Principal’s Update to Parents and Carers December 2016

 

Dear Parents and Carers

18 months ago I promised ‘virtually a new school’ and that is what we now have.

Despite the greatest squeeze of education funding in a quarter of a century we have improved the quality of teaching to such an extent that our results put us in the top 1% of schools in the East Midlands; well above any school in the area.

We have done this while improving behaviour and attendance out of all recognition. Ofsted inspectors witnessed at first hand the revolution that has taken place and were very complementary about us although we told them that this is just the start and we have great ambitions for our school. For example, we may have the best results in the area, but we also have the oldest building, and while we take great pride in our school, we would still like to update more of our facilities.

Our most important asset is our teachers and thankfully we are fully staffed with specialists in every subject and have a remarkably low turnover compared to most schools. My belief is that if you have great teachers you should trust and support them in every way you can and in return they will do everything they can to help young people The same applies to our wonderful support staff. Most schools these days have impressive websites and glossy newsletters, but what makes a school truly great are the people inside it, and this is what inspired Ofsted most about us. We are a school where students really are happy and successful, because they feel supported, valued and safe. Nothing is more important.

On 25th January we have our second sixth form open evening and for year 10 and 11 this is a key moment. The potential benefits for students and the school are huge and Ofsted agreed that our sixth form was excellent but we must have your support to make it a success. We have a new block arriving in the spring, together with social areas, study facilities, a larger library and a gym and our sixth formers will wear business dress rather than the school uniform. With us they will be happier, more confident and more successful as well as getting better results. This is a school that really cares about its students and wants them to learn alongside their friends and the teachers who know them best. The sixth form will also be of huge benefit to our younger students who will look up to them as leaders and role models.

Needless to say, having Ofsted in the last full week of term, together with Y11 Pre-Public Exams ensured there no been no ‘winding down’ and we start this term in a similar vein. Casterton has come along way in a short time but there is so much more to come and we are looking forward to an even brighter road ahead.

Carl Smith

Principal

 

Advertisements

Wonderful GCSE and A Level Results

Dear Parents and Carers

Every year schools claim to have great results but this year we have achieved something extraordinary. Since 2014 (when we were last inspected) GCSE results have risen an astounding 18% and A level results have gone from around the national average to well above. These are, quite simply, fabulous results.

80% got 5 A*-C with 73% getting 5 A*-C with English and Maths. Last year we had 67% which was a strong performance and well up from the 55% we got in 2014 but this year we have, as they might say in the Olympics ‘jumped out the park’.

100% of our higher ability students got 5 A*-C with English and Maths, which is quite a bit better than many grammar schools, and goes to show that more able students actually achieve at Casterton. Nearly 90% got a C or above in Maths, which is incredible and the progress made by students of all abilities was far better than in most schools nationally. Out of 55 similar schools in England we are in the top 10%, when only two years ago we were in the bottom 40%.

We also remain at least 13% better than any other school in East Rutland and Stamford which means we are clearly the school of choice for aspiring primary school pupils.

A Level progress was ‘significantly above expectations’ and again shows that the most able do better with us than at the grammar school.

This has nothing to do with luck or rising national pass rates. In fact pass results across the country fell by 2.1% this year, as a result of harder exams. This down to fabulous teaching and sheer hard work by students and all our staff.

When I became Principal at Easter 2015 I promised ‘virtually a new school’ and these results, together with the imminent arrival of our sixth form on site mean that we achieved exactly that.

Regards

Carl Smith MA

Principal

 

 

July 2016

Dear Parents, Carers and Students

The school has come a long way in the last year; my first as Principal.

At Easter last year we faced many major challenges in getting our great school back to where it belongs and I am very pleased to say that in our recent parents’ survey you wholeheartedly felt we were improving rapidly. You rated us top for exam results, developing the potential of their child, school discipline, homework and the control of bullying and a whopping 95% of Year 7 parents said they would recommend the school to others.

In that time results have risen 12%, we decided to move the sixth form to Casterton, introduced a new uniform and behaviour system, revamped large parts of the building, started accelerated reader and drop everything and read, introduced the writing academy and ‘big write’, completely reorganised marking at KS3 and designed a new assessment system known as SAGE, set up SIMS learning gateway and a new system of communicating homework, increased the amount of English and Maths in the curriculum, introduced a huge array of reading, spelling, and writing tests and initiatives, reformed parents’ evenings and progress reports to parents, brought in the Progress Ladder, launched PiXL Edge (new extra-curricular award system), introduced a Y7-10 Awards ceremony, restructured and expanded the school council, improved our approach to pupil premium out of all recognition, and rolled out by far the most comprehensive programme of support and revision workshops for Year 11 in the school’s history.

