Leeds West Academy

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Leeds West Academy is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.


Highlighting best practice
Our students want and deserve
the very best
Christian Wilcocks, academy principal,
visiting the Nurture Group in session
Based in Rodley, within the inner west area of Leeds, Leeds
West Academy is the largest of three secondary academies
of the White Rose Academies Trust (WRAT) sponsored
by the Leeds City College Group. Since his appointment in
September 2016, executive principal Andrew Whitaker has
strongly promoted school-to-school support to secure rapid
improvement for some of the most deprived communities in the
north of England. Christian Wilcocks, principal of Leeds West,
describes how the academy is benefiting from this association.
There is no single, magic initiative that has secured the improvement in outcomes
witnessed at Leeds West Academy in 2017. Indeed, the huge strides taken in the
first year of its journey to becoming “outstanding” marks unfinished business for
leaders, staff and students. Our drive stems from our students: an amazing group
of young people, supported by a community who want and deserve the very
best. Our academy provides the grass roots of community transformation and we
wholeheartedly accept the challenge that this vision represents.
Underpinning the developments at Leeds West Academy is a determination
to learn from the very best educators in the region, the UK and the rest of the
world. Starting with local partnership, Leeds West Academy benefited strongly
from genuine school-to-school support from its partnership with The Gorse
Academies Trust (TGAT) – an eight-school-strong group of academies, all of which
are characterised by outstanding performance. Colleagues at all levels engaged
in collaborative continuous professional development, leadership progress, and
working together on assessment and planning. Teacher training has been another
»Executive principal: Andrew
»Academy principal:
»Founded in 2009
»Based in Rodley, Leeds
»Type of school: Secondary
academy for students aged
»No. of pupils: 1,342
»No. of teaching staff: 99
»Disadvantaged students:
50per cent
»2016 Progress 8 score: –0.33
»2017 Progress 8 score: 0.00
»Part of the White Rose
Academies Trust
Leeds West Academy
key feature of the partnership between
TGAT and WRAT academies. Our
partnership in The GORSE SCITT
(School Centred Initial Teacher
Training) has brought huge benefits.
As one of the only SCITT providers
to be graded as “outstanding” by
Ofsted, Leeds West Academy has been
both a beneficiary and a contributor
to the supply of exceptional recruits
to the teaching profession, many of
whom are already teaching at Leeds
A vision of a culture of
professional confidence
After a short period of leadership by
acting principal Ben Wheeler, who
initially started the academy on its
improvement journey, I was appointed
principal and took up post in June
2017. The school had been judged as
“requires improvement” in a recent
Ofsted inspection (the 2016 Progress
8 score was a seriously alarming –33)
and staff confidence was extremely
low. In 2017 Progress 8 delivered
a 0.00 score – slap bang average
– and we aim to achieve steady
improvement, knowing it will be a
challenging task. To do this, with the
support of a refreshed and augmented
leadership team, I set about sharing a
new vision – a culture of professional
confidence, underpinned by
organisational clarity and a high degree
of technical competence at alllevels.
The tiered CPD programme
ensures teachers could access
training that is relevant to
their professional needs
Highly focused continuous professional
development (CPD), relentlessly
focused upon the four key teaching
and learning “non-negotiables”,
paved the way for more consistent
standards. The tiered CPD programme
ensures teachers can access training
relevant to their needs, in a short,
easy-to-digest format. We take great
care to ensure CPD is delivered by
a range of professionals from new
entrants to the most experienced.
We are more interested in how
well colleagues demonstrate highly
effective practice, than how long they
have been teaching or whether they
are paid as leaders. As in any period
of change, the strongest practitioners
emerged and before long, teachers
from across the curriculum, and with
varying degrees of experience, stepped
up to lead opt-in CPD sessions.
Considering the CPD programme
is voluntary, buy-in is widespread,
from Monday night “Opt-in CPD” to
our “Friday 15 Minute Forum” and
“Edubook Club”.
An inclusive approach
Our students arrive at school from a
diverse community, so many bring
with them a whole host of personal
challenges that present barriers to
their learning and limits to their
aspirations. Given these challenges, it
was abhorrent that the academy had
one of the highest rates of fixed-term
exclusion in the city of Leeds. The new
“Positive Behaviour” policy set out to
reduce radically fixed-term exclusion,
through a calmer and consistent
Student parliament
– underpinning
improvements that
matter to our students
We are more
interested in
how well
highly effective
practice, than
how long they
have been
teaching or
whether they
are paid as
Highlighting best practice
approach to behaviour management.
In 2016-17, Leeds West reduced its
rate by 50 per cent and, in 2017-18,
we are forecasting a further 60 per
cent reduction. It is not, however,
simply the behaviour policy that has
supported this reduction in days lost
to education. The investment in a
new Nurture Group for September
2017 has started to have a profound
impact: targeting support at the most
vulnerable young people and those
most at risk of exclusion.
The Nurture Group, built upon the
six principles of nurture as advocated
by The Nurture Group Network, has
proven a lifeline for young people
from all year groups. Students receive
focused intervention in a purpose-
built room while remaining an active
part of their mainstream classes.
The intervention is tailored to each
individual, providing whatever help
is needed to remove any barriers
to learning. The staff are key in the
success of The Nurture Group – they
are role models to our young people.
Food is shared at breakfast and social
times, the students cook and eat
together, providing regular opportunity
for social learning. Our investment in
this provision has been instrumental in
driving down our reliance on external
providers to deliver effective support to
some of our most vulnerable students.
An academy serving an area of
significant disadvantage means
we have to take close care of our
resources to ensure appropriate
support reaches those students who
need it the most. The development of
Pupil Premium Pathways at Leeds West
Academy revolutionised our approach
to our deployment of resources and
support. Students were allocated
to discrete Pupil Premium Pathways
(Pathway 1 to Pathway 4) depending
on their individual circumstances.
By identifying specific barriers,
personalised strategies for each
student were developed and securely
shared with teachers and support
staff through our in-house ANT
System. Initially designed to enable a
collaborative approach to meet the
students’ specific learning needs, the
ANT System allowed colleagues from
across the academy, dynamically to
access strategies that were proven best
to support individual students, but
that also contribute to the database of
personalisation strategies. The result
is a system that seamlessly supports
effective personalisation for all
students – at the touch of a button.
Our most recent endeavour aims to
ensure Leeds West Academy is at
the forefront of educational research
and developments in teaching
and learning. Our Performance
Management priorities require all
colleagues to engage in practice-based
research throughout each academic
year. This research project can be
driven from their own identified areas
of professional development, or
simply a strong professional interest
in a particular aspect of pedagogy.
Either way, we are anticipating this
will have a significant impact on
securing our joint vision shared with
the White Rose Academies Trust: a
culture of professional confidence, that
will deliver sustainable outstanding
outcomes for our students.
The staff are
key in the
success of The
Nurture Group
– they are role
models to our
young people
The “Friday 15-Minute


This article was sponsored by Leeds West Academy. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.