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 The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister