The Elizabethan 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 The Elizabethan Academy is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Christine Horrocks, principal,
with the year 9 Debating Team,
winners of the regional heat of
the national “Up for Debate”
competition and going on to the
finals at Harrow in its first year
English lesson
The Elizabethan is a medium-sized comprehensive in
Nottinghamshire, with a mixed intake. Principal Christine
Horrocks – upon her appointment as principal in 2015 –
coined a mantra reflective of her personal philosophy on teaching
and newly implemented leadership structures at The Elizabethan:
“It is all about the students”. Herein, Christine discusses her holistic
approach to leadership, the school’s values-based ethos and her
staunch advocacy of inclusive and equitable school policies.
I was appointed principal at The Elizabethan almost three years ago, having
previously been principal of a school in Lincolnshire. Some of my contemporaries
tried to persuade me not to join a school with budget issues, which was in the
bottom ten per cent of schools nationally. I had, however, been a deputy principal
at the school previously, an experience which motivated me to continue at The
Elizabethan, whereupon I strove to further nurture their inclusive environment,
within which students were viewed as individuals andcontemporaries.
As a school, we have cultivated these aspects of school life which have become
key markers of our school culture. Moreover, we have been forthright in improving
standards across the board. A focal issue in the school before I was appointed as
principal were low expectations and aspirations from some students and staff. The
drive on improving standards through quality-first teaching and formalised wave
interventions has, indeed, been relentless, and staff and students have stepped up
to the plate.
We operate a Scholar’s Programme for our more academically able students and
have linked with businesses to raise the students’ sense of achievement and value.
»Principal: Mrs Christine
»Founded in 1914, and
converted to an academy in
»Based in Retford,
»Type of school: 11-18
»No. of students: 887
»Own Cadet Force
The Elizabethan
Highlighting best practice
Staff have been empowered and are
expected to take responsibility for
their own professional development.
Where students or staff are not
operating at a level they need to be,
swift and decisive action is taken to
provide appropriate monitoring and
support. We run a talent management
programme and have been innovative
in finding ways to retain and ensure
staff are developed. For example, our
faculty leader in maths is a scientist,
who is making an excellent job of
leading in this area – with appropriate
training and support. Moreover, staff
have the opportunity for secondments
with partner schools in the local area.
I want school to be challenging but
also rewarding; I want staff to enjoy
their work. We are making inroads into
staff wellbeing, but this is challenging
with current levels of funding.
I have tried to ensure that our values
are at the centre of everything I have
done as a leader in education, values
upon which The Elizabethan Academy
has thrived. In many cases, trying to
invigorate established systems and
implement positive changes has been at
a cost. An example of this is when we
were dubbed to be a coasting school
by the DfE, a spurious allegation that
did not reflect the efforts and personal
sacrifices of my stalwart staff. We are
an inclusive school and exclusion is a
last resort. I am delighted that our latest
Ofsted inspection in May 2018, where
we were rated “good”, recognised this
as a strength and that the new Ofsted
framework will investigate those schools
who are off-rolling or leaving students
in poor quality alternative provision.
Where necessary, we have tried to re-
engage students in imaginative ways
and through appropriate, high-quality
alternative provision. These students are
usually the most vulnerable in society.
They don’t achieve Progress 8 scores,
which help in the performance tables,
but we passionately believe there is a
moral imperative to get them the best
qualifications and support possible,
often in very difficult and challenging
Our philosophy of believing education
is broader than a set of qualifications
ensures that we invest in the growth of
Dylan the wellbeing dog
assisting DEAR (drop
everything and read)
It is all about the students
We are an
school and
exclusion is a
last resort
the individual through a host of extra-
curricular programmes and an active
social calendar. Our extra-curricular
programme has expanded every year.
We have our own Combined Cadet
Force, a thriving DofE programme,
sports teams and debating club. We
have been awarded Gold Artsmark and
won Worksop Music Festival 12 years
in a row. For me, being out of your
comfort zone – whether performing
onstage or climbing to the top of
Kinder Scout – is how you develop
character and resilience. We have a
highly successful student leadership
programme and I consider some of
our student leaders to be integral parts
of my leadership team, who impart
invaluable knowledge and ground-
level feedback. Furthermore, we
endeavour to provide students with
the qualifications, skills and attitude to
be successful in the future. We have
a broad curriculum which celebrates a
comprehensive spectrum of the arts,
sports and technology and provides
our cohort with a rounded and
I spent part of my youth in India
and this demonstrated to me the
importance of education and high
aspirations and standards – not only as
a route out of poverty, but to increase
life chances. I was lucky; I had a family
who encouraged me and provided
me with a range of opportunities.
My father was ahead of his time
and believed women should be
independent and pursue careers that
fulfilled them. I am passionate about
promoting women into leadership
positions and we have a vibrant
programme at the school – launched
by Nicky Morgan at our conference
in 2015 – which benefits a variety of
schools in different counties, while
supporting and encouraging coaching
across schools in the local area. The
focus is developing leadership, and
introducing a culture of distributed
leadership has enabled the school to
really progress. I let everyone know
when I have made mistakes, which, by
virtue of honesty, enables others to do
the same without fear ofretribution.
Being a stand-alone academy suits
us, as we can make decisions quickly
and we understand and can respond
to the issues in the local community.
There is something very special about
being able to work collaboratively
and in partnership with different
organisations of our choosing, while
retaining independence. My father
once told me that if you leave the
world a better place for one person,
it is a life well lived. As teachers, we
have the ability to enrich the lives of
hundreds of people; what a privilege
that is.
We celebrate
the arts,
sports and
Geography lesson
Students performing Les

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