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.

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.

We at Birchwood are part of something special, something outstanding.

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 future matters to us.

“Your dreams, your future, our challenge”

At GCSE, our examination results have steadily improved year-on-year.  For 2018, 73% of our 235 students passed English and Maths, matching our record results of 2017 and significantly above the national average (62%). With 82% of students achieving a Level 4+ in both English and Maths and with 72% achieving 2+ A*-C in Science, 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 a tremendous 61% of students achieving A*-B grades (well above the national average of 48%). The DfE Progress Score for 2017 was +0.16 which is significantly above average and places our Sixth Form in the top 15% of schools and colleges in England. What mattered most, however, was that 92% 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.

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. Attendance is above the national average and children arrive punctually to school ready to learn. We have an outstanding reputation for personal development and student welfare and we truly believe in partnership with parents. Heads of Year and Form Tutors stay with students as they move up the school, developing a solid home-school relationship that is so important for future success.

We also have a fantastic array of over 90 extra-curricular activities each week as well as trips and competitions. Last year, every Year 7 student was involved in at least one extra-curricular activity of their choice. 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.

Our most recent Ofsted report (May 2017) picked out the following strengths:

  • The school’s provision for personal development and welfare is outstanding.
  • Pupils’ behaviour is good. Pupils are polite, courteous and show respect for fellow pupils, staff and visitors.
  • Parents are effusive in their praise for the school and its support for their children.
  • Pupils are proud of their achievements and of their school. Pupils feel very safe and well cared for.
  • The school’s work to promote respect and tolerance of diversity is exemplary.
  • Pupils are well informed about the next steps in their education through high-quality careers information and guidance.
  • Relationships between staff on duty are good, with pupils showing courtesy and respect to staff and visitors
  • Leadership and management of the sixth form are strong. The sixth form has increased in size and offers a broad range of academic and vocational options.

We also had a glowing report from HMI John Randall in May 2018:

  • Your evaluation of the school’s effectiveness is both honest and evaluative, and provides you with a useful blueprint for your improvement plan.
  • In 2017, pupils’ progress increased, and significant improvements were seen across a number of areas, including science. In mathematics and science, pupils made above- average progress.
  • You, your senior leaders, and your governors are rightly proud of the improvements that have been made to date.

The one main area that we need to continue to focus on is to reducing the gap in achievement for disadvantaged students. This we are doing by focussing on high quality teaching and learning for all, a view supported by the HMI in his report when he states that all staff understand the  link between academic success and improved life chances, and you have won the ‘hearts and minds’ of staff. Everyone is aware of the moral imperative to improve the progress that all groups of pupils make, but particularly disadvantaged pupils

With regards to admissions, our admission 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 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 Principal