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'.
Lead Gifted and Talented School
In 2009 South Wilts Grammar School was designated by the DFE (DCSF as then) as a 'Lead School' for Gifted and Talented Education. This prestigious status, achieved by only one other school in Wiltshire, recognises the excellent provision South Wilts offers its Able, Gifted and Talented learners.
As a Lead School we work closely with the Local Authority to contribute to, and lead, the Wiltshire Able, Gifted and Talented Network. On behalf of the Wessex partnership, we run Newly Qualified Teacher professional development in effective teaching and learning for AGAT pupils.
South Wilts is also a key member of the Salisbury Able, Gifted and Talented Network. We run a range of enrichment activities for the Salisbury Schools, one example being a Drama and Science simulation day focusing on developing environmentally friendly transport. In addition we run taster days in our collaborative 6th form with Bishop Wordsworth's School for Gifted and Talented students from all Salisbury schools.
We work very closely with local primary schools through our specialist schools community programme, running enrichment events in our specialist subjects of Maths, Computing and Science. We provide specialist teachers in these areas who visit our partner schools to provide innovative specialist teaching for the most able students. Likewise students from our partner primary schools visit South Wilts to take part in exciting learning opportunities including launching rockets and forensic investigation.
South West Academic Trust
As a member of the South West Academic Trust we collaborate with 9 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. This year we are running public speaking competitions and debating competitions in and across the 10 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 'Challenge Group' tasked with further developing and sharing innovative Teaching and Learning Ideas to stretch our able students.
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 students compete against other Wiltshire schools to conduct a trial at the Salisbury Court House, and a Geography 'Wiser Words' competition. As part of our Lead School programme, South Wilts is hosting local schools at our forthcoming Scientists in School 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 forensic science day for Year 10 pupils at Bath University and a Maths enrichment day at Exeter University. Many of our able, gifted and talented students attend other residential courses at Kilve Court. 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 71% of all A Level results at A*, A or B grade. A massive 18.7% of all grades were at the new A* grade. With an ever growing Sixth Form, 172 girls took A Level examinations this year, with 45 students gaining 3 or more A Levels at grade A or A*. One student gained 5 A Levels at the new A* grade and a further 6 girls gained 4 A Levels at grade A*. We are delighted with the number of students that have gained places at top universities this year, 7 girls have places to study at Oxford and 5 at Cambridge.
This high standard of achievement was matched at AS level with 6 girls gaining an impressive 6 AS Levels at grade A, and a further 13 students achieving all their 5 AS Levels a grade A.
We were delighted with another outstanding set of results for the 129 Year 11 students. 100% of the year group gained 5 A*- C grades, including English and Mathematics. 84% of the examinations taken were awarded A* and A grades, which is a huge increase from last year's 81%. One student gained A*s in all 13.5 subjects and six students gained 13 A* grades in all their subjects. A total of 57 students achieved all A / A* grades in 10 or more subjects.
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.