We are also working much more closely with our wonderful primary feeder schools by expanding the number of our popular inspiring scientists days, revamping year 7 transition evening and expanding our year 6 induction days from two to a whole week.

Attendance is up, punctuality is up, exclusions are down, progress grades are up and achievement is up. This means we are a much better school.

And today we launch our brand new web site (www.castertoncollege.com). The old website was rather tired and did not reflect the new school so the site has undergone a complete transformation which we hope you like.

Of course, there is still a long way to go and I would briefly like to share with you some of the major changes taking place next year.

  • Sixth Form CentreOur sixth form results are the best in the area (by some distance) but until now CCR students have had to travel to Oakham to access it. Now the sixth form is coming to Casterton and our current Year 10 have been involved in shaping the vision for CCR6 (the Casterton based sixth form). New buildings will be appearing on site over the next few months and we have issued our new prospectus which we will distribute to students in year 10 and 11 and place on the new website.

 

  • Setting for Year 7For the first time ever we are introducing setting to all subjects from the first day of year 7 (except PE, Design and Expressive Arts). This is part of our ‘teach to the top’ approach that means our staff pitch their lessons at the currently most able in each class and it will ensure that every child is learning alongside other children at the same stage of learning. The good news is that 98% of our currently higher ability students are predicted to get 5 A*-C (with English and Maths) this year, exactly the same as Bourne Grammar, proving that your child will achieve better grades because they came to us.

 

  • New Rewards SystemIn partnership with the student council we have developed a new approach to school awards which involves issuing the ‘Casterton Coin’ to students who do well. The coin goes into a ‘house collection’ reminiscent of the way some supermarkets raise funds for charity, and prizes will follow. We are also introducing the Casterton Passport which will recognise and reward achievement across a variety of criteria which will typify a successful Casterton student.

 

  • Engaging Parents ProgrammeLast year we introduced the Success at CCR evening, the Year 11 pre-exam evening, the parent panel, which meets three times a year, and SIMS Learning Gateway to help parents track homework, achievement and behaviour points as well as access timetables and reports on their child. We also increased the use of texts and emails to communicate with parents more effectively.

 

Now we are completely revamping parents’ evenings and academic tutorials (attendance rose from 60% to 80% last year) combining them into one event and introducing online booking to make the process easier and more efficient for everyone. We are also introducing an end of term, Year 7 Parents’ Surgery with senior team to replicate the school gate communication system parents are used to in primary school. Finally on engaging parents, we are planning Data Update Weekends when parents of a particular year group, update their contact details including emails, mobile numbers and medical information over the course of one weekend.

Other new initiatives include Subject Scholarships (actual financial scholarships for excellence in subjects), Scholars’ Lunches, the Principal’s Debates, a revamped Wednesday afternoon, more Spanish, Computing GCSE, the introduction of more trips, including a major year 7 residential trip, phase 2 of our new uniform (the new blazer for year 7 and 9), the Higher Level Project Qualification for the currently higher ability, the Franklin Scholars Scheme (nationally acclaimed mentoring programme), reader pens, Personal Learning Checklists (PLCs) for all students in all subjects, further improvements to the buildings, and a lot more besides. That’s without the drama of seeing if Mr Monteforte wins the final of teacher of the year on the BBC (essential viewing)!

Finally, there may be a national shortage of teachers but at Casterton we are fully staffed with highly qualified teachers (many with post graduate degrees) all teaching subjects in which they are fully qualified. Apart from the French department before Christmas, and a couple of maternity covers, we have had very little staff turnover this year. This is very unlike the situation in many other schools and a great testament to the commitment our staff have to the school.

Best Wishes

Carl Smith

Principal

 

 

 

Sixth Form Gets the Go-Ahead

Dear Parents, Carers and Students

I am delighted to announce that the Department for Education has formally approved our request to relocate our sixth form from Barleythorpe to Casterton from September 2017. This is the culmination of a long held dream for the parents and young people of Stamford and East Rutland to have their very own school sixth form here at Casterton.

