SCHOOL FOCUS: Handsworth Grange Community Sports College
When Handsworth Grange Community Sports College was hailed as outstanding by Ofsted it was put down to a whole team effort.
And as the school continues on its remarkable journey the staff have once again shown how special they are and how much they value every student.
They have given up their spacious staff room to allow it to be converted into a bright and airy library.
Head of school Nick Parker said the school has had a big push on improving literacy in the last 18 months – and the library has been just one part of this.
“We’ve had a real push for the last 18 months across the school on literacy strategies,” he said.
“We came up with VCR – vocabulary, comprehension and reading skills – and we try and incorporate it in every single lesson, not just in English lessons.
“We are working really hard in response to the new GCSEs and their rigour.
“We have three reading tests a year and they give us a clue to what standards of reading our students are at – whether they are reading enough and developing and moving forward.
“Now 85 per cent of our students are in line or above their chronological reading age which wasn’t the case before we started this reading project.
“The average reading age for our year 11s is 16.6 years and many students are above 18.
“It’s having a real impact and everybody has got on board.”
Anne Quaile, chief executive of Minerva Learning Trust, which the school is part of, said: “The staff have given up the staff room for the kids.
“It’s not just about staff doing things that we want them to do, they are volunteering up their own little space.
“That sums up our staff here – we have fantastic staff.”
The library, which opened around six months ago, has been such a success that 100 more books a month are being borrowed compared with the old library – with more boys borrowing them.
As well as a wide range of books, there are revision guides, e-books and DVDs which students can also borrow.
Assistant headteacher '‹Steph McCoy said: “The old library was pretty unsuitable and it didn’t encourage children to read.
“Over 100 more books a month are being borrowed, and there are particular gains in the number of boys borrowing books, which is fantastic.”
Year 7 pupil Ellanor Feeney is one of the school’s four librarians, who help keep it tidy, assist students and help log books in and out.
She said: “The library is probably the best thing about the school.”
Year 10 pupil Tara Shahsavar said the new library is a vast improvement on the old one.
“The issue with the old library was that it was an open space and there wasn’t a quiet and peaceful atmosphere,” she added.
“Now my GCSE year is coming I am in the library a lot more and trying to push my grades up.”
The school also boasts a year 11 revision hub – a breakaway area where students can access revision guides and past papers.
Year 11 student Alyssa Foster said: “The hub is a great idea and is quite new to the school.
“I have finished all my GCSE coursework so it’s a good place to come and revise – it’s peaceful and all the resources are here.”
There is also a student council which has been heavily involved in improving things around the school.
Its latest task was to reduce the waiting time for food at lunchtime, which often meant that after queuing for food and eating students had little time to do anything more before they had to return to class.
Council chairman Cameron Smith, who is in Year 9, said: “We moved the tables around and students can also pre-order lunch. I go around classes in a morning with a pre-order form so they can write down what they want.
“These lunches come in bags and are put out in a different area of the school so all students aren’t in the same place.”
The council’s next focus is on recycling.”
As well as improving standards inside the classroom, the school is keen to enable students to gain other skills.
Students can now take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award – with 32 children signing up for bronze or silver awards this year.
Geography teacher Simon Watchman said: “We started it last year and it did really well. We’ve got a lot of students who did their bronze award who are now working towards their silver.
“They gain a number of extra skills which are fundamental in helping them.”
The school also does a lot of work with the community.
Several years ago the school set up a food bank collection point after Mrs Quaile discovered a pupil had not eaten for a whole weekend because there was no food in her house.
Now, every six weeks the school collects items which are then taken to a local food bank.
Mrs Quaile said the school is on a journey and the outstanding Ofsted judgement was well deserved. A decade ago the school was in special measures.
Inspectors praised the extremely positive’ relationships between teachers and pupils, the exemplary’ behaviour of students who were found to thrive both academically and personally’ and high quality’ teaching.
She said: “It has been a really hard journey.
“What is lovely is that every single member of the school population has contributed, along with parents, to that outstanding journey.
“It has been hard, but it is well deserved. We are carrying on and moving forward.”