Swakeleys School for Girls

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Swakeleys School for Girls'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 Swakeleys School for Girls 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
Sue Pryor, head teacher
An outstanding girls’
comprehensive school
Based in the London Borough of Hillingdon, Swakeleys
School for Girls is a girls-only comprehensive school with
a mixed sixth form and approximately 1,100 pupils from
ethnically diverse backgrounds. Approximately one-third of the
pupils are from disadvantaged backgrounds and the attainment
on entry is just below the national average. Despite this, the
school is hugely successful in raising achievement and ensuring
that all pupils make excellent progress. For the past five years it
has received awards for both progress and attainment at GCSE.
The ALPS (A-level performance system) places academic sixth
form results in the top ten per cent of sixth forms. The school is
also hugely oversubscribed and has been extremely successful in
terms of raising aspiration. The head teacher, a National Leader
in Education and a lead Ofsted inspector, Sue Pryor, gives an
account of this journey towards excellence.
The starting point and goal
When I arrived at the school in 2005, our key challenge was to change the culture
to ensure that pupils and staff were not happy to achieve “average” outcomes. We
wanted to raise the aspirations of our community, so that pupils, parents and staff
believed that “anything is possible if you try hard enough”. To do this, we needed
to implement systems and strategies to ensure the highest possible standards of
behaviour, outstanding teaching and learning every lesson and excellent pastoral
care. This was our challenge; what follows is the solution.
»Head teacher: Sue Pryor
»Founded in 1952
»Based in Hillingdon
»Type of school: All-girls
comprehensive school with a
mixed sixth form
»No. of students: 1,100
Swakeleys School
“Enjoy, achieve, aspire, succeed”: to
some, this ethos may not seem to
contain much in the way of substance,
but the power of this ethos lies in
its simplicity. It is something that
everyone can understand and buy
into. It is at the heart of everything we
do at Swakeleys – an approach that
seems to be paying dividends given
our Progress 8 performance. Right
now, for instance, we are in the top
10 per cent of schools nationwide
for progress achieved at GCSE in
2016, and have a Progress 8 score
of +0.6 for 2017. Alongside this, the
progress of disadvantaged students
is also outstanding. The ALPS (A-level
performance system) places academic
sixth form results of 2017 in the top 10
per cent of all sixth forms. These are all
facts of which we are proud.
It’s one thing to have these values;
it’s another to actually have them
implemented. We continued with our
approach of keeping things as simple
as possible and introduced three
golden rules to support exemplary
behaviour. These are: “do as you are
told, when you are told, at the first
time of asking”, “listen in silence
while others speak” and “keep hands,
hurtful thoughts and comments to
yourself”. We have trained our staff
on how to deliver outstanding lessons,
with minimal resources, to meet the
needs of pupils of all abilities. A key
ingredient of this strategy was the
use of AfL (assessment for learning) in
every lesson. All of our classrooms are
equipped with 30 small whiteboards
which pupils use throughout their
lessons to show their thinking, what
they are learning and what they need
to do next. Such a simple and relatively
inexpensive initiative has been one
of the most powerful in promoting
progress for all. We also made sure
that our curriculum had a focus on
stretch and challenge, such that all
learners – including our most able –
would make outstanding progress.
Seeing this, the chief executive of
the Schools Network in 2016, Sue
Williamson, remarked: “Skilled
teachers have high expectations and
ambition for every young person”.
Values taking us forward
Another unique feature of our school
is our focus on oracy. We believe
developing speaking skills is key to
raising aspiration and building self-
confidence. Oracy work within and
beyond the classroom is a high priority.
We have a large and active school
council which facilitates a whole school
debate each half term. Pupils of all
abilities and backgrounds will take
part in the floor debate to make their
voice heard. We are also equally proud
of our work leading the interfaith
network in Hillingdon. Through this,
pupils from both secondary and
primary schools are able to understand
and discuss issues relating to religion
and tolerance.
In the light of all of this, Ofsted
in 2013/14 judged us to be
“outstanding” in all areas. Something
that helped us to prepare effectively
for inspection was my own training
as an Ofsted inspector. This gave me
much knowledge about what makes
schools good and allowed me to
Year 11 girls show their
creativity in a STEM
teachers have
and ambition
for every
young person
Highlighting best practice
learn best practice. I believe firmly
that all schools, no matter what their
circumstances, have something we
can learn from. I have subsequently
become a lead Ofsted inspector
and a National Leader in Education.
Swakeleys is currently designated as
a national support school, a teaching
school and DfE sponsor school. These
achievements are testament to the
quality of leadership at all levels within
the school. As Ofsted said to us,
“leaders in this school are powerful,
knowledgeable and insightful”.
As part of our work as a teaching
school and national support school,
we have been working with other
schools to share good practice
and help them to secure improved
progress. We have worked with
Copthall School in Barnet, Connaught
School in Aldershot and Uxbridge
High School in Hillingdon. A variety
of support has been provided, such
as training for senior leaders and
governors, delivery of whole staff
training days, reviews of support for
pupils with SEND (special educational
needs and disabilities) and those
who are disadvantaged and entitled
to the pupil premium funding. We
currently have four specialist leaders
in education who are delivering the
national award for middle leaders
(NAML) qualification to 20 staff from
our own school and others in the
Hillingdon area.
The poor state of our school buildings
has been a major challenge. It took
us 12 years to secure our new build.
In 2006, we were threatened with
an attempt to turn us into a co-
educational school, against which we
fought strongly, and ultimately won.
We were then part of the Labour
government’s “Building Schools for
the Future” project, spending hours
planning for a new build which did not
happen, as the government changed.
We were, however, successful in a bid
to the coalition government’s priority
school building programme in 2012,
but only moved into the new school
building in 2017. The fact that we
maintained the high standards and
enjoyment of learning throughout this
period is testament to the hard work
and skill of our highly motivated and
talented staff. Our new state-of-the-
art building has elevated our learning
environment to a new level, and
enthuses our pupils to learn more and
strive even higher.
Our new
building has
elevated our
to a new level
Winners of House Talent
finals 2017 Day one in the new build


This article was sponsored by Swakeleys School for Girls. 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