In September 2018, Stuart Bathurst Catholic High School was put in Special Measures following a damning Ofsted Inspection. Twelve months on and the picture couldn’t be more different at the West Midlands secondary thanks to a change of Head, culture and the introduction of the GSCEPod online teaching and learning platform.
Twelve months on from Ofsted’s pejorative assessment of the West Midlands’ school, and Assistant Headteacher Gavina Raindi says “while we may still officially be in Special Measures, our Progress 8 score has increased to -0.19, while still below national average this is a massive improvement from -0.54 a year ago.
The Catholic high school has also recorded its best GCSE exam results in three years. Seventy per cent of students achieved a standard pass in English, and 68% in maths. The result for maths and English combined was 62.4%, whilst the outcome in French was above the national average. Many students excelled, achieving coveted grade 9s.
This newfound success has not been a chance thing. It has taken a clear vision, the relentless drive of staff and students, a change in leadership, and the introduction by new headteacher, Bridget Morris, of the award-winning GCSEPod teaching and learning platform, to help turn the academic tide.
Rolled out across Key Stage 4 in February 2019 and the rest of the school by the start of the summer holidays, GCSEPod with its short revision videos (known as Pods) that can be accessed in the classroom or on the go on a smartphone or tablet, covers every exam board and 27 subject areas.
Already being used to great acclaim by over 1300 secondary schools across the UK and abroad, Bridget had first-hand experience of GCSEPod’s worth in helping improve not just exam results but raising scholarly aspirations.
It had been introduced at her previous school the preceding year with equally dramatic results. “Everyone was very impressed. We had seen our Progress 8 go from -0.42 to -0.14 in a year, which was amazing. We couldn’t say it was all down to GCSEPod as other measures were introduced too, but there is no doubt it played a big part,” she says.
“When I arrived here at Stuart Bathurst, GCSEPod was one of the first things I wanted to get in. I suppose you could see it as a gift to the students. It created an instant buzz and we had children saying they enjoy listening to them at night before they go to bed.”
The short, snappy and visually appealing Pods were viewed an astonishing 104,942 times between February and the end of the academic year, catapulting Stuart Bathurst not just to the top of the West Midlands area Pod Games – a competitive contest that ranks schools by the number of videos watched, with awards and prizes presented to the winners regionally and nationally – but to exam success.
Gavina is in no doubt as to the positive impact GSCEPod has had in helping turn around the fortunes of the school she joined nine years ago. “GCSEPod has absolutely been a key driver in improving results in our school. Since we launched the software the figures show how much our students and staff have welcomed the investment in their revision and teaching and learning resources.
“The software exposed students to new ways of revising and created a culture of healthy competition and motivation to do well. It has helped us move towards cutting edge teaching and learning by showing students that we are willing to invest in them and their learning, and this has added to their intrinsic motivation.”
To help generate that initial buzz, the school launched its own GCSEPod-inspired prize competitions for both students and staff. Teachers were encouraged to use the Pods as an opener for lessons and to help set a quality standard in class.
Gavina, who is Stuart Bathurst’s GCSEPod lead, reveals that following Ofsted’s negative appraisal, staff and students were “hungry for change, focus and a cultural shift.”
And when after just a short space of time, an improvement was seen in mock exam results, Gavina adds: “We were able to say to students ‘look at this, and now look at what you could be doing.’ Along with leadership changes, the introduction of GCSEPod has helped create a positive shift in mind set.
“Being in a Special Measures school created a certain stigma. But a can-do attitude and healthy competition has been created which has driven up standards.”
The English department had come in for much criticism and scrutiny following Ofsted’s inspection.
“GCSEPod has been integral in raising standards and resourcing the department so that staff and students have all the core information they need. To achieve 70% of results at a standard pass and above is quite phenomenal in such a short space of time,” Gavina says.
The science and maths departments have also been key players in the transformation.
Among GCSEPod’s main attractions has been its simplicity, its flexibility, and the seamless way it fits into the curriculum. Gavina explains: “The incentives to promote the software, such as Pod Games, has been excellent. I think the competition has been integral to the cultural shift in our Year 11s and the school.
“The other great thing is that the software is so adaptable to different exam boards and constantly updating, so that students and staff have the most up to date information they need.”
Stuart Bathurst’s success has not gone unnoticed. A recent open evening attracted nearly 200 families, and partner schools are now wanting to send their staff there to learn best practice, discover the secret of their meteoric turnaround, and about what GCSEPod could offer them too.
For Bridget its attractions are obvious. “Because we are in a deprived area, our children don’t have access to tutors. But if we can motivate our students in different ways in class in school, then I liken having GCSEPod to giving them access to a specialist tutor whenever they want, and however they want, in their own home.
“It’s a tough enough world as it is for today’s students, and it is important that we support them inside as well as outside the school.”