I can confirm that we are offering a high end academic sixth form comprising of a wide range of A Levels, the Extended Project Qualification and the Cambridge Pre-U Diploma as well as our hugely successful personalised learning programme. Our academic points score per entry in 2015 was the highest in Stamford and Rutland (213.4) and 25% of our students progressed to top universities.

The good news is that our current Y11 will learn on this site in the second year of their A level studies in 2017-18, and our current Y10 will be the first to spend their entire sixth form on this campus.

The advantages of having a sixth form one campus are enormous:

  • Reduced travel time and costs to students and parents in Stamford and East Rutland
  • Huge economies of scale that will release an additional £1/2m to spend on our students over the next 2 years
  • A wider selection of high quality electives for our sixth formers such as Duke of Edinburgh Award (Gold) and our new nationally acclaimed PIXL Edge Scheme
  • The capacity to recruit and retain more staff
  • Inspiring role models and leaders for our younger students
  • Improved continuity of teaching in the transition between GCSE and A Level

Although our sixth form will be based on the Casterton campus and our students will have first priority on taking up places, we will also welcome applications from suitably qualified students from Stamford Welland Academy, Uppingham Community College and Catmose College as well as the Melton schools and students living in Peterborough and South Lincolnshire.

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure parents and students that the transition to the new campus will be seamless. We have an excellent and highly experienced team of A Level teachers and our courses and resources are very well established. We expect our results to continue to rise even further over the next few years.

Young people who prefer to take up apprenticeships and vocational courses will be directed to the excellent range of courses available at New College Stamford. Recently, we have also become members of the Stamford Alliance of Schools (Stamford Endowed Schools, New College Stamford and Stamford Welland Academy) and look forward to working with them closely in the future. We believe that working in consultation with our local partners helps to ensure that the quality of educational provision in the Stamford area has never been better.

Over the next few months we will release more details of how our new sixth form will look. Please follow our website, Twitter and Facebook accounts to receive further updates as they happen

Regards

C A Smith

 

 

 

Principal’s Update February 2016

Dear Parents and Carers

Best School in the Area

Firstly, I am delighted to report that in the recent official school league tables Casterton was confirmed as the best school in Stamford and East Rutland by a huge 15%. So much improvement has been taking place that it is nice just to stop for a moment and reflect on what we have achieved in such a short space of time. We were in the top 20% of schools for GCSE and the top 16% for A Level but this is just the start. We have much greater ambitions for the future.

Highly Literate by the end of Year 8

Our first commitment is to ensure that every child is highly literate by the end of Year 8. Schemes like Accelerated Reader, Drop Everything and Read, and the Writing Academy are starting to push reading, writing and spelling scores up at a much faster rate than in the past, but we want more. If your child is currently in Year’s 7-9 they will know they must have successfully completed two Accelerated Reader quizzes by the end of half term (or I will speak to them personally) so the ‘two quiz challenge’ is on. Our view is that the readers of today are the leaders of tomorrow and nothing matters more than the ability to communicate well.

Excellent Progress and Hard Work for All

Our second commitment is to ensure that every child makes good progress and works hard, both in and out of lessons. Students know they will only get a ‘2’ for their attitude to learning if they have worked hard and produced homework on time. In fact after half term I am introducing a system to parents are emailed immediately each time their child does not do their homework. Students already face lunchtime and after school detentions as a result of not doing their homework but we feel parents will be better informed by this system. Students know we are fair but serious, and their position on the Progress Ladder will reflect that. We expect every student to make good progress and nothing else is acceptable.

Support for Progress

Our third commitment is to support children to help them succeed. We are introducing various elements of our Russell Group Programme as the year progresses and soon, older students will find out how they can access the Extended Project Qualification which is designed to stretch and challenge all students. We are introducing ‘reader-pens’ to boost the comprehension skills of those who need to read quicker in exams, and over Christmas we started our ‘Think Hard’ campaign to ensure students engaged at a higher level with more difficult and complex academic questions. If your child is in Year 11 you may hear them talk about PLCs (Personal Learning Checklists which are like a spreadsheet of what they currently know and don’t know) or ‘Walking-talking mocks’ when the teacher talks students through the exam paper before they do it themselves. We even have a new rewards system to encourage students to attend the numerous ‘aim higher’ workshops happening after school, during the holidays and even Saturday mornings and there will be more to positively incentivise students in the coming months.

