Learning Outside the Classroom: Neston High School
Neston High School has raised academic standards and pupil engagement by encouraging teachers to run a broad programme of Learning Outside the Classroom (LOTC). And they use local authority software to help them take managed risks.
Day trips, pupil exchanges and activities in the local environment or abroad are not novelties at Neston High School - they are part of a well-integrated curriculum that includes carefully planned LOTC.
Programmes are developed for groups and individuals. One A-level physics student spent four weeks working alongside scientists on the Higgs boson experiment at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, Cern; language students are taken abroad; sports teams participate in local and international events; and pupils take their sketchbooks and cameras to a nearby university botanic garden to use the natural world as inspiration for jewellery designs.
Prospective staff at Neston High School are asked at interview about their commitment to LOTC, and within the school that commitment is matched with teacher support.
An annual large-scale residential visit attended by Year 7 pupils is used to induct and develop staff and engage their energy in a well-controlled environment. It is also part of succession planning for broader residential activities across the school. On residential visits, staff, rather than external organisations, arrange and lead the activities so they are fully integrated with the curriculum.
On one of these visits, the pupils produced art work on the subject of identity led by the school's artist-in-residence. In science, work about food chains in ponds continues directly from work in lessons.
The school even has an LOTC coordinator, an assistant headteacher who is influential in ensuring quality.
Headteacher Steven Dool explains why the school is so dedicated to giving pupils off-site experiences. "Learning Outside the Classroom enables pupils to apply their learning in different and real contexts and to broaden their horizons and aspirations for their futures. I am convinced that the ethos and culture in the school are vastly enhanced by the high level of participation. These activities are systematically and collegiately organised, evaluated and analysed, and are the heart and soul of our school," he says.
Signs of success
LOTC procedures are well organised and have straightforward systems. Links with the Conway Centre in North Wales and community partnerships have also been established. Consequently, LOTC projects require little staff time in planning.
What the inspectors said
"The vision of the headteacher, and others, over many years has built a culture of enthusiastic learning through various means beyond the classroom. A 'can do' culture is driven by the effective leadership of all members of the senior team. Staff and students are confident that they will do well by taking the learning where it can be done better, planning carefully and having high ambitions for the students."
Read Ofsted's report at bit.lyQaCduo
Name: Neston High School
Location: Neston, Cheshire
Type: Mixed secondary comprehensive that became an academy in July 2012
Number of pupils: About 1,600
Intake: Pupils come from a broad range of social backgrounds with 7 per cent eligible for free school meals. The school has more than 40 feeder primary schools.