The Hart School

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

Headteacher Mr Chris Keen
The Hart School, Rugeley,
The Hart School is an 11 to 18 secondary school in Rugeley,
Staffordshire. The school is an amalgamation of two
predecessor schools, Fair Oak Academy and Hagley Park
Academy, both members of the Creative Education Trust. In 2015,
Ofsted judged Hagley Park as “requires improvement “but within
18 months of the merger, judged The Hart School to be “good”.
Chris Keen was appointed as Executive Headteacher in January
While there remains plenty to do following the challenge of a merger, continuous
academic improvements in the sixth form have grown our reputation. Average
grades at A-level have increased to a C+ in 2018 from a C- in 2015. Vocational
qualification grades increased from Distinction to Distinction* since 2017. Trust
and confidence in this new school has been demonstrated year-on-year by growing
pupil numbers.
The number of students being accepted into Russell Group universities has
increased 16 per cent since 2015 to 22 per cent.. Students attending other
universities has increased 20 per cent since 2015 to 65 per cent in 2018.
Progress 8 scores for the combined schools have improved from “below average”,
0.24, in 2015, to near the national average in 2017 at a score of -0.05.
Managing the merger
Support from Creative Education Trust and governors provided a strong platform to
lead the change:
»Headteacher: Mr Chris Keen
»Opened as The Hart School in
2016 on two sites, upper and
lower, following the merger of
Hagley Park Academy and Fair
Oak Academy
»Merged into one site in
September 2018
»Based in Rugeley, Staffordshire
»Type of school: Secondary
school for students aged 11
to 18
»No. of students: 1,130
»No. of teachers: 77
The Hart School
Highlighting best practice
»Creating a clear and compelling
vision for a single school, providing
excellent education at the heart of its
»A name for the new school with
historical and cultural links to the
»Consultation with parents and
pupils, keeping them aware of the
changes that were being made
and, more importantly why they
were being made, stressing the
educational benefits
»Establishing a rigorous and
robust performance management
process, in order to provide clearer
accountability for all staff
»Developing a culture of high
expectations for all, including
student behaviour inside and outside
the classroom
»Improving the quality of CPD for
staff, so that it had a positive impact
in the classroom
During 2015 and 2016, working
closely with Creative Education Trust in
anticipation of the merger, we quickly
gained an honest view of the schools
and presented a detailed analysis of
the findings. We shared with staff the
key areas for improvement: raising
standards through better learning in
the classroom and the imperative to
raise pupil expectations.
We were candid with staff about the
amount of money we were spending
on supply staff. Following an intake of
breath, there was a resolve and a will
to “change”. Now our supply budget
has reduced to around ten per cent of
the previous expenditure.
Changing cultures
A number of members of staff left
the school on account of these
higher expectations and we were
able to appoint new staff who were
excited by our vision. Now we have a
stronger and more stable team. Many
are involved in the Ambition School
Leadership development programmes,
in partnership with the trust, and we
offer regular CPD opportunities for
staff to develop their careers. Creative
Education Trust also offers experiences
of working collaboratively with other
teachers to develop and plan learning
programmes which are delivered across
trust schools. Staff retention is at its
strongest ever with, in 2018, fewer
than ten per cent of staff leaving.
Learning in the classroom improved
through staff engaging with relevant
CPD. Learning expectations were
explicitly shared and we introduced
“Action Impact Logs” to support
faculty development and “Typicality
Trawls” to ensure classroom practice
was typically good. We also provided
a systematic framework for effective
learning to inspire and stretch learners,
meet their individual needs and
develop their independence. As a
result, our recent inspection noted that
“teachers have high expectations...
lessons are planned so that pupils work
at a challenging level... teachers inspire
their pupils.”
A strong focus on all
areas of the curriculum
Support from
Trust and
provided a
platform to
lead the
Previously, pupil expectations had
been inconsistent, exclusions high
and attitudes to learning variable,
including levels of uniform and
equipment compliance. In order to
raise expectations of pupils we did the
»Implemented a formal uniform –
previously sweatshirts
»Introduced Chromebooks for pupils
from year 7
»Implemented class charts to reward
and sanction pupils
»Introduced “zones” where pupils
line up at the beginning of the day
and after lunch; they are met by
their teacher and escorted to the
classroom. We increased our pupil
population from 650 to 1,130
between the two sites overnight,
and we therefore reviewed the need
to provide our pupils with increased
structure at key parts of the day
»Implemented a year 7 to year 13
customised careers programme
to further extend pupils’ horizons
Money matters
We have been fortunate to receive
additional funding from Creative
Education Trust to bring about some
of the changes needed in the school
to accommodate our pupils. Using
existing space, we created three
additional classrooms, a new reception
area, an open-plan leadership hub,
sixth form entrance, common room
and teaching spaces. In addition, we
have new staff and pupil entrances.
In September 2019, the trust will
support the construction of a “Leisure
Dome” for indoor PE activities.
The improvements to the school
building and learning environment
provides staff and pupils with
distinctive markers, reflecting our now-
established higher expectations.
As a new school, as with many schools,
there remain prohibitive factors:
financial constraints, the recruitment
and retention of high quality staff and
the sustained building of relationships
with parents.
We remain, however, fully focused and
determined to remove barriers and
make The Hart School an exceptional
school, the school of choice for staff,
parents and pupils in our community
and beyond.
We remain
fully focused
determined to
barriers and
make The Hart
School an
Changes following the
merger have set us on
our journey to become
an exceptional school

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