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‘Amazing’ the words of pupils as Crawley school bounces back

Last year the only words to describe Thomas Bennett Community College that were being shared across Tilgate and around Crawley were ‘strike’, ‘desperate’ and ‘cuts’.

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Politicians around the area were up in arms as panic began to slowly set in as parents, students and even teachers began to club together as worry of the schools future was banded around.

It got so bad that a public meeting was called with even the town council leader speaking out saying ‘people are desperate’. What then followed was a call for a strike and even pupils deciding to take action themselves before protesters then marched through the town.

Reports of teachers and support staff quitting their jobs only added to the heated discussions being held. All said it left Thomas Bennett Community College under a very dark cloud.

Fast forward almost a year and it is a very different story and one that needs to be proclaimed with the loudest of voices from the highest of towers.

For a change has occurred within the very fabric of the school and it is evident, not just from details within a new Ofsted report, but also from the energy of both the pupils and the staff.

School should be a safe and happy environment. It should be a place where young people can learn, where staff can help develop young minds in a caring and motivated environment. It should be a place that creates fond memories. Well now all these ‘should bes’ are becoming a reality.

No one person can make such a dramatic change, it takes many, but what it does require is a leader to take hold of the reins and to show belief and this is exactly what the new head Stuart Smith has done.

Headteacher Stuart Smith

Mr Smith only took over as headteacher in January this year but in less than six months the change has been meteoric and this hasn’t just been noticed by those who can be the most critical, the pupils, but also the inspectors.

Three years ago an Ofsted report deemed the school ‘Requires Improvement’ across the board. The key findings pointing out flaws which at the time were then being addressed.

The problem was that with funding cuts and moral falling it was a battle that seemed overwhelming. Whatever the reasons over the course of the following years the resulting impact affected everyone.

In the latest report, whilst most of the findings are still resulting in the same result it is when you delve into the details that you see change is afoot and had Ofsted done their inspection a little later in the year then the result would have been extremely different.

Firstly the sixth form has now been given a ‘good’ standing, something unthinkable when you look back only months to see many of them protesting on the streets with their parents.

Then there are the comments about the new headteacher.

“The recent appointment of a permanent headteacher has improved matters significantly”

“The headteacher has improved the school’s culture so that is more aspirational for staff and pupils.”

“Staff agree that the current headteacher has transformed the school.”

And a comment from one teacher shows just how much of an impact Mr Smith is having with Ofsted even publishing their quote, ‘the headteacher is relentlessly positive.’

But it doesn’t stop there. The report even mentions how there has been a transformation of pupils’ behaviour and how the school has now developed an effective personal and social education.

Dr Karen Roberts CEO of The Kemnal Academies Trust said:

“We are pleased that the inspectors recognised that the school is now making rapid improvements under the leadership of the recently appointed Headteacher. We are fully aware that there is much still to be done and the Trust will provide the support needed to ensure the students at Thomas Bennett received a good education.”

But the real test is not with any government inspector. Nor is it with a board of governors or a Trust or even concerned parents. The real test is with the customers themselves. The pupils.

With no direction or interruption from a teacher we were able to speak with pupils from all years in a round table session where we asked for them to speak openly about the school. What happened was startling.

Normally these interviews can be awkward with pupils conscious of a teacher analysing their words. But they can also be a real insight into what the ‘real’ feeling is amongst those most critical of their environment.

There was a real energy, a positivity that empowered you as you listened. There was pride and they wanted to share it.

After hearing their stories of how the school was such a different place last year they were asked to sum why someone should come to Thomas Bennett and to use one word to sum the school up. These are the actual responses from several of those

“The teachings great. Positive”

“You get so many opportunities. Positive”

“The teachings really good, you can make really good friends here even if they are in an older year. You never feel pressured into anything. We have gone through all the negative things and it’s all turning into positive. Fantastic.”

“You can get your voices heard. Trustworthy

“It’s welcoming, everyones kind and nice. Memorable”

“If you have any worries big or small you can always go to a member of staff and they really help you. Understanding

“The school really helps people with all different kinds of issues whether they are mental health or even something like autism. Helpful

All this change in months, not years and without any unnecessary intervention from politicians or councilors.

Mr Smith knows the school is not there yet but it is certainly on its way and he truly believes within 18 months the words ‘Good’ and ‘Outstanding’ will be used by inspectors.

He said:

“This is a very exciting time to be part of Thomas Bennett Community College. The whole community has my absolute reassurance that I am both committed and determined to ensuring that areas requiring improvement are being addressed and the rapid improvement continues. I will also build of the many strengths highlighted in the detail of the report, with the support of staff, students, parents and the Trust we will bring about sustained improvement for the benefit of Thomas Bennett Community College and its community”.

