Hello. I am the Assistant Principal of Goffs-Churchgate Academy in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. Our school was established in the Autumn of 2017 as part of the Generations Multi Academy Trust. Our school is a small secondary school, with 20% of students having special educational needs and 40% coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
As a new school, extensive work has been taking place to rapidly drive up outcomes and this has seen us become one of the highest achieving schools in Hertfordshire. We are incredibly proud of the academic outcomes achieved by our school; however, what makes our school unique is the support and care we provide for every individual child. Our school is a community and we believe that every person has an important role to play.
When I began the role of SMSC lead I was looking for a method of reviewing our provision and came across the National SMSC Quality Mark. The aspect that I found particularly useful was the self assessment tool. I had previously found it difficult to review the effectiveness of our SMSC provision because it can be so wide reaching and integrated into other aspects of the curriculum that it is difficult to assess it as a stand-alone element. However, the self assessment took into account so many other aspects and allowed me to reflect upon areas such as the curriculum, student and staff welfare, the role of the Trustees, as well as the impact of our enrichment programme.
This made me realise that we needed to look at the bigger picture to ensure we were providing our students with a broad education to help them to become confident young people who are ready for the challenges they will face in the ‘real world’.
The self assessment spurred me on to reflect upon how we are integrating SMSC across our curriculum and what more we could do teach the students the skills they would need in life. As the self assessment included aspects for school as a whole as well the students individually, the staff, and the parents and trustees, this fitted really well into our community school ethos.
Creating a SMSC development action plan
The results of the self review tool assisted me in writing our SMSC action plan. The progress through the key areas in the action plan were reported and discussed at Trustee meetings throughout the year and became as important as the discussions around academic performance.
Over the next year our school continued its rapid journey, and saw many changes; we redeveloped our curriculum and carefully mapped the delivery of SMSC, British Values, Citizenship, Religious studies, Relationship and Sex Education, and Careers information advice and guidance across the year groups to ensure comprehensive coverage. I arranged for staff training from Young Citizens, so that all staff could understand how the values behind SMSC can be integrated into their individual subject areas, and we introduced Character development into the curriculum to teach students essential life skills. We linked this to our student leadership and enrichment programmes to ensure we delivered a full and well-rounded education for all.
We had our first SMSC Quality Mark verification visit in the July of 2018 in which we were awarded with the Silver Level. During the day our verifier met with myself, our Principal, a group of students and one of our Trustees. There was no requirement to provide any further evidence as the day was focused on talking to the different groups to find out more about our school. If I were to describe the verification visit in one word, I would say it was ‘enjoyable’. Everyone involved was made to feel at ease, and it felt as though it was an opportunity to show the verifier all of the great things that were happening at our school and the positive impact this was having on our community, rather than us being assessed or judged against a particular criteria.
At the end of the day our verifier and I spoke about our strengths and the areas that I would like to develop more. Our verifier was incredibly helpful and provided me with different resources and ideas. It reassured us that we were on the right track and that what we were doing was having a clear positive impact in such a short space of time, and what we could do to help to further embed this.
One of the key aspects that I took away from the day was how important the feedback from the students was in assessing how well we were meeting our aims. We had always asked students for feedback throughout the year through a range of surveys, but we decided to take this a stage further and interviewed every individual child in our school. We asked them questions on a range of topics including their understanding of how to keep themselves safe, which lessons they enjoy or don’t enjoy, what was the best thing about the school and what they would like to change. This has become an integral part of our school ethos as each half term we now deliver ‘You said, we did’ assemblies to inform the students what actions we have taken from their feedback so that they can see that their opinion matters, and to keep them informed about the contribution they are making to their school. This has brought our school community even closer together.
The Quality Mark Award is accredited for three years, but having completed the self review tool again we asked to be reassessed early. It had now been 16 months since we were awarded the Silver Level Mark and we had made huge progress in that time. I had kept in touch with our original verifier, and we spoke on the phone about the key developments that had taken place over the last year, and he appeared genuinely excited to come back and see the progress that the school had made.
On the day of our second verification visit it was like having an old friend come to visit. He was keen to hear about the developments that had taken place and spent time talking to different groups within our community. At the end of the day we received lovely feedback about what we were doing at our school and were made to feel very proud of what we have achieved. We were awarded the Gold Quality Mark and even asked if we would share our experiences with others.
The SMSC Quality Mark process has really helped us to take an objective look at our curriculum and supported us to build on the values which have always been so important in our school.
This process isn’t about form filling or badge winning, but it addresses a far more important question: are we doing the best for the young people in our care to provide them with skills, knowledge and experiences to give them the best start in life? To have had the support to enable us to do this better and then to receive such positive accolades in recognition of the happy and confident students in our school has been an absolute pleasure, and I would highly recommend this process to anyone.
Cheryl Goodchild, Assistant Principal and SMSC Lead
Goffs-Churchgate Academy in Hertfordshire