Berkshire’s Kennet School recently attained its third accreditation under the NACE Challenge Award scheme, one of only a small number of schools to achieve this so far. Paul Dick, chief executive of the Kennet School Academies Trust, explains how the Award and underlying framework have helped the school raise standards for all students.

Kennet School is very proud of being only the 12th school in the country to achieve a third-time accreditation of the NACE Challenge Award.

The school is a large 11-18 academy, with 1,750 pupils on roll. It serves the “new” town of Thatcham and surrounding villages, and has almost doubled in size in the last 20 years, becoming the school of choice in a wide area. Kennet School has been rated outstanding by Ofsted from 2008-2014 and again from 2016. The intake is broadly average by most measures, and it enjoys both a Physically Disabled Resource and a Hearing Impaired Resource.

How has the Challenge Award made a difference?

We have found the Challenge Award hugely effective in raising our standards so that we gained an Ofsted outstanding rating, but also to maintain and improve further those same standards. The framework of the Award highlights the importance of a high-quality curriculum for more able children, but also one which benefits all children. Its strategic thinking and pedagogical structures are well-matched to one of our key mottos: “Better never stops”.

The Award helped us focus on ensuring that, both inside and outside the classroom, curricular and associated opportunities for all our children are second to none. Our Ofsted rating and exceptionally high scores in Progress 8 and in the Sixth Form underline the power of the NACE Challenge Award.

Planning and training key to success

I am proud of all we do, and our Challenge Award report reminds us that we have a “rich culture of celebration and achievement for all pupils, including the most able”. This is underpinned by our School Development Plan, and that is secured by the persistent and consistent commitment amongst our staff to improve their own skills and also those of our pupils.

Training for all in our academy has been key. Opportunities for high achievement within and outside the curriculum are planned for and therefore happen and are effective; such important issues are not left to chance. 

Ongoing evaluation and improvement

A key strength of the Challenge Award is the fact that it identifies areas where the school can improve further, and we take these things seriously. We are considering further use of our virtual learning environment (VLE) to provide a forum for the most able, and we are considering how we can improve research techniques amongst our pupils. We also have issues to consider in the use of transactional language and mastery more generally.

As a head teacher, I commend the Challenge Award to every school. I have found it tremendously powerful at all stages of our development, in this school and in other schools where I have had management responsibilities. Whether the school needs to develop from a low Ofsted category and low achievement to a high-performing school, or go beyond the outstanding category, the framework provides the challenge, the direction and the energy for all.

Join the Challenge today!

Paul Dick is the chief executive of the Kennet School Academies Trust, and has been head of Kennet School since 1989. During this time he’s also led a number of other schools to strong positions, as well as serving on the board of the forerunner of QCA and contributing to a range of local and national developments. He won the Leadership Teaching Award for best leader in the South of England in 2000, and holds an OBE for services to education.

Find out more about the NACE Challenge Award.

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Monday, April 3, 2017