Uniform Prices Reduced

I would also like to announce good news on our school uniform. To help parents we have negotiated reduced prices for the uniform next year, as well as alternative suppliers to give parents more choice. As a result parents will save up to £8 on the purchase of a full uniform. We also hope to launch a brand new state-of-the-art website in April and parents will be able to order uniform items online through our uniform shop. Don’t forget our new blazer and badge will start next year (for Year 7 and 9 students) which will further reinforce our sense of pride in being the best school in the area.

A School ‘on the Up’

The result is a school that feels very much ‘on the up’. We know we have many challenges ahead, and there is an awful more to do, but the momentum is building and the future is bright. We are looking forward to next term already.

Thank you for your continued support

Carl Smith MA

Principal

 

Principal’s Update November 2015

Dear Parents and Carers

When I became Principal I promised ‘virtually a new school’ and the first important part of that process came with our results in the summer.

Top Performing School

We were delighted to have it confirmed that Casterton is now the joint top performing secondary school in Stamford and Rutland (with Uppingham Community College) with a magnificent 68% achieving the key measure of 5 GCSEs at A*-C (with English and Maths). This was an impressive 13% improvement on 2014 and 32% better than our nearest school in Stamford.

At A Level we exceeded the national pass rate for 3 A Levels for the second year running (84%). Our average point score per entry also exceeded the national average and all students make more progress than in most sixth forms nationally.

Please be assured these are not selected or massaged figures; they are actual headline measures and a huge improvement on the previous year. It is nice for parents to be able to say their child goes to the joint highest performing school in Stamford and Rutland and we are very proud that they can now do so.

Raising Expectations

We have also been working hard to ensure this is just the start of a bright future for the college by raising expectations and improving the quality of support in all areas.

Your child may have noticed that teachers are much less tolerant of poor behaviour, homework not being done or students who are not working hard enough in class and they will have certainly noticed the huge improvement in teacher marking. Students in Year 11 will be already aware of the ‘Progress Ladder’ on display in our main corridor, ranking them all by the effort, and therefore progress, they have been making. Students who need more help with their reading and writing are having a lot more small group teaching and will have noticed their reading and spelling ages rising as a result. All students in Years 7-9 are now benefitting from reading a lot more thanks to our 30 minutes per day Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) scheme which is part of our Accelerated Reading Programme, and they will see more elements of this scheme later this term. Students will also have  noticed there were lots of tests in the first two weeks of term and they have a new style of homework, consisting of shorter tasks, focused on acquiring and retaining knowledge with more regular tests in class. Students in Year 11 are already preparing for their mid-year ‘Pre Public Exams’, starting in late November and other year groups will follow after Christmas.

Sixth Form Consultation

Meanwhile, our consultation on moving the sixth form has advanced to the point where we will be soon ready to submit our case to the Education Funding Agency. Our proposal met with a huge ‘Yes’ (88.4%) out of 656 votes cast but there are still several stages to go before we can confirm what will happen next. Students who are applying to Rutland County College need not worry though, as it won’t make any difference to the courses on offer or the standard of teaching provided. If we move in 2017 it will just mean they will continue their courses without having to travel as far in their second year.  Given the high performance of the college in recent years, and in particular the success of our Russell Group University Entry Programme, we are hoping lots of you will be able to come to the RCC Open Evening on 25th November. Please feel free to compare us to sixth forms locally, because we are confident you will be impressed with our offer.

In this update I have not had time to mention our new Writing Academy, Pre-16 Russell Group University Entry Programme, Parent Panel, Student Council, SIMS Learning Gateway, uniform, or improvements to our buildings but with so many improvements taking place I have had to be very selective. I know we still have a long way to go, and we are not yet the school we aspire to be but I hope you can see that our vision is taking shape and gradually, but surely, our school is becoming one which we can all be really proud of.

Thank you for your continuing support

Mr C A Smith MA

Principal

Principal’s Update August 2015

Dear Parents and Carers

Welcome to a very exciting year at Casterton College Rutland.

I am absolutely delighted to report an outstanding 10% improvement in GCSE results this year. 75% got 5 A*-C and 65% with English and Maths. A Levels results were also excellent and above the national average. We are now 13% ahead of any school in Stamford and improving all the time.

The new school I promised is already taking shape, and I wanted to share with you the latest exciting developments. If your child doesn’t know about all these things yet, they soon will.

