Drawing on the practice of successful schools in the USA, King’s Leadership Academy in Warrington puts as much emphasis on leadership and character development as it does on academic success.
The school is the brain-child of Sir Iain Hall, knighted for his work in turning around struggling schools in nearby Merseyside. After being approached by a group of Warrington parents, he worked with a group of teachers to design a school which was informed by his years of experience and the evidence of success he had seen in US Charter Schools, which are having a huge impact in low income communities there. The parents endorsed this vision for the school so strongly that 500 of them signed their support for it in just seven days.
To deliver strong academic results, the school has a longer day and class sizes that are capped at an absolute maximum of 24 students. It also aims to raise pupils’ aspirations through strong partnerships with the University of Cambridge and the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. As they decide what they want to do in life, their goals and how they can be achieved are mapped out through a ‘flight plan’ which is unique to each child.
All pupils at the school work towards achieving the English Baccalaureate subjects in their GCSEs at 16, with studies organised around five learning cycles per year. Learning cycles feature a challenging question, regular assessment and ‘gap teaching’ to fill in pupils’ knowledge, ending with a report and a consultation evening for parents so that they understand how their children are progressing.
But it’s a commitment to development beyond the classroom that really sets King’s apart, with children offered exceptional opportunities to build their character and leadership skills. The school has a dedicated leadership curriculum, with at least 90 minutes of each week focussing on completing modules in leadership that have been endorsed and certified by the Chartered Management Institute. Beyond the classroom, students also take part in a range of activities to supplement this, including a residential leadership course at the Brathay Centre on Lake Windermere, a compulsory Duke of Edinburgh award scheme and a programme of mentoring from university students and successful business people. The school is also offers a Combined Cadet Force, with the Ministry of Defence designating them as the first state school in the country to offer a specialism in Air Power.
The belief that parents have placed in Sir Iain and his team is clearly being rewarded so far. In a recent report, Ofsted praised the school’s leaders for their vision and determination, describing how their, “relentless drive to provide a high-quality education for young people is becoming a reality”.