Torquay Academy

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Torquay Academy'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 Torquay Academy 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

Principal Steve Margetts
in front of the school’s
“Vision2020” wall
It is important that every student is fully
prepared to learn in every lesson
Torquay Academy is a mixed 11-18 school based in the
coastal town of the same name, and it opened its sixth form
in 2013. Its catchment area varies greatly in demography
and includes wards that are among the most deprived in England.
Principal Steve Margetts joined the school in 2014, and alongside
his leadership team set about creating a vision owned by the whole
school and wider community. Here they present their strategies
for raising the standards of the students through increasing the
depth of professional development for their teaching staff.
Within the small local authority of Torbay there are three grammar schools, one school
with a grammar stream, one faith school and three community schools. Of Torquay
Academy’s pupils, 45 per cent are classified as disadvantaged and 92 per cent are White-
British. Five GCSE passes including maths and English stood at 28 per cent in 2014 –
this figure increased to 75 per cent by 2017. The school is now heavily oversubscribed.
Improvement journey
The whole school set about creating a vision that was owned by all of us and our
surrounding community. The staff and other stakeholders created a “Vision 2020”
document that outlined the school we aspired to have as a beacon in the heart of
our community. A detailed document was produced that was then distilled into a
graphic which is displayed in the main atrium of the school to this day.
We then set about creating a culture that is underpinned by the highest
expectations of every member of the school community in all situations. We do not
look out of the window searching for excuses to explain our students’ achievement
»Head teacher: Steve Margetts
»Founded in 1939, academised
in 2013
»Based in Torquay, south
»Type of school: Secondary
academy for students aged
»No. of students: 1,450
»No. of teaching staff: 80
»Music courses are so popular
at GCSE level that students
must audition to get on them
»We provide an extensive range
of sporting activities that
have gained the school great
Torquay Academy
Highlighting best practice
and progress; white working class,
coastal town, high unemployment,
low aspirations, high pupil premium,
grammar school authority – you won’t
hear our team using these as reasons
to explain away outcomes. From this
determination the mantra “everyone
succeeds” wasborn.
Success is continually celebrated
throughout the school. Honours
boards are placed at the entrance to
the school where you can find the
names of students who have gone to
university, 100 per cent attendance,
displayed outstanding effort, been
awarded sports and performing arts
colours and selected as head boy and
head girl. We celebrate stars in each
subject every half-term and certificates
are awarded for accumulating house
points. Students proudly wear badges
awarded for these achievements, as
well as manyothers.
As we set about our improvement
journey we used the principles
of marginal gains to make small
improvements to every area – the result
of this was a transformational change.
Deepening professional
If you ask us what was the key to the
improvement in students’ achievement
and progress we will say it was down
to the quality of the teaching staff. The
most important factors in helping our
students to exceed their target grades
are the teachers who stand in front of
them 5 hours a day, 190 days peryear.
Torquay Academy invests heavily
in its teaching staff. Professional
development in the school is based
upon Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a
Champion (TLAC) strategies. This
enables the whole school, staff and
students, to have a shared language
about classroom techniques. These
sessions ensure that staff improve
because of their half-termly twilight
sessions, but it is the weekly coaching
sessions which we believe have the
greatest impact. Every member of
teaching staff at Torquay Academy has
weekly coaching.
All of Torquay Academy’s coaches are
either part of the lead practitioner or
senior leadership team. Each week’s
coaching starts with a 20-minute
in-class observation by the coach
– this provides the basis for the
follow-up coaching conversation.
The 20-minute conversation, which
takes place in the same week, begins
with “appreciation” where the coach
highlights a real positive based on
what they have seen. This moves onto
“scrutiny”, which is the key part of the
conversation. The teacher is asked to
identify what the action step for the
next lesson should be. If the coachee
cannot swiftly suggest an action step,
it will be up to the coach to identify
one. The “action step” is a simple
and clear development in teaching
that can be implemented during the
next lesson. The coachee records it in
their coaching booklet. The rest of the
coaching session – called “practice”
– is spent rehearsing the action step.
The school believes that
every one of its students
has the ability to go on
to university
The most
factors in
helping our
students to
exceed their
target grades
are the
teachers who
stand in front
of them 5
hours a day,
190 days
Thismay involve the coach modelling
it, but the key is that the teacher will
not be carrying out the action step for
the first time live in front of a class.
Coaches record all the action steps in
a centralised document that provides
an overview of the techniques that
staff are currently developing. The
document has the following headings:
»Date in class
»Lesson room
»Action step and date agreed
»Action step progress
»In-class coaching notes
This is a significant investment of time
and money by the school, but it is
paying great dividends.
Leaders at Torquay Academy understand
that teaching here is hard work. We
have the highest expectations for every
member of our school community
– staff and students alike. There are
several things we do to try to reduce
workload and stresspressures:
»Clear behaviour policy where
poor behaviour is never tolerated.
Teachers can focus on teaching.
»Centralised planning to ensure
teachers aren’t responsible for
planning every lesson they teach.
»No written reports.
»Centralised detentions.
»Written feedback is only given where
»Centralised homework means it
doesn’t have to be thought of,
set, collected and marked for each
»Coaching and continuous
professional development enables us
all to become better teachers.
»Teaching your subