Highlighting best practice
Culcheth High School –
aGoogle reference school
Mr Christopher Hunt,
head teacher
Over a turbulent 17-month period between December
2013 and May 2015, Culcheth High School had four head
teachers and many senior leadership changes which
led to the school lacking direction and being without focused
leadership. Outcomes for students dropped, staff turnover was
high and staff morale was low. The “reset button” needed to be
pressed, and through effective governance, a newly formed senior
leadership team and hard-working staff and students, Culcheth
High School developed a values-driven approach to education
and staff development. GCSE 5 A*-C including English and maths
improved from 62 per cent in 2015 to 78 per cent in 2016.
Culcheth High School has changed immensely over the last three years and has
continued to grow and develop. We are a school that truly works in the community,
with the community and for the community. It led Ofsted to comment in May 2017
that “the leadership team runs the school with an honest integrity which nurtures a
high-trust environment where pupils and staff can flourish”.
Changing the culture
Following this period of instability, which had far-reaching effects on the school
community, it was clear that the school needed to “reboot” its purpose, vision and
values. A reformed and streamlined governing body and a newly appointed senior
leadership team embarked on a mission to change the culture of the school to
ensure that everyone in the school community could live up to the school’s motto
of being “the best that we can be”.
»Head teacher:
Mr Christopher Hunt
»Founded in 1931
»Based in Culcheth,
Warrington, Cheshire
»Type of school: 11-16 local
authority comprehensive high
»No. of students: 1,144
»No. of teaching staff: 66
»No. of support staff: 46
»Ofsted: “Good”, May 2017
»School motto: “The best that
we can be”
»School values: Respect,
honesty and excellence
Culcheth High School
A series of voice activities, staff
meetings, student activities and
governing body meetings focused on
what we felt, as a school community,
we wanted Culcheth High School to be
like, moving forward.
Culcheth High School’s purpose is to
inspire students to achieve and guide
them to be confident, articulate and
skilled citizens – skills which will enable
them to thrive in a diverse British and
global community. We are a learning-
centred school, which strives to
nurture and develop students and staff
in a vibrant, tolerant and aspirational
school community. This culture is
characterised by high levels of staff and
student happiness and mutual respect
underpinned by pride, ambition and
commitment to achievement and
enrichment for all.
We strive to be a school community
where all staff are committed to our
ethos of “always learning” through
personalised professional development,
underpinned by a collaborative
coaching culture which promotes and
nurtures all staff to sustain excellence
and develop their skills.
The main thing is to keep the
main thing the main thing
As a learning-centred school, we
placed teaching and learning and
staff development at the core of every
decision made. We joined the Teacher
Development Trust Network and
engaged in its Continuous Professional
Development Accreditation
Programme. This started with a whole-
school audit of current provision and
planning of future provision. The audit
involved interviews with a wide range
of staff and it reported “a radical and
demonstrable shift in culture over the
last two years. The leadership team has
a strong vision for the school in which
teacher development is central”.
Over the last two years, Culcheth
High School gained the Teacher
Development Trust Network
Bronze Award, and it has now
been accredited with the Silver
Award for the quality and culture of
professional development. Professional
development at Culcheth High School
takes an evidence-based approach.
We have appointed a research
lead teacher, who supports the
development of teaching, learning and
assessment through evidence-based
research and best-practice studies.
Culcheth High School became a
Google reference school in December
2017 following the developmental
work we had completed with Google
and their industry partners. Google
Classroom is an integral part of
school life and staff development
Students at Culcheth
High School being “the
best that they can be”
Culcheth High
purpose is to
inspire students
to achieve and
guide them to
be confident,
articulate and
skilled citizens
Highlighting best practice
as it facilitates teaching, learning,
assessment and professional
development effectively.
To structurally support and elevate
the development of teaching, learning
and assessment we needed to further
develop leadership at all levels through
our programme for leaders and
aspiring leaders. We have cultivated
a coaching culture using our bespoke
leadership framework. We have also
developed a Leadership Development
Programme, which focuses on
embedding incremental coaching
and lateral leadership at Culcheth
A caring school where everyone
is valued and everyone values
We want everyone to work in a caring
school where everyone is valued and
everyone values relationships. We
expect all members of our school
community to be the best that they
can be and to help others to be the
best that they can be by internalising
our school values of respect, honesty
and excellence.
Staff wellbeing and reducing staff
workload is a vital part of our school
improvement plans. We have worked
tirelessly to reduce the workload
burden of staff through reviewing and
refining all school practices to ensure
that everything is about teaching,
learning and assessment. A meaningful
staff voice, a “Staff Plus” welfare
group and a continual review of
practices ensures that staff wellbeing
is at the forefront of everything that
we do.
We have always prided ourselves on
the excellent student pastoral support
within Culcheth High School which
supports students and families from
diverse socio-economic backgrounds,
recruiting students from over thirty
different primary schools from three
different local authorities.
Culcheth High School is the lead
commissioning school for Warrington
secondary schools’ award-winning
“Future in Mind” mental health
project. Working with the Warrington
Clinical Commissioning Group, the
project has led to an effective network
of fully trained staff in every secondary
school working alongside students and
health professionals to support the
mental health and wellbeing of young
people across Warrington.
At Culcheth High School, following
a period of instability, our renewed
purpose, vision and values have
provided the framework for real
school improvement that has seen a
complete change in school culture with
a relentless focus on learning, staff and
student wellbeing, and professional
development. Academic attainment
has improved and our vision and
practices have been awarded and
recognised externally by a number
of organisations including Ofsted.
Staff, governors, students and the
school community have risen to the
challenge and strive to achieve the
best outcomes that they can. After all,
our school motto has rung true and
encouraged not only the staff, but also
the students, to seize the day and take
advantage of their opportunities.
students and
the school
have risen to
the challenge
and strive to
achieve the
best outcomes
that they can
A high-trust environment
where students and staff
can flourish