Firstly, I’d like to say a warm welcome to Birchwood High School.

I am extremely proud of Birchwood, and I am passionate about our journey to becoming a Great School. Ofsted inspected the school last year and judged us to be a Good school with Outstanding features. What impressed Inspectors the most was our commitment to being a truly inclusive school for all boys and girls in the local area – our ability to stretch our most able to aspire to go to the best universities in the country, whilst help and motivate students who need additional support. Our Outstanding judgment for personal development and student welfare is important, as school should not just be about achieving those all-important GCSE and A-Level results – it should also ensure that students develop into well-rounded, responsible and caring young adults. It is also vital that there are strong pastoral systems in place to ensure that students attend school, behave well and receive personal support when they find things difficult.

We are fortunate to have excellent facilities and the financial stability to continue to invest and resource the curriculum. Being a large school allows us to put on over 35 option subjects at GCSE and A-Level and our strong commitment to careers guidance ensures that all our students move on to do what they want to do. In normal times, there are over 90 clubs running per week and a comprehensive array of educational trips.

In conclusion, Birchwood is a school I would send my children to. It is a happy and safe learning environment where we have the right balance between academic rigour, personal development and student welfare. We are also not complacent and I know I can speak for all 150 of our staff in saying that we will continue to refine and reflect upon our practice, working closely with parents and students to ensure we do our very best for all concerned.

Dr Chris Ingate, Principal
Dr Chris Ingate, Principal

Our Values and Ethos

Birchwood is a successful 11-19 mixed converter Academy with 1400 students on roll. We are very proud of our school, where students not only leave with strong academic qualifications but also as well-rounded individuals with a sense of responsibility and a willingness to contribute to both the economy and society in general.

Ofsted - Good Provider
Dr Ingate With Students on Piazza

‘Effective teaching has a positive impact on learning, and pupils make strong progress in a wide range of subjects as a result’

‘The school’s work to promote pupils’ personal development and welfare is outstanding’

‘There is a wide range of extra-curricular activities, which are well attended and help to enhance pupils’ learning and positive attitudes’

Ofsted June 2019

At Birchwood, we get the balance right between academic progress, welfare & support, and enrichment and opportunity. This was reflected in our recent Ofsted Inspection and is demonstrated in the quotes above and below:

‘The school’s inclusive ethos ensures that diversity is celebrated, and this encourages all pupils to believe they can succeed.’

‘Pupils attend well, because they enjoy school.’

‘The sixth form is effective and successful. Students who attend it feel very proud to be part of it.’

‘Leaders have a relentless focus upon ensuring the safety and well-being of pupils, in particular those who are vulnerable or at risk.’

‘The strength of leadership is recognised overwhelmingly by parents and pupils.’

The full report is available by clicking here: Birchwood High School 27-28 June 2019

We are rightly proud of our ‘comprehensive’ ethos and inclusive philosophy where the academically gifted achieve top grades at A-Level and GCSE, going on in record numbers to Russell Group Universities. Conversely, those students who need more help are encouraged to progress in a caring and supportive learning environment. As a result, all our school leavers go on to further education or a chosen career with no one contributing to the governments ‘not in education or employment’ statistics.

At Birchwood we are part of something special, welcoming all, supporting all and encouraging all.

Enjoying together the exploration of ideas,
the excitement of learning and the celebration of our achievements,
in a school where we feel safe.

“Your dreams, your future, our challenge”

In terms of our Vision (where we aim to be in 5 years’ time), we are currently consulting with students, staff, parents and governors with regards to an exciting 2020 Vision for Birchwood – to take us boldly into the next decade, being clear of our ambitions and priorities – Click here for further information regarding our draft 2020 Vision.

In terms of our ethos, Birchwood students behave well and are proud of their school, wearing their uniform with pride. They also feel safe, free from victimisation and bullying, knowing clearly what to do to keep themselves safe both inside and outside school. Attendance is above the national average and children arrive punctually to school ready to learn.