Literacy

Literacy is our top priority. The introduction of our Accelerated Reading Programme will roll out this term and together with a process called DEAR (Drop Everything and Read); this will mean all students will be reading silently for up to an hour every day. Year 7-9 students will have their own designated reading book, pitched at a level which is challenging for them, and followed with an online test which can be taken at home. We are also launching The Writing Academy which means students will spend a lot more time writing, and being taught how to write successfully, whether as a scientist, historian, designer, journalist, or in any other specialist field. They will also have a Big Writing Assignment in every subject, every term. The first of these for Year 7 was taken over the summer with Mr Smith’s Brilliant Writing Competition and many of the entries have been fantastic.

Progress

We are also starting the Progress Ladder which will publically rank every student by the overall progress they are making, and updated on a termly basis. This has nothing to do with their current ability and everything to do with the effort they put in. It is also linked to a new homework system that will focus on short, regular homework tasks, usually followed by a weekly test in each subject. In addition, three times a year all students will sit formal exams, the first one being their baseline tests which are coming over the next few weeks.

Communication

Communication with parents was not always what it should have been in the past, but you will have noticed already how much we are doing to put that right. The new SIMS Learning Gateway enables parents to see online what homework their child is due, as well as any behaviour points they have been given. Every parent has the emails of their child’s teachers and if your child gets behaviour points in class, the class teacher will immediately send you an email. The new Parent Panel has its first meeting in the next two weeks and we have revamped our regular Progress Reports to ensure it easier for you to see exactly how well your child is doing. Attendance at parent’s evenings leapt from 60% to 80% last term and because of major changes to Student Services whole School Attendance rose to nearly 96%, well over the national average, and much better than in 2014. Punctuality has also improved vastly due to new systems introduced last term.

Enhancing our Environment

We have made huge strides in both the physical appearance of our buildings and our students. We may not have a huge budget for improvement works, but it is amazing what a little imagination and hard graft can achieve, and we think the building is already looking much smarter. In every classroom, you will now see our new Teacher and Student Pledges which outline our intentions for teaching and learning and make our classroom practices and expectations very clear. We have also revamped our website and will continue to do so over the coming months; please have a look at it at www.castertoncollege.com. Most importantly, we are phasing in our new uniform, and the students look fantastic. We realise this has been introduced quickly, and the delays in delivery, together with a rise in prices, have been frustrating for parents, but the result is wonderful and we thank you for the sacrifices you have made to make this work. By 23rd September, all our Year 7-10 students will be in the new uniform and it will be an impressive sight.

Attitude to Learning

As promised, we are raising expectations everywhere, and this is particularly evident with our new Attitude to Learning strategy (ATL). In every lesson, teachers now set a minimum work expectation, and if a student fails to meet it, they will be given a Level 3 or 4 ATL score which will automatically result in a lunchtime detention, or, if the problem persists, a session 5 detention. Session 5 detentions take place during electives time on a Wednesday afternoon, and after school on a Friday, and have been set up for persistent offenders. Teachers will not tolerate students who are coasting or failing to work hard and this will be rigorously enforced. In this school the vast majority will not be held back by the tiny minority, whether it is in the classroom or anywhere else in the school.

A Climate of Scholastic Excellence

Every child in Year 7-9 is now being set the same target, Scholastic Excellence, which is equivalent to the top grades in the new, harder GCSEs the government are introducing. Also, our Russell Group University Entry Programme will be open to any student with the determination and ambition to aim for entry into top universities, so we are not closing doors to those who didn’t shine at primary school. We strongly encourage parents to look at their child’s books, and add comments they may have to any pieces of work, including whether they are pleased with their progress. You will notice our approach to marking has transformed so that students have more time to reflect on what they have done well and correct what they need to improve. For GCSE students, we are raising achievement through our Aim Higher Workshops which are put on as part of our extended day, so they can revise effectively, and to celebrate all this success we introduced a Year 7-10 Awards Event which many of you attended in the last week of term. For Year 7 and 8 parents, we are also putting on a new ‘Success at CCR’ evening on 9th September to explain how they can help their children do well at school, and how all our new systems work.

Sixth Form Consultation

Finally, may I once again remind you of our exciting plans for relocating the sixth form, and while many of you have already voted we are very keen that everyone has their say, so don’t forget to cast your vote via our website. So far, the response has been an overwhelmingly positive but the consultation last until our Open Evening on 23rd September and we need the turnout to be high.

Thank you for your continuing support

Mr C A Smith MA

Principal