Challenge at South Wilts
The vision for our able students at South Wilts is clear and explicit in our school aims – we strive to challenge all our students to achieve 'high academic standards and cultural achievement within a caring environment'. In our unique context as a grammar school we acknowledge that in another school, all our students might be identified as Gifted and Talented. We therefore have a clear focus on providing 'Challenge for All'.
South Wilts was first awarded the NACE Challenge Award in 2011, which recognises the school’s dedication to providing a wealth of opportunities to stretch and challenge it’s most able, gifted and talented students. The school was successfully re-accredited in 2015, being one of only 81 schools in the country to have achieved this. All schools gaining a NACE Award have undergone a rigorous, evidence-based assessment, including visiting assessors who review the school’s evidence alongside conducting interviews across the school community and sampling the quality of teaching and learning in lessons.
The assessors wrote a highly positive report, saying that “South Wiltshire Grammar School has exemplary and progressive provision and practice for its many more able, gifted and talented pupils. The school’s ethos enshrines very high expectations and a culture nurturing all pupils’ talents and individuality within a context of high quality teaching and learning and challenge for everyone.”
The assessors recognised the achievement and attainment of the students, commenting that “The school’s results in public examinations and its performance in a range of activities, from debating competitions to musical, sporting and other academic related activities, are outstanding.”
They also highlighted how the provision for Gifted and Talented students is a collective effort from all staff saying that they “have worked tirelessly to create an environment where the students feel stretched and supported in equal measure. As one student put it, “As well as stretching us academically they are interested in us as people. They build us up in so many ways.””
Learning opportunities inside the classroom
Fundamental to our effective provision for students is to focus on delivering challenging and differentiated lessons during the normal school timetable. Lessons are planned to develop high level thinking skills, independent learning and creativity. We are committed to developing a flexible and differentiated curriculum. This includes introducing challenge through breadth (enriching learning through additional material beyond the core curriculum), depth (extending learning by asking students to delve deeper into a certain topic) and pace.
Learning opportunities outside the classroom
We offer a regular, varied and on-going programme of enrichment activities taking place outside timetabled lessons as a key component of our provision for able, gifted and talented students, all of which are open to all pupils. These opportunities range from our popular Science Club to the English Speaking Union, not to mention the huge range of musical groups and concerts including regular performances at Salisbury Cathedral, various high quality drama productions, and local and national competitions. Similarly, our students have many opportunities to attend trips that aim to motivate, inspire and reward achievements. For example, our talented sports students compete at local, regional and national level at venues including Crystal Palace. Various competitions are also run during the year, one being the 'Citizenship Mock Trial' in which a group of our year 8 and year 9 students compete against other Wiltshire schools to conduct a trial at the Salisbury Court House, and Modern Foreign Languages Spelling Bee competitions. South Wilts also maximised opportunities to host guest speakers and educationalists such as the year 10 Science Day.
South Wilts has developed close links with local universities and outside agencies so that our students benefit from a range of opportunities beyond the school, such as a French and German exchanges and Duke of Edinburgh Bronze, Silver and Gold awards. We also take our able, gifted and talented students in Year 12 to visit Oxford and Cambridge Universities to provide an experience of a top university and set high aspirations. As well as this, local professional employees are welcomed to the school to give the benefit of their knowledge in a variety of careers through our Industry Days in year 9, Citizenship Day for 6th Form and mock interviews.
Students have yet again excelled in their A Level examinations this year with a fantastic 78% of all A Level results at A*, A or B grade. A massive 18% of all grades were at A* grade. With an ever growing Sixth Form, 175 girls took A Level examinations this year, with 55 students gaining 3 or more A Levels at grade A or A*. Two students gained 4 A* grades, two students gained three A* and one A grade, and two students gained three A* grades. We are delighted with the number of students that have gained places at top universities in 2014 with 7 girls gaining places to study at Oxford and 6 at Cambridge. For 2015, 9 girls have places to study at Oxford and 9 at Cambridge – a record number for South Wilts Grammar and above the national average.
This high standard of achievement was matched at AS level with 5 girls gaining an impressive 6 AS Levels at grade A, 10 students achieving all their 5 AS Levels a grade A, and a further 25 students achieving 4 AS Levels at grade A.
We were delighted with another outstanding set of results for the 127 Year 11 students. 100% of the year group gained 5 A*- C grades, including English, Mathematics and Science. 86% of the examinations taken were awarded A* and A grades, with 94% with 5 or more A* and As, 70% with 10 or more A* and As and 1 student achieving all A* grades. One student gained A*s in all 12 subjects. A total of 45 students achieved all A / A* grades.
South West Academic Trust
At South Wilts we believe that it is vital that all students achieve their full potential and our definition of ability recognises academic, practical, creative, musical, physical, social, moral, spiritual and cultural development. As a member of the South West Academic Trust we collaborate with 10 similar schools across the region to share and further develop innovative practice that challenges our able students in our unique context. This group of selective schools in the South West, alongside Exeter University, are committed to developing innovation in challenging our able students. We run subject networks in all subject areas at least once a year and hold a Gifted and Talented network to share good practice across these high attaining schools. We have run students' events including a 'Challenge day' for year 9 students to investigate Oxbridge interview problems, also a Student Conference in July to unpick the key elements of challenge within a grammar school. We also run public speaking competitions and debating competitions in and across the 11 grammar schools to challenge our most able.
We focus on 'Challenge for All' because we believe that all learners are entitled to an education that meets their needs. Furthermore, national research has shown that focusing on challenging more able students leads to an overall raising of standards in schools. Following a successful Training Day in October focusing on developing Challenge in lessons we have formed a staff ‘Teaching and Learning Group’ tasked with further developing and sharing innovative Teaching and Learning Ideas to stretch our able students.
Her Royal Highness; The Princess Royal presented awards to Sarah Beckett and Ella Bowen at an official reception and lunch held at The Royal college of Physicians in Regent’s Park London.
On December 9th South Wilts Grammar School was awarded the prestigious Challenge Award. This national award is presented by NACE (National Association for Able Children in Education) and recognises schools that show outstanding provision for gifted, talented and more able students. South Wilts is the only secondary school in Wiltshire to have received this award, any one of only 194 schools nationally.
The assessors were highly complementary about the students, staff and wider community work of the school. They were particularly impressed by the ethos of support and care within the school, the support that older students provide to the younger years in the form of academic mentoring and in their positions of responsibility, as well as the high expectations of students and staff. They felt that the quality of learning was outstanding and that the range and depth of enrichment opportunities was exemplary including the wide range of music, sport and drama opportunities.
An example of the excellence for which the school has been commended can be seen in the recent British Nutrition Foundation Award presented to students. Each year, the best pieces of Food Technology coursework from each of the Examining Boards in the UK are recognised by an award from the British Nutrition Foundation. The awards are sponsored by Nestle and Waitrose and aim to celebrate the high standard of the work carried out in Food Technology. This year there was a tie for the first place with AQA Examining Board; two students achieved full marks both of whom studied at SWGS, Sarah Beckett and Ella Brown. Both students received £100 and their teacher Mrs Mahoney collected the school‘s award, receiving a cheque for £200 to be used in the Food Technology Department.