year 13 girl commented “I would like my ultimate target to be green just once” but also “people [pupils] want to go for the higher targets”. Parents and students alike are totally aware of what progress is being made, any issues that may impede progress and how to remove barriers. Parents are informed termly and the students are completely secure in knowing where they are in their own learning, what their ultimate target is and how they are going to achieve it.
- The Gifted and Talented Coordinator analyses data on able learners to ensure any student at risk of underachieving is quickly identified and receives appropriate intervention and/or mentoring. Departments have regular discussions on all students not making progress and the school has flexible systems to ensure all students have many opportunities to achieve the highest grades possible.
- There is a clear focus on high quality Teaching and Learning, underpinned by a robust teaching and learning policy. Schemes of work have support for able learners embedded within them and this is also reflected in all lesson planning.
- There is an extensive range of “extended opportunities” available for all students in both academic and talent spheres. The students and parents really value the range of opportunities presented to them, particularly those which involve working with students from other schools in both competitive and non-competitive events. Older students also valued the master-classes staff provided to support or extend their learning.
- Both parents and students commented on the “Family Challenges” arranged by the Gifted and Talented Coordinator, which allow parents and students to work together to solve problems set by departments. These showcase to parents how their children are challenged within the curriculum and enable them to support learning at home.
- The samples of work reviewed showed that expectations for students are high and they have the opportunity to learn in a variety of ways. Marking is effective, with personalised target setting, self and peer assessment.
- Exceptionally able students are supported mainly within the school structure but with clear links to external opportunities which may develop their personal needs further. There was also an expectation that these students would have something to “give back” to the school and for example in the music department they were often expected to lead rehearsal sessions or conduct the orchestra.
- Staff have benefited from comprehensive internal and external training sessions. They are audited to identify areas of strength and those for development; this enables the school to provide a tailored and personalised development programme for all, including new staff and newly qualified teachers. This is augmented by on-going suggestions or tips provided by the G&T Coordinator, “D... never misses a staff briefing without saying something”.
- The views of the students are taken seriously; there are several different groups and programmes which involve young people. These include using the students as mentors and ‘mini leaders’ within lessons, providing opportunities for elite athletes to coach their peers.
Teaching and Learning Feedback
- Learning spaces are stimulating with many examples of high-level work and annotated level descriptors to support independent progress. Student coursework or art work is used effectively to enhance displays in corridors.
- Teachers had high expectations of the students and were continually challenging them to go further in their learning.
- Student behaviour is exemplary and conducive to developing learning; they were engaged in lessons.
- Lessons are well planned against learning outcomes which, were continually shared and referred to enabling students to move forward. Challenge for all was embedded within the lesson content and not thought of as an ‘add on’.
- Higher order questioning is used effectively by teachers to deepen understanding.
- Students were confident in answering questions and articulating their understanding of topics.
- Students were encouraged to work together either in pairs or groups to review learning and provide opportunities for peer marking and self assessment.
- Students regularly self-selected tasks which were identified by staff as ‘harder’ to complete and were at ease with the risk of not completely fulfilling assessments but still moving forward.
- Many classes used innovative ways of starting and/or finishing lessons to challenge learning.