Choosing a secondary school

Choosing a secondary school

This year my youngest daughter started her first year at school so I really empathise with the choices that parents are making at the moment. It is that time of year again where parents are picking secondary schools for next year.

The Government has introduced all sorts of new measures to gauge how successful a school or academy is. You may have heard of ‘Progress 8’ or ‘Attainment 8’. Out goes the old way of grading GCSEs of A* to G and in comes a numeric system from 9 to 1.

So how can a parent know that they are choosing the right school?

Rest assured that every school in Stoke-on-Trent has dedicated staff, with passionate leaders, and they want the best for your child. Below I have listed some of the things parents might wish to consider when selecting a secondary school for their son or daughter:

1.Ofsted Reports. The first port of call is to look through Ofsted reports. I would consider what is important to your child and don’t just take a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ as acceptable, but read the report. Every school publishes their latest Ofsted report on their website.

Ofsted reports can give you a sense of the behaviour in a school, the standard of teaching and the ability of leaders to ensure that the school will continue to improve.
But if a report is more than three years old, ignore it. It is likely the school is very different now. Our latest Ofsted report was published in November 2017 and so gives a good representation of our academy as a “good academy with outstanding features” you can access the report here: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/23/136102

2. Consider the future. Your child may be in this school for at least five and up to seven years. Just because a school has had a good set of results last year, don’t take it for granted that they are going to continue to improve. Are they in a stable position? If they are in a multi-academy trust, has the trust got a proven track record of improving schools? The Department for Education publishes performance tables for multi-academy trusts.

The Sutton Trust also publishes a report on multi-academy trusts and academy chains every year. It looks at which schools perform well in areas, like Stoke-on-Trent, where there is a higher number of disadvantaged pupils. Our own academy trust performs very well out of interest, despite serving some of the most challenging communities in the North and Midlands.

3. The Staff. The teaching and support staff will have the most day to day contact with your son or daughter so it is vital that you are confident in them. Open evenings are important is seeing whether the staff are friendly and accessible.

Our own open evening was on 27th September, but if you would like a tour before 26th October please email: academy@cas.coop

4. Developing the Whole Child. Remember that education isn’t just about attainment and passing exams. Schools have a responsibility to develop the whole child, giving each child the opportunity to develop what makes them an individual.

What does the school offer in terms of extra-curricular activities? What do they do aside from standard lessons and what can they offer your child to ensure that they have the character to go out into the world as a confident, well-rounded young person? At our academy we talk about providing our students with a “great experience” and we encourage our students to have ten different developmental experiences in any one academic year.

Co-op Academy Stoke-on-Trent won the 2016 Character Award in recognition of the excellent work in personal development and character building. Ofsted believe our work in this area to be outstanding when they visited in 2017.

5. Vision and Values. Does the school have clear values and principles and do you share those values and principles? Get to know what the school stands for and learn everything you can about it.

Our academy is based upon a movement with over 170 years of history and with over a billion people worldwide as members. Our vision and values can be found here: https://stokeontrent.coopacademies.co.uk/visions-and-values/

Our vision is to provide our students with great learning, great support and a great experience and every member of staff has a specific role in making that happen.

6. The Principal. The Principal sets the direction of the academy and as such a recent change in the Principal can often mean a great deal of change for the academy. At Christmas I will be the second longest serving Principal in the city. It gives our academy stability and a confidence in what it will be doing in three, four or five or more years time.

7. Performance data. If you are familiar with school data you can compare the performance of different schools by using the Department for Education’s website which can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/school-performance-tables. The performance data for 2018 is released in the middle of October, and so at the time of writing this still refers to the 2017 data.

Co-op Academy Stoke-on-Trent has had a strong record of above national average progress for three years now and we are expecting the data to show us as once again one of the top schools in Stoke-on-Trent. In addition we were also the top performing academy in the north of Stoke-on-Trent under the government 9-5 (classified as a strong pass) in both English and maths.

I hope this is helpful and if you wish to come and see our academy please email: academy@cas.coop.

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