The Swanage School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by The Swanage 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 The Swanage 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
Swanage school children won
the National Young Enterprise
Tenner challenge in 2017
Students at Corfe Castle a
few miles from the school
The Swanage School’s vision is to be an outstanding school
that improves life opportunities for all students. Head
teacher Tristram Hobson describes how the school has
been created on human scale principles, meaning that strong
and genuine relationships – within the school, with the local
community and with the wider world – are at its heart.
As a school orbited by burgeoning, corporate, multi-academy trust schools, our
vision was to provide an alternative. In 2013 we started out with just 97 students,
using five rooms, in a language school just metres from the impressive school that
now acts as the gateway to Swanage itself. We knew every student then, and now,
with 310 on role, we still do.
Traditional but effective
We follow a traditional but effective curriculum which ensures that every student
in our learning community fully realises their potential and where the positive
experiences of school extend into their adult lives. Swanage itself experiences
a relatively high level of deprivation, and currently, 35 per cent of our students
are identified as disadvantaged, attracting the additional pupil premium funding
introduced to raise the attainment of such pupils. Our size and vision ensure
that these students – and indeed every student’s – needs are understood and
The Swanage School has both small and large classes, but we are committed to
providing intervention groups which target students with a range of educational
needs. Specialist high-level teaching assistants (HLTAs) teach small groups English
»Head teacher: Tristram Hobson
»Founded in 2013
»Based in Swanage, Dorset
»Type of school: Free school for
years 7 to 11
»No. of students: 310
»No. of teaching staff: Full-time
equivalent of 31
»No. of support staff: Full-time
equivalent of 9
The Swanage School
and maths in an attempt to, if
appropriate, provide the necessary
academic boost. Our team of
professionals is small. We talk to each
other, learn from each other and share
the same vision. As such our HLTAs
are exceptional, because it’s not just
organised, structured training that
takes place – it’s constant, informal
professional development. Teachers
also provide targeted intervention
sessions for our GCSE students at
lunchtime and registration; this
provides an extra hour a day to
extend the more academically able
and provide the right support where
Our weekly, county-celebrated,
continuous professional development
(CPD) sessions endeavour to ensure
teachers are reflective and aspirational,
while providing an opportunity to
share good practice. We also support
every teacher to reach their potential,
because we can. Our first set of GCSE
results placed us in the top 5 per cent
of schools – it’s working.
We don’t have a sixth form, which
enables us to focus on our year 11
students developing their resilience,
independence and sense of place in
the wider community. With just 54
students in our current year 11 cohort,
we are able to care for them as they
face the most challenging year of their
schooling; we provide food, drinks,
wellbeing sessions and much more.
We meet the needs of and care for
thewhole child.
Local school – global outlook
Opportunities beyond the core
curriculum are also at the heart of
our vision. We engage the whole of
Swanage as a learning community in
raising aspirations and achievement.
We also involve employers, businesses,
community and volunteer groups as
our partners in education, skills and
training, while also aiming to enable
the Swanage community to enjoy a
wide range of learning opportunities
in a state-of-the-art environment: our
school. We aim for students and their
parents to be inspired by a local school
with a global outlook.
Our students feel a part of our
community. Close to 40 per cent
of our school are involved in the
production of
. Significantly,
it will be performed at the Mowlem
Theatre, a theatre donated to Swanage
that allowed John Mowlem, a local
businessman, to give something back –
we intend to do the same. Students at surf camp.
The school holds a week
of challenges, some
in the UK and some
from the recent school
show at the Mowlem Theatre
Our weekly,
endeavour to
ensure teachers
are reflective
and aspirational,
while providing
an opportunity
to share good
Highlighting best practice
In 2017 it was
Rock of Ages
and the
review in the local paper reflects a reality
– being a small school doesn’t prevent us
having a big impact and a lot of talent:
The impact of the music, song
and movement was impressive,
and throughout the entire
show to the very last chorus the
dances were sharp, energetic
and high octane great fun….
the musicians….. displayed such
We’re not light on talent when it
comes to sport either. We have a
prospective Paralympian playing for
the Southampton FC CP (Cerebral
Palsy) team, students playing for both
Bournemouth and Swindon FC, a
champion golfer and a county boxer.
We are, it seems, punching above
Small school, big opportunities
Small school doesn’t mean small
opportunities. Academically, our
students can, and do, study further
maths, taught in twilight sessions by
the deputy head. Groups of students
have completed the Ten Tors, won
the national Young Enterprise Tenner
Challenge business award and held
their own against sixth formers in the
coveted ESU Schools’ Mace Debating
As a school we are transparent.
Parents and local residents are
welcomed as partners in learning.
Our parents and residents run after-
school clubs for our pupils, and every
year we have a tea party for close to
150 local pensioners, served by our
students. Good behaviour, for us, is
characterised by respect for others and
the environment, not just a successful
behavioural policy relied on so heavily
by larger schools.
Part of being at the heart of the
community is the hope that our
students can safely walk or cycle to
school. It’s also part of why we exist.
Swanage residents wanted a school
where their children could avoid long
and tiring bus journeys, an issue for
many Dorset schools.
So, has Swanage got what it wanted?
It’s got a school that focuses 100 per
cent on the individual; a school that
ensures every teacher continues a
professional journey to excellence; a
school that can think outside the box
and adjust its timetables and teacher
roles to best serve our children; a
small school. We think it has got
what it wanted and more, but it
doesn’t stop here. Ofsted judged
us as “good” but going forwards
we won’t settle for anything less
Small school
doesn’t mean
Students have completed
the Ten Tors

This article was sponsored by The Swanage 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