Mrs Warwick writes for the Oxford Times Education YearbookPosted on: 13/06/2019
Putting pupils at the centre of educational vision
In my role as Executive Headteacher of Ridgeway Education Trust, I am privileged to lead a group of schools which includes Sutton Courtenay CofE Primary School, Didcot Sixth Form, St Brinius Boys' School and Didcot Girls’ School. I asked the Headteacher at Didcot Girls’ School and the Headteacher Designate at St Birinus School to sum up what is important about their single sex settings:
St Birinus School – Will Manning, Headteacher Designate (currently Deputy Headteacher at St Birnius School & Didcot Girls’ School)
St Birinus is the only all boys’ comprehensive school in Oxfordshire and we are hugely proud of the superb range of opportunities that we offer our students. The culture and ethos of the school allow the boys to develop and grow in an environment where resilience, leadership and a relentless pursuit of standards, both personal and academic, are prized. The school sets its mission to inspire excellence, and develop leaders, well rounded citizens and good character - A* people.
Stereotypical preconceptions of machismo are smashed as the school’s values of care, courtesy and commitment promote a more subtle, contemporary and modern masculinity. Art, dance, drama, music, photography and film jostle for pre-eminence in the curriculum, alongside the traditional bastions of male focus and curiosity in science, technology, engineering and maths and, of course, physical education and sport.
‘Old school’ perhaps, but the boys impress with courtesy, good manners and politeness. Prefects voluntarily usher and support their peers, taking personal responsibility within their community and demonstrating an outward facing social responsibility. The sense of pride that St Birinus boys bear when representing their school, in any context, is palpable and sincere.
The unique all boys’ context at St Birinus School sets us apart from so many other schools – the richness of experience and the history of the school, steeped within the legend of four Peloponnesian houses, Athenian, Corinthian, Spartan and Trojan, inspire not only personal and academic success but also long-lasting camaraderie, loyalty and durable friendship.
Didcot Girls’ School – Tom Goodenough, Headteacher
At Didcot Girls’ School, we passionately believe in the virtues of single-sex education for our girls. At its core, this education is about high standards in every field and the freedom to choose whatever future inspires and motivates you. To watch our girls throw themselves into English, dance, drama, sport, history, science and a raft of other subjects with equal vigour and without any preconceived notions of what they should enjoy is a real privilege.
Girls also quickly and effective become leaders in our school because we believe this is vital to achieving our mission of the highest quality education for all students and the ability to flourish in any context when they leave us. Leadership, to us, is about being a confident, articulate and engaged young person, able and willing to make a difference and to do so with integrity. Students lead their own learning in lessons, they learn public speaking, engage in debating and regularly have opportunities to speak for real reasons and to real audiences.
The many leadership roles in the school also signal a key aspect of what makes an education at Didcot Girls’ School so special – the inclusive culture of our community. Our girls readily volunteer to mentor each other; we have Ethos Leaders whose job is to ensure everyone gets involved in the highly-prized House Championship; our Community Prefects walk the school ensuring that all students feel comfortable, happy and included in school life; and our School Council dedicate their free time to making the school better for all students, and do so with real impact.
We are hugely proud of what we are and what we do at Didcot Girls’ School.
What stands out from these commentaries is the age-old wisdom that there is more that binds us together than pulls us apart. You will notice that both Heads speak about ‘mission’, ‘ethos’, ‘standards’ and ‘pride’. They understand that the right culture (‘the way we do things here’) runs through a school community, a golden thread binding together the different strands of school life and, Midas-like, turning them into something precious and enduring.
Both Heads put children at the centre of their educational vision. They think hard and describe brilliantly the kind of young people their schools are raising. A* people. The focus on educational excellence is balanced with developing personal resilience, empathy and strong values. Despite both schools creating outcomes in the top 5% in the country for progress last summer, strong academic outcomes are described as part of a vibrant education which encompasses far more than this.
So, whilst both Heads are rightly proud of the unique vision that has been built around their single-sex contexts, I am equally proud of the values which bind together their schools and all of the leaders in our Trust. We are building a legacy – a group of schools of which the community we serve can be rightly proud.
Executive Headteacher, Ridgeway Education Trust