Whole Education continued its tour of innovative schools with a visit to Swavesey Village College near Cambridge.
Before getting to the accolades, of which there are many, what was immediately obvious to a visitor of the school was that people at Swavesey liked to chat; to each other and to visitors. Students, teachers, receptionists, senior leaders – they all showed such genuine friendliness and interest in each other and their school that, at risk of verging on ‘cheesy’ it really felt like visiting a happy family home.
Creating such a culture is no accident however. Swavesey is a school of systems. One might infer that the reason students feel so comfortable talking to their Headteacher is that they know he wants to listen because the school has implemented a set of systems to ensure that each student gets their voice heard. You could also guess that older students will happily hang around with the younger ones developing social and emotional maturity in all age groups because vertical tutor groups has encouraged cross-age friendships. And one could even go so far to say that the reason the teachers seem happy to be at work and impassioned about their profession because their professional development is nurtured and prioritised by the SLT. All sytems are well researched, evidenced and intentionally developmental. A particularly telling comment from a student was “we haven’t quite got all the awards on offer right yet, but we are looking into it”. Not only does Swavesey stick to what works (Keep It Simple Stupid being a main motto), but all members of the school community have ownership over what those systems are.
“you can have your cake and eat it”
So, Swavesey seem to be getting things right. And this is reflected in the more formal measures of a school; 100% of students got 5A*-C at GCSE last year, and in 2011 Ofsted graded the school ‘outstanding’. Andy Daly, the acting Headteacher takes this as proof that ‘you can have your cake and eat it’. Both the myriad opportunities in the form of trips, musicals, sporting events, community action to name a few, and the GCSE scores prove this. The message is echoed around school on posters showing the trio of school aims; Achievement, Experience and Quality and the commitment to a ‘Pledges‘ scheme which tracks, validates and celebrates the ‘extra-curricular’.
But one of the most impressive things about the college is that it doesn’t want to ‘rest on its laurels’ – it is an admirably humble school which is always on the lookout for ways to improve. In fact, Andy is a self-professed pirate – out for what he can steal from others. If it makes for a better school experience for young people, who can blame him?