Our Values and Ethos
Birchwood is a successful 11-19 mixed converter Academy with 1350 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.
At GCSE, our examination results have steadily improved year-on-year – For 2017, 74% of our 230 students achieved 5 or more good GCSEs including English and Maths which was a 12% improvement on last year and significantly above the national average (62%). With 82% of students achieving a Level 4+ in both English and Maths and with 75% achieving 2+ A*-C in Science, our 2017 results were the best in the school's history and something we want to build on for future years. Our overall Progress 8 score was +0.07, which is in line with the national average but significantly above national average for English and Maths.
Beyond GCSEs, the majority of our Year 11 students stay on into the Sixth Form where they study predominantly A-Level subjects with the intention to apply for a place at University or Higher Education. We have a large Sixth Form allowing us to offer more than 35 different subjects at Advanced Level and Level 3 BTEC. Furthermore, this year, all our students passed their A-Levels with a tremendous 67% of students achieving A*-B grades (well above the national average of 48%). The DfE Progress Score for 2017 was +0.14 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 88% 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 destinations, around 60% of our intake stay on into our Sixth Form to study A-Levels with a further 40% moving on to FE College to study more applied vocational courses. At A-Level, around 75% move on to university and this year we had a record number of 110 students achieve places at top universities. What we are most pleased with, however, is that all our students move on to chosen pathways with no one left behind.
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.
Areas for improvement and progress updates
- Reducing the gap in achievement between disadvantaged students: This is the most important area for school improvement. We were delighted to see that students who are in receipt of Free School Meals achieved a Progress 8 score of +0.34 but more work needs to be put in place to ensure that this is the case in other year groups
- Lesson planning to focus more precisely on the different needs of students in the classroom - our teacher training focuses on personalisation and differentiation, linked to lesson observation and feedback
- Improving the systems for monitoring the quality of teaching and learning - all teaching staff have been observed this term and there are weekly checks in terms of marking, assessment, classroom practice and student voice.
- Focussing more closely on Performance Data of key groups. Our key sub-groups include Disadvantaged Students and SEND students – teachers are fully aware of each students needs with training provided to support personalisation and 1:1 work
- Improving the standards of achievement in Science: Achievement in Science rose significantly between 2016 and 2017 (63% 2+ A*-C to 75% 2+ A+-C) with A-Level Science results being exceptionally strong (eg 90% A*-B in Physics / 89% A*-B in Chemistry)
With regards to admissions, our admission criteria is 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 have no need for aptitude tests.
Finally, as a large and well-resourced secondary school, we have the financial advantage to ensure we have excellent and well-maintained facilities along with a diverse and wide-ranging curriculum. We are also fully staffed with high quality teachers and support staff who work incredibly hard on behalf of our excellent students. For me, it is a great privilege to lead Birchwood High School. We are confident in our direction of travel and will ensure that in five or seven years' time, when your son or daughter sits their GCSEs or A-Levels, that they will succeed both academically and personally and go on to do great things.
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”
Birchwood High School aims to provide outstanding educational opportunities for all.
To be a Great School.
Key Priorities for 2017 18
- Narrowing the Gap for all groups (Disadvantaged, SEND, G&T)
- Insisting on High Expectations of Presentation, Uniform, Equipment, Literacy and Numeracy
- Consistently applying Assertive Behaviour Management Strategies
- Planning for Personalisation and Differentiation as part of lesson planning and delivery
- Making student marking meaningful, manageable and consistent
- Setting appropriate, consistent and useful Home Learning
- Enhancing Safeguarding Procedures
- Appropriate Quality Assurance that is frequent, consistently applied and leads to action
- Ensuring Financial Efficiency in the light of Public Sector Austerity
- A refreshed marketing strategy