After a year and a half of COVID-19 driven turbulence, 2021-2022 is hopefully going to be a more normal year. The guidance from the Department of Education for opening schools this September says: As COVID-19 becomes a virus that we learn to live with, there is now an imperative to reduce the disruption to children and young people’s education. Signally a keen focus on getting schools back to running as they did before the pandemic. We are set up so that things can flex, if required, from the normal school to the very different COVID school we ran last year. By the time 2022-2023 comes around, hopefully we will have learnt to live with the virus and will be, essentially, back to normal.
There are many different things that we, as a community, want from our school: we want our children to be successful academically; we want them to develop good moral attitudes; indeed, we want them to fulfil their potential in many different ways.
Here in St Thomas More Catholic School, we aim to give our pupils the best possible chance of doing this. In the school’s most recent OFSTED inspection, in which we were again graded Outstanding, the opening sentences read:
“St Thomas More School provides pupils with high quality education, linking outstanding academic achievement to splendid personal development. An exceptionally strong Christian ethos pervades the school”(October 2013).
This success is due first and foremost to the strong Christian ethos which pervades our school, binding people together and encouraging everyone to give their best, and to strive for excellence, within an ordered and disciplined atmosphere. It was particularly rewarding to have this aspect of the school graded Outstanding by the Diocesan inspectors.
We have a long tradition of excellent examination results going back many years, however, the cancellation of the examination series of Summer 2020 and Summer 2021 make a year on year comparison impossible. What it is fair to say is that our pupils in Years 11 and 13 worked incredibly hard last summer and were, therefore, awarded excellent results. As a school we put in place systems that were robust and had integrity which produced outcomes that reflected the attitude and attainment of the pupils. If we want to get a handle on results a prosaic but possibly more reliable way to look at outcomes is to consider where the pupils go next. In Year 11 the overwhelming majority go into the sixth form or onto an apprenticeship. Our Year 13 pupils have an excellent record of university entrance, with most achieving their first choice, apprenticeships and entering the world of work. One of our key aims is that pupils are ready for the next phase in their lives and we are justifiably very proud of our record in this.
There is no doubt that one of the main factors behind the continued excellent achievement of this school is the very high standard of the behaviour of the pupils. OFSTED also commented that “Behaviour is almost always impeccable. Pupils conduct themselves in a very mature manner in class and when moving around the school at breaks and lunchtimes. They are polite and helpful and really respect their teachers.”
As a school we have always been determined to give pupils the best possible educational experience. This is reflected in the positive attitudes towards lessons that pupils show. This was confirmed by OFSTED who judged the quality of Teaching and Learning to be outstanding.
We pride ourselves on the level of pastoral care given to all pupils. There are excellent relationships and mutual respect between pupils and between staff and pupils. Indeed, our pupils say that they enjoy coming to school! We invest heavily in individual support and guidance for pupils, we assess pupils’ progress regularly and report this progress to parents at 10 week intervals.
Of course there is so much more to St Thomas More Catholic School than excellent examination results, central though these are to our success. Over the past few years the school has been recognised in a number of different ways. We were the first school to be awarded Specialist School status in the North East. We have collected a range of specialisms over the years; starting with Technology, Leading Edge (via Beacon School), Training and Vocational. In June 2011 we were named as one of the first tranche of Teaching Schools in the country. As a school we are always looking to develop still further. In January 2014 we became the founder member of the St Thomas More Partnership of Schools Multi-Academy Trust and in March 2014 we welcomed our first primary school, Sacred Heart Byermoor to the Trust. In April 2015 we welcomed St Matthews Primary School, Prudhoe. In April 2020 we became part of the Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust.
The school environment has been developed considerably over the ;last ten years and we have renewed around 90% of the building. In Summer 2019 we renovated the original 1967 building, and in Summer 2020 we added a suite of 3 new classrooms designed specifically for our new Technical Level courses and this year we are developing a suite aimed at the Education and Childcare Technical Levels which will also, as a by product, result in the refurbishment of a number of Design Technology rooms. It is worth adding that we are one of only four schools out of the fifty first providers, offering these in the country.
The work of the classroom continues to extend into high quality extra-curricular activities. A large number of pupils are able to participate in school teams covering a wide range of different sports. There is also a strong commitment to music and drama with regular concerts and drama evenings. Our contribution to the life of the community through, for example, the Sixth Form Programme, provides a splendid example of Christianity in action. Our pupils are enthusiastic and prolific fundraisers for the Percy Hedley Foundation, the Salvation Army, the Youth Ministry Trust, and North East Homeless.
With firm guidance, clear purpose, the vast array of talents of pupils and staff and continued support from parents, I am confident that St Thomas More Catholic School will continue to make a major contribution to the life of our community.
Copyright © 2021 Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust