St Michael's Catholic High School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by St Michael's Catholic High School's best practice article

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 St Michael's Catholic High School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
Highlighting best practice
Excellent relationships are a key
feature of life at St Michael’s
Head teacher Edward Conway
enjoying a conversation with
some of St Michael’s students
Having been part of a team – finally as head teacher – that
took a South London school from “special measures” to
one of the most improved schools in England within three
years, Edward Conway was delighted to have a new challenge
when, in 2010, he was offered the headship of StMichael’s
Catholic High School. What attracted him to StMichael’s was
the excellent relationships that exist between the staff and
students who comprise this exceptional community. But, as
he explains here, there was still the opportunity for significant
StMichael’s is an “outstanding” 11-18 mixed Catholic comprehensive school
situated in Garston, Watford. We operate within a highly competitive environment
in South West Hertfordshire, where there are three selective schools and at least
five other secondary schools that are partially selective. In August 2017, over 80
per cent of our students gained five or more A*-C grades including maths and
English at GCSE and our Progress 8 score was significantly above average. We
enjoyed successful A-level results, with most students achieving a place at their
Although StMichael’s was considered an outstanding school when I arrived, it
was clear that certain areas within the school needed further work. At its previous
Ofsted inspection, StMichael’s had received a “good” grade for Teaching
and Learning, but it was apparent that our sixth form was not fulfilling its true
potential. Furthermore, a minority of departments were underperforming.
»Head teacher: Edward Conway
»Founded in 1955 by the
Dominican Sisters of Rosary
»Based in Garston, Watford
»Type of school: Mixed Catholic
comprehensive school for
students aged 11-18
»No. of students: 1,140
»No. of staff: 141
St Michael’s Catholic
High School
After a year working with our excellent
and extremely committed senior
leadership team, the retirement of
a number of senior staff presented
the opportunity to restructure. This
enabled us to provide an even more
effective group of leaders, with
everyone enjoying a shared vision
and commitment to excellence. We
were also able more accurately to
match individual skillsets to new roles
and appoint some fresh faces who
introduced new and innovative ideas.
The team has continued to excel
and the school has experienced
further improvements by successfully
implementing systems that focus
on refining the quality of teaching
and learning. These have included a
programme of lesson observations that
led to the celebration and sharing of
good practice, while identifying areas
for development with supporting in-
service training being made available.
Further developments have been made
in the formulation of whole-school
policy, performance review, strategic
planning and a new departmental
standards review process.
In addition to the responsibilities and
initiatives already outlined, a more
robust line management system was
introduced to support the development
of middle leaders. This ensured greater
accountability and higher standards
of teaching and learning at all levels
across the school through close
monitoring of performance.
StMichael’s became a teaching school
in 2016 in recognition of the excellent
standards achieved by our students
and staff. This has enabled us to
concentrate on three key areas: school-
to-school support, initial teacher
training and continuing professional
development. This commitment to
collaboration is something StMichael’s
is dedicated to and we find
As well as being committed to
academic excellence, StMichael’s
is pledged to a holistic approach to
educating every child in our care. Our
motto, in keeping with our Dominican
roots and heritage, is “Veritas”, Latin
for “truth”. The school was founded
by Dominican Sisters in 1955 and
since then the ethos of the school has
been, and is, distinctively religious. Our
mission statement, motto and spiritual,
moral, cultural and social education
permeate the whole of school life.
In light of this, the happiness of every
child at StMichael’s is of paramount
importance, and we strive to ensure
St Michael’s is committed
to a holistic education for
all of our students
A great strength of St Michael’s is
our students who have a genuine
desire to succeed
St Michael’s
strength is the
people who
work here,
dedicated to
excellence in
everything they
do, and our
students who
have a genuine
desire to
Highlighting best practice
that through their daily experience
all students are happy students. We
know that a student who is happy
and safe will succeed in all aspects of
school life and fulfil their God-given
An example of this is through the
extremely varied extra-curricular
offering provided. We have a strong
sporting tradition at StMichael’s, with
a large number of teams competing in
a variety of sports each week. Musical
theatre is a major feature, with our
most recent productions including Les
Misérables and Grease. Around 80
educational trips take place annually
to various countries and venues, such
as theatres, galleries and museums.
All of these extended activities are
designed to enable our students to
gain experiences that enhance their
formal curriculum.
The greatest strength of the school
is the people who work here and
the students who study here with a
genuine desire to succeed. Teachers go
well beyond their terms and conditions
to ensure that students achieve their
potential. Support, administration,
finance, site management, catering
and cleaning staff are fully dedicated
to working closely with teachers to
ensure educational success.
In addition, StMichael’s is a school
committed to social justice. Since our
60th Jubilee in 2015, StMichael’s
has supported a past student, Sister
Mary Joachim, and her “Mission of
Hope” in Ethiopia. The students have
raised money for a training college
and a school, and are now fundraising
a target sum of £80,000 to build
a hospice to provide palliative care
for up to six people. One way of
raising money is on StMichael’s Day,
September 29, when the whole school
demonstrates to the local community
its commitment to social justice by
parading in fancy dress on a sponsored
walk of five miles, with the money
raised going towards the various
projects we support. In addition,
during Lent, every tutor group is
encouraged to identify an initiative and
then implement it, again to fundraise
for our various ventures.
Previously, StMichael’s supported
projects in Rwanda following the
genocide. Over the past ten years,
StMichael’s students have raised over
£450,000. Through these collaborative
enterprises, the community of
StMichael’s demonstrates its deep sense
of social justice by not just wanting to
“live life” but to “change lives”.
Next steps
StMichael’s has a relentless
commitment to continuous
improvement in all aspects of school
life. This is made more difficult in the
current climate of continual reductions
of school budgets and significant
challenges in trying to recruit high-
quality staff. Despite these obstacles,
we are determined to continue
to provide an excellent Catholic
comprehensive education to all the
students in our care.
We encourage
every student
to develop a
deep sense of
social justice
that they do
not simply
want to ‘live
life’ but
‘change lives’
Our mission statement
permeates all areas of
school life

This article was sponsored by St Michael's Catholic High School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy