Headteacher Dave Collins was up at 1.30am yesterday as soon as Knole Academy's GCSE results became available on-line.
What followed was a day of “number-crunching” with his staff, which must have seemed like gradually unwrapping a marvellous gift as it became evident that the school near Sevenoaks, Kent, had achieved its best-ever GCSE results.
That’s 63 per cent of pupils gaining grades 4 to 9 compared to 44 per cent last year.
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And the feeling in the school’s theatre as 240 or so pupils turned up to collect their results was quietly jubilant and calmly euphoric.
“The pupils with nine A*s are not necessarily the success stories,” said Mr Collins.
“It’s those pupils who were lining up to join a PRU in Years 7 and 8 who have turned the corner and got some passes.”
And pupil premium children (who make up a quarter of the school) achieved a 14 per cent increase in pass rate, according to a “massively pleased” Mr Collins, who was looking forward to a celebratory afternoon watching cricket at Lords.
But how has the school notched up such a good innings?
“Students taking ownership of their grades” and the school being “much happier with staffing than we have been historically,” he says.
A key change has been the introduction of face-to-face meetings between form tutors and parents at the end of every term, and at which the pupil is present.
“Although we were having a lot of communication with parents it wasn’t making an impact,” said Mr Collins. “The reports and grades were almost meaningless, but the meetings are a way of having an honest and open chat at which we can both reflect and plan a course of action.”
Head of Year 11 Mary McGauley said parents were able to “go away with the idea of how to bring their children on” whether it was helping with organisation and providing materials and being aware of what learning platforms their children needed to download such as Kaboodle.
Deputy head Paul Massey said extra maths sessions had made a difference as well as a new behaviour policy using a points system where pupils with too many behaviour points weren’t allowed to go to the prom.
There was also a new "5-minute maximum travelling time" between lessons policy, introduced to mitigate some of the difficulties of a large campus.
Deputy head Jane Elliot said staff were well abreast of the marking criteria in English and maths, and that there had been a lot of support from the PiXL, national school resource-sharing partnership of around 2,000 schools and sixth-forms, of which the school is a member.
She said: “We weren’t sure what grade boundaries were going to be like and whether we were actually marking it to the right grade boundaries, but actually they didn’t change much at all so we were good with that.”