A secondary Woodville school is celebrating after its high standards saw it named among the most prestigious in the country in this year’s national Parliamentary Review.
Granville Academy, in Burton Road, gained the high profile opportunity to appear in the review, which acts as a guide to cross-sector best practice and how industry leaders have responded to challenges in the political and economic environment.
Principal Jo Kingswood said she was "blown away" to find that the school, which has recently become an academy, made the mark.
She said: "To be honest I was blown away when the email came through asking us to be part of the review. Only a handful of schools are selected each year and for Granville to be part of that took a while to sink in.
"We think we were recommended because our Ofsted Report recognised the rapid change that was happening to improve the school and the steps leaders were taking to turn things around."
Within the Parliamentary Review, which is available to read online, Jo talked about the barriers the school had to overcome, including a clamp down which she dubbed "hoodiegate" after Year 11 pupils staged a protest in the school canteen, refusing to go to lessons or remove their hoodies, which they wanted to wear to school.
Mrs Kingswood said: "They wanted a show down. I decided to ignore them. About 15 minutes later, when they realised I was not going to play ball, they began drifting back to lessons.
"Some parents complained and I advised them they might like to investigate other schools to which they could move their children that allowed hoodies – no one left. We refer to it affectionately now as 'hoodiegate'.
"The staff saw that by standing firm we could enforce the rules and improve the learning climate. Parents also got behind us, with the majority fully appreciating the wholesale changes we were making."
Mrs Kingswood, who admits that she is a fan of "old-fashioned" discipline, said if you let the little things slide than you have no chance when it comes to bigger things.
She said: "I make no excuses for my old-fashioned approach. I had to improve this school. Every so often I have a discussion with parents who ask me, what does it matter what colour socks they wear or what their hair is like?
"If you want high standards you start with behaviour and you start with the little things which have a knock on effect so yes it will always matter to me what colour socks the students wear."
Mrs Kingwood said that hand in hand with improving pupil behaviour, is a "relentless focus" on improving the quality of teaching and learning.
She said: "I introduced a set of non-negotiable guidelines for good teaching which included: meeting the needs of all pupils; high pupil involvement in lessons; specific marking and feedback; and purposeful activities geared to achieving learning outcomes.
"I also introduced a weekly teaching and learning briefing for all staff to share good practice. We have had numerous school leadership team versus staff challenges and activities. These have included a bake-off competition and a volleyball match. While bringing staff together, it also showed the senior leadership’s human side in a fun and social situation."
Getting pupils to believe in themselves, "aim high and aspire to top grades" was a priority for Mrs Kingswood and her team.
She said: "Steps were taken to challenge pupils to think big, so I created an ‘Achievement and Aspiration Team’ with the hope of improving the quality of careers education and guidance and increasing engagement with businesses, universities and employers.
"In 2016, an alumni network was also established, allowing ex-students to celebrate and share their success with current pupils. By seeing the achievements of pupils who went before them, they could see the exciting possibilities of their future, whether going to university or entering the working world in an exciting, prospect-filled industry.
"More than two years on, our improvement journey is far from complete but encouraging signs are there, with tangible change taking place. Our Ofsted report, conducted in July 2015, noted that 'pupils wear their uniform with pride' and senior leaders had 'rapidly created a culture where teaching is improving strongly and where students behave well'. Despite being judged as Requires Improvement, we were graded Good for leadership and management and behaviour and safety. Our efforts were also acknowledged in a letter received in April 2016 from the former Head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw.
"Our student admission numbers are rising and our September intake is now oversubscribed. There has certainly been a step change and, although we have work to do, we are a school heading in the right direction."
Mrs Kingswood said it was a shame the review was published just before the summer results were released as it "would have been great to have shown how the improvements have led to a real impact on outcomes".
She said: "I am really proud that Granville was included in the review and it reflects the hard work of the staff, governors, parents and pupils to raise the bar and bring about change."