Raising aspirations and opening doors

The Key

Approaching the grand facade of Wade Deacon High School, a teaching school in Cheshire, it’s hard to imagine that the pupils inside hold anything less than great expectations for the future. However, the school sits in an area of high youth unemployment and deprivation, and so staff are intent on raising the aspirations of every pupil who walks through the gates.

Phrases like ‘employability’ and ‘stepping stone to the future’ have stuck in my mind since I visited the school a fortnight ago. The focus of all staff was clearly on making sure pupils are prepared for life after they leave the school.

Careers days feature visitors from local businesses who help to broaden pupils’ knowledge of the jobs available to them. Past pupils are invited in to talk about their careers because the school knows that the experience they share with current pupils gives extra weight to their input. Display boards highlight careers that different subjects can lead to, encouraging pupils to consider the real-world application of their studies.

And all of these initiatives are underpinned by a simple vision embedded from day one. The school expects more than the minimum behaviour standards – it expects all pupils to have the right attitude for learning. Clearly defined criteria are set out for punctuality, the presentation of work, and participation in lessons. But perhaps more importantly, these are fully enforced by teachers and senior leaders alike.

So, despite the impressive grounds, it’s the attitude and ambition of the staff for their pupils that stood out the most. But could you expect any less from a school with an executive principal who earned an OBE for her services to education?

We’ll be presenting case studies from Wade Deacon on specific topics on our school leader service later in the term.

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