Our Values and Ethos

Dr Chris Ingate, headteacher

Birchwood is a successful 11-19 mixed Academy with 1460 students on roll. We have come a long way over the last 10 years and 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.

At GCSE, our examination results have steadily improved year-on-year – something recognised by Ofsted and the DfE – with 63% of last year's 220 Year 11 students achieving 5+ A*-C including English and Maths at GCSE. Because we are a truly all-ability school, our intake reflects the national average so to achieve GCSE results that are nearly 10% above the national average is something we are pleased with and intend to build upon for the future. What we were most pleased about were our levels of progress in English and Maths (see below) – the Government is now measuring schools based on this performance measure which is very fair as it allows all schools the opportunity to make good progress regardless of intake.

  Birchwood National average Top 10% of Schools
%3 levels of progress from KS2 to GCSE in English 79% 69% 80%
%3 levels of progress from KS2 to GCSE in Maths 75% 65% 77%

Beyond GCSEs, the majority of our Year 11 students stay on into our Sixth Form where they study predominantly A-Level subjects with the intention to apply for a place at university. We have nearly 300 students in our Sixth Form allowing us to offer more than 35 different subjects at Advanced Level. Furthermore, this year, all our students passed their A-Levels with a tremendous 62% of students achieving A*-B grades (well above the national average of 48%). This meant that 93% of students got into their first choice University. We are, consequently, very proud of our Sixth Form.

On the back of record numbers of applications for places at Birchwood High School along with our good GCSE and A-level results this summer, our most recent Ofsted report (July 2015) picks out the following strengths:

  • "In 2014 the proportion of students securing at least five A* to C grades at GCSE, including English and mathematics, was significantly higher than the national average."
  • "Overall achievement in mathematics is very high and significantly better than national averages."
  • "Parents, students and staff all display very high confidence in the behaviour of students. They are polite, welcoming and supportive of each other. Students take care around the site and wear their uniform with pride."
  • "Students feel safe; bullying is rare and is dealt with effectively."
  • "Sixth form students set an example to the school with their outstanding behaviour and attendance. The sixth form is good and improving rapidly."
  • "The headteacher leads the school with energy, ambition and vision. Under his leadership Birchwood High School has improved substantially and is now heavily over-subscribed and growing."
  • "The overwhelming majority of parents who responded to the Parent View survey felt that the school was well led and managed and that they would recommend the school to others."
  • "Governors demonstrate great passion and a commitment to the school. They are proud of the improvements the school has made in recent years and have high aspirations."
  • "The excellent facilities are well maintained and resources are managed effectively."

There were three key areas for improvement:

  1. Ensure that policies around Child Protection are up-to-date – the HMI visit in January 2016 confirmed that this had been successfully achieved
  2. Ensure that the progress made by Disadvantaged students matches that of non-Disadvantaged students – the 2016 GCSE results showed a significant improvement in the progress and attainment of disadvantaged students
  3. Ensure that the attainment and progress of all students in Science matches that of the high standards achieved in English and Maths. The 2016 GCSE and A-Level results in Science saw standards at or above national average

Such is our confidence in moving forwards, we are determined to show that Birchwood is a 'good to outstanding' school when we are next inspected.

With regards to admissions, this September we had 240 students enroll into Year 7 and are over-subscribed (for September 2015, we received 856 applications for 240 places). Our admission criteria is simple and transparent – priority being given to siblings and families living in and around the Bishop's Stortford area. Unlike other local schools, we have no need for aptitude tests.


Finally, Birchwood High School is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year and whilst it is physically unrecognisable from the school created from the merger of Margaret Dane School and Hadham Hall School in 1991, its philosophy and ethos has not changed. Birchwood is very proud of its all-ability inclusive approach to education, welcoming all students living in and around the Bishop's Stortford area. Our able students excel and go on to some of the best universities in the country whilst those who need extra support make good progress and we ensure that all our young people develop into responsible and mature members of society, making a difference for themselves and those around them.

For me, as Principal, it is a real privilege to be at the helm at Birchwood. It is a school that is very much about teamwork: fantastic students, supportive parents, committed staff and conscientious governors. As Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple once said, ‘it is the journey that is the reward’ and our journey has always been about striving to continually improve - which certainly is something to cherish.

Dr Chris Ingate Principal

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.

Our future matters to us.

“Your dreams, your future, our challenge”

Strategic Intent

Birchwood High School aims to provide outstanding educational opportunities for all.

To be a Great School.

In order to meet our Strategic Intent the school strategically plans in the following four specific areas.

A focus on improving student outcomes
We set high targets for our students; comparing ourselves with the top 20% of schools in the country at GCSE and A Level, we support all students in meeting these. Within this, there is a specific focus on ensuring that we 'close the educational gap' between students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enable all to be well qualified for the next stage of their life.
We expect high standards of attendance and behaviour and work hard to ensure that we remain above the National Averages.
We also recognise that learning outside of the classroom is key in developing the whole child, with a clear focus on ensuring all educational visits, enrichments and extra-curricular provisions are purposeful and well planned.
A continual drive on enhancing teacher input
We do this by ensuring that our students experience 25 high quality lessons per week, expertly planned, marked, assessed and fed back by their teacher. Also supporting tutors to provide high quality pastoral care for all students.
Supportive Leadership and Professional Development
In order to meet our aims we ensure that staff are well supported and are kept abreast of the very best educational thinking and research. We ensure staff are involved in leading their own professional development and have ongoing coaching to enhance the teacher input and the student outcomes.
A drive on economic and efficient use of public money
We have a statutory and moral requirement to use public money in the most appropriate way. We, therefore, look at ways to use our resources economically and effectively and find opportunities to maximise revenue for the benefit of the community.

Encompassing all of this is a defined focus on Safeguarding.

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is everyone's responsibility. Everyone who comes into contact with children and their families and carers has a role to play in safeguarding children. Birchwood ensures that all staff are qualified to work with children, all staff are apprised of National updates to the safeguarding statute and all staff are aware of their responsibilities and what they should do in the event of any concern or incident.

The strategic areas noted above are all continually evaluated by the staff, senior leadership and Governors of the school, taking action where appropriate.