Exciting times it is and none more so than for the pupils themselves. But what comes out of all this more than anything, more than the reports and the PR that accompanies this sort of change is the true belief and support that change is happening and whilst it is fast and dramatic, it is in the description of numerous pupils ‘AMAZING’.

The only way to sum this all up is to leave you with the words of one pupil who said:

“If you want your child to become such an amazing person and to grow then Thomas Bennett is the school for you!”

Education

The happy faces of Crawley’s GCSE students

It’s smiles all round as the towns GCSE students celebrate another successful year with their results.

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From all areas of Crawley nervous students have been collecting their GCSE results this morning.

GCSE results show that there has been a slight increase in the number of pupils across West Sussex who have achieved passes in English and Maths.

Figures show that an average of 65.7% secured passes in both English and Maths, compared to 65.4% in 2018.

Results in West Sussex are slightly lower than the average across England, Wales and Northern Ireland of 67.3% achieving passes in both English and Maths.

Most GCSE results in England are now being graded from 9 to 1, with 7 the equivalent to an A and 4 a C grade.

Early figures provided by West Sussex schools and academies combined show:
• The proportion of West Sussex students achieving the pass level Grade 4 (equivalent of a C grade) has gone up by 0.3%

• Schools’ Attainment 8 scores (the average of their students’ grades across eight key subjects) have also gone up from 37.1% to 44.5%, an increase of 7.4%.

Richard Burrett, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said:

“I know pupils across the county, as well as teachers and school staff, have worked very hard during the past two years. I’m delighted that this has led to an increase in this year’s pass rate.

“I pass on my congratulations to those who have received their results and are now planning their next move, whether that is further study, employment or training.”


Students who did not achieve the grades they wanted are encouraged to speak to their school or college about the opportunities still available to them.

The results are provisional until the Department for Education issues more detailed examination results later this year and the figures have been confirmed.

Hazelwick School were very happy with the Chair of Governors saying how proud she was of the students hard work.

Kirsty Armstrong (pictured with Headteacher, Ann Fearon – 7 grade 9s , 2 grade 8s)

Headteacher, Ann Fearon, said:

“Our students should be immensely proud of their achievements and I congratulate them for their effort, commitment and resilience. The new ‘9-1’ GCSEs in all subjects continue to present a real challenge to all schools and I am delighted with how well our students have risen to that challenge. I would also like to thank Hazelwick staff and parents/carers for the fantastic support provided for our students.  Hazelwick School is a school to be proud of.  We are ambitious for our students and that ambition is making a positive difference to their futures.”

At Thomas Bennett Community College there was extra reason to celebrate after the Schools turbulent past years. But now the school has seen a massive rise in student results.

Headteacher Stuart Smith said:

“Congratulations to all of the Year 11 students for a set of fantastic results. They are a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication put into your studies this year and through your time as a student at Thomas Bennett.  I’d like to say a big thank you to staff for their commitment in ensuring that students were well prepared.  Also to parents and carers for working with the school and supporting students at home.  I wish all of the students the very best of luck in the next stage of their learning.”

Over at the Gatwick School it was their first Year 11 cohort who took their exams.

Head of School Mark Roessler stated:

“This year The Gatwick School had its first Year 11 cohort sitting their GCSE exams, and with less than 50 students sitting these exams, I am extremely proud of how they have risen to the challenge. They have led the way for all the other year groups who will follow them and I am delighted at how well our students have achieved; they are a credit to their families, to our school and, most importantly, to themselves. I am proud of my excellent staff who have supported and dedicated themselves to our students. They pride themselves on going above and beyond expectations on a daily basis for all students. I am also grateful to our families for their faith in The Gatwick School and for the support they have shown throughout the incredible journey that we have been on over the last 5 years. As Head of School, I am determined that ‘All Can Achieve’ at The Gatwick School. We provide students not only with the academic grounding that allows access to further education and employment, but an extremely high level of pastoral care and support, which enables all students to develop, both in self-confidence and in maintaining a strong moral compass, which is just as important as academic success”. 

At St Wilfrids there was more success with a high number of students achieving at least one grade 9.

Mr Ferry (Headteacher) said:

“We are seeing a lot of happy faces this morning and I am immensely proud of all of our students. The new examinations require students to cover much more detail than in the past and they have worked incredibly hard over the last two years. Make no mistake, the grades they are receiving today have been hard earned”.

Over at Ifield Community College Head teacher Rob Corbett paid tribute to the success of his pupils saying:

“ICC continues to go from strength to strength and the hard work of staff and students has paid off in our GCSE results this year. The school, judged good a year ago and expanding due to its’ popularity, is celebrating the success of its year eleven students.

We are extremely proud of the success of all of our students who showed the tenacity and dedication to succeed in the reformed qualifications.”

Ifield Community College GCSE students.

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