Since 2008, Stanley Park High, in Surrey, has offered pupils a curriculum made up of 50 per cent project-based learning.
David Taylor, its executive headteacher, said: “Children were transferring from Year 6, where they had one teacher, to upwards of 14 different subjects, with 14 different teachers, in Year 7.
“Parents were telling us that they wanted a more homely feel, with more primary practices incorporated into the secondary curriculum. We realised that we had to develop our own curriculum, that was appropriate for our school community.
“Our purpose wasn’t necessarily to improve test scores and exam results. Those things are important, but we wanted to encourage resilience, perseverance, creativity and intellectual curiosity. We would argue that, if you develop those skills, in the long term the exam results look after themselves.
“Innovation doesn’t always work straight away. There are peaks and troughs, and some of those troughs can go a long way. But, once you come out of that – our last three cohorts, having done project-based learning, produced the school’s best exam results. But there are also other qualities, around attendance and behaviour.
“Any innovation that doesn’t have support the whole way through – from parents, from teachers, from governors – then it ain’t going to work. But I fundamentally believe that project-based learning is the right thing to do, whether you’re a lower-attaining or a higher-attaining school.”
Stanley Park High was TES Secondary School of the Year 2016