‘Overall it was an incredible experience’

Claremont High School is a large secondary situated in North West London, where 54% of students speak a language other than English, and the disadvantage figure is slightly higher than average at 0.29. The school was graded Outstanding by Ofsted in 2015, and is above average for P8 and other attainment measures. Here, headteacher Nicki Hyde-Boughey reports
on the impact of Growing the Top.

What were/are some of the challenges facing your school?

Firstly, narrowing gaps, specifically for black Caribbean boys and disadvantaged students. Additionally, we wanted to look at why the sixth form were not getting top grades for the most able students. 

What aspects of the programme did you find most useful?

Overall it was an incredible experience. The programme has supported us to develop a relationship and a shared network. As headteacher I now have two fellow headteachers that I know I can just drop an email to if I need to. It’s also developed a network for the senior team and middle leaders who have subsequently been out to visit other schools. By immersing ourselves for the whole day we were able to get under the skin of another school and look at their systems and processes, and appreciate that many of our challenges are shared.

What changes did you make to your practice as a result of the programme? 

From the day after our first visit there have been a lot of changes, mainly focused on sixth form and
our disadvantaged provision:
• One of the other schools in our trio interviews their disadvantaged students every year. We have
now started to do this and have a huge amount of data to help us drive improvement
• We brought back a sixth form alert system looking at behaviour
• We have looked at and made changes to the sixth from space and facilities
• We adopted an Admissions Plus programme which we saw in another school
• We magpied and have started using the Rising Futures programme
• We also picked up things on the periphery from other schools, including great student leadership displays.

What was the impact?

Our Progress 8 gap for disadvantaged students has narrowed. In 2018, the gap between  disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students was 0.5; in 2019 it was 0.1. A lot of the work we have done through the Growing the Top programme has helped this. The DT department who went out to visit other schools separately from the visit days also had phenomenal KS4 results in the summer. Additionally there is more rigour in our sixth form, which in the long term will help improve outcomes.

What has been your key learning?

For us, it was the confirmation that we are still on track and focusing on the right things. Quite a lot in the school is now different, especially the approach to disadvantaged and KS5. Both the deputy head and I felt so inspired going to other schools and we came back buzzing to drive further change. It was a fantastic opportunity and I know the other heads appreciated it like I do.

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