Opinion: A view from the Principal’s office, Caedmon College Whitby

It is approaching a decade since Whitby Community College came out of the Ofsted ‘Special Measures’ category and in this time, much has been said and written about education in Whitby.

In this time, many things have pleased me. We have hosted five inspections and 15 inspectors – 23 judgements have been made, of which 20 have been good and three outstanding.

I think there are various reasons why the college is on the up. We have been fortunate to have a very stable and talented group of senior leaders, outward looking and willing to be brave in their leadership style. They have continually focused on developing great people and improving outcomes.

The college environment – not just our facilities across both sites but also the well-kept condition they are in.

It is a real credit to the respectful attitude of everyone, every day. Having a mature and well respected learning environment has helped create the fabulous provision we have today.

Examination results – they have steadily risen; at GCSE level from 43% to the best ever of 65% 5A*-C with English and maths and in Post 16 from 204 average points per student to 227. This is partly due to the way we value effort and promote a positive mindset towards academic study.

Destinations and progression – in the past five years alone, we have had eight students gain places at Oxbridge universities and the number of students not in employment or training is one of the lowest in the county.

The staff – we are extremely lucky to have such a large number of experienced and expert staff among our teachers and non-teachers.

In times of constant change this has brought stability and calm which ultimately has the desired effect on students as they prepare themselves for important external exams.

The college has also developed a model of staff development that everyone is fully committed to. Time is given every week for all professionals to plan their work together, therefore focusing the minds of all adults on the needs of the students.

The curriculum - we have taken great pride in offering a ‘whole education’ to our students through the many and varied enrichment activities which complement our broad curriculum in all three Key Stages eg by having over 200 students enrolled in the Duke of Edinburgh Award this year alone. Other notable highlights are the Key Stage 3 SAIL curriculum which is exciting, invigorating and often takes learning outside the classroom. Ofsted said: “Leaders have effectively overhauled the Key Stage 3 curriculum, ensuring that it is exciting, comprehensive and leads to good progress for all groups of pupils.”

Activities in Key Stage 4 complement the core curriculum, ie a wealth of opportunities in areas such as sport, music and the arts the broad number of subjects on offer to Post 16 students and the support they are given by their teachers on a daily basis. As a college we value the very real learning which can take place outside of the classroom, so much so that within the second week of our Year 7s joining us in September, we take them camping at Commondale.

From there the programme builds with residential opportunities in every year group, these include Battlefield Tours in France, geography fieldwork in London, skiing in Austria, Bewerley Park Outdoor Education Centre, theatre trips and exchange to visits to France.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award features highly throughout the college with Years 10, 11, 12, and 13 all undertaking the various awards; more than 200 are enrolled in the scheme this year. Our gold students, who, having completed a crossing of Scotland in a canoe from west to east, received their awards at Buckingham Palace.

It’s not all about the residential opportunities. Our new curriculum places learning at the heart of the community. Opportunities to learn locally are promoted, pop up art galleries appear, fieldwork is undertaken, visits to the skatepark in Redcar happen weekly during the winter until it’s time to dust off the mountain bikes while maths and science challenges and music concerts are all regular occurrences on the timetable.

Providing this depth of experience allows our students to demonstrate their interests and talents in so many ways. Our latest news, is that three students have been selected to be expedition leaders for a three week journey across Iceland, this coming summer. This is in preparation to guide a larger group of Year 10 students from the college next year. Not to be outdone, the geography department is doing its GCSE fieldwork in Italy next year, with visits to Vesuvius and Sorrento and a group of students are sailing from Portsmouth to Sweden.

The aspect of college life that I am personally most proud of is the huge number of compliments we receive from our visitors.

The most common remark is how well the students behave and how good their attitude is towards their own learning.

Most visitors say they are a credit to themselves, the college and their families. We are open every day for visits and students are the guides. If you would like to be the next one to see us in action then please do get in touch.