With regards to student admissions, our criteria are simple and transparent – we offer 240 places to boys and girls who have a brother or sister living at the school and who live in and around the Bishop’s Stortford area. Unlike other local schools, we do not believe in aptitude tests. Our mantra is that all children, regardless of background and ability, are important to us.

In terms of outcomes, at GCSE, our examination results have steadily improved year-on-year. For 2019, 75% of our 235 students passed English and Maths, significantly above the national average (62%) and 70% achieving 2 or more Level 4-9 passes in Science (national average 62%), our core subjects performed well against national statistics and this meant that a record number stayed on into our Sixth Form to study A-Levels or Level 3 BTECs.

We have a large Sixth Form allowing us to offer more than 32 different subjects. Furthermore, this year, all our students passed their A-Levels with 60% of students achieving A*-B grades (well above the national average of 48%). What mattered most, however, was that 87% of students got into their first choice University and that 100% moved on to their chosen Post-18 destination. We are, consequently, very proud of our Sixth Form.

Furthermore, we believe we have strong and cohesive careers guidance so we can ensure that all students can progress onto Sixth Form, FE College, University or employment with an aim of having no one left behind.

Our Curriculum

Birchwood is an 11-18 Academy with an 8 Forms of entry and a PAN of 240 students. As stated, we are proud of our inclusive and all-ability ethos, catering for boys and girls in Bishop’s Stortford and surrounding villages. We, therefore, want to create an ambitious curriculum with equal chances to succeed regardless of background or individual need.

We currently have a two-year KS3 and three-year GCSE programme which was praised by Ofsted:

‘The curriculum is rich and relevant and covers the humanities and linguistic, mathematical, scientific, technical, social, physical and artistic learning.’ (Ofsted 2019)

We do ensure that students in Year 7 and 8 have access to the full range of National Curriculum subjects and, from Year 9, have access to a broad range of subjects including The Arts / Technology and PE. We also have a taught PSHE programme which provides students with a wider understanding of RS, citizenship, finance, keeping safe, British Values and SRE.

Further details of each subject’s specific curriculum and core knowledge can be found by following the High School / Curriculum / Faculties option from the website homepage. The curriculum maps will detail clearly how knowledge, understanding and skills are developed as students move from Year 7 to Year 11 and beyond.

In addition, you can access individual year group’s maps by following the High School / Our Curriculum option and selecting the required year group. These maps detail the whole curriculum a typical student will experience throughout the academic year, providing you with an invaluable tool for supporting your son or daughter’s studies.

At GCSE, the percentage of students following EBacc subjects has been rising, with 55% sitting this broad range of subjects in 2019. The EBacc is not a qualification but a collection of subjects including English, Maths, Science, History or Geography and an MFL subject (French / German or Spanish). They are a good basis for students who are considering University but it is important to stress that good GCSE levels are the main access route for A-Level and University so choosing subjects that you are interested in or good is important.

Extra-curricular involvement is important for any child. Each week we offer over 70 clubs and we aim ensure that every student gets involved and does at least on club or after school activity per week. 

‘There is a wide range of extra-curricular activities, which are well attended and help to enhance pupils’ learning and positive attitudes’ (Ofsted 2019)

We are changing our school day from September, so clubs can start from 3:10pm and we are also looking at an electronic system to record and monitor attendance of students. These are actively promoted through our successful House System. Each student is allocated a form group in their year for registration and organised within a Year System. However, each form belongs to one of four Houses – Dane (green), Hadham (red), Stort (blue) and Waytemore (yellow) – we believe that healthy competition brings out the best in young people and develops a strong community coherence.

In summary, Birchwood is a school with strong forward momentum and ‘the wind in its sails.’ It is also well-resourced, financially secure and not complacent, focussing on not only academic achievement but also personal development and welfare support as required.  It is, for me, a happy school and one that is a great privilege to lead.

Dr Chris Ingate