The judges were captivated by Birkenhead Sixth Form College’s journey of transformation. In 2009, it was rated grade 3 by Ofsted. The college also had fewer than 20 per cent of students obtaining high grades, and, according to its awards submission, was “well into the bottom quartile on all value-added systems and had a mediocre progression profile”.
Fast-forward to January 2017, and the college on the Wirral was rated “outstanding” by the inspectorate. Now 45 per cent of A-level candidates are obtaining high grades, and it sends nearly a quarter of its students to Russell Group universities.
This improvement has not been down to a change in the college’s intake. The improvements have been the result of fundamental changes to every aspect of how the college works, realised through hard work and a common commitment to the values of positivity, ambition, resilience and thoughtfulness.
Birkenhead has also put a strong focus on innovation, with examples including: the student mentoring scheme, endorsed by Liverpool John Moores University and now an accredited module; the BePART programme, proven by independent research to help those students who are struggling to improve their positivity and resilience; and an academic writing programme.
While on its improvement journey, the college has also set up its own multi-academy trust (MAT), and now sponsors a local school.
The judges said: “In a relatively short time, Birkenhead Sixth Form College has improved from a grade 3 to a grade 1, but it has not stopped there. Staff have created and led a MAT, which is defining achievement in the area. This award is deserved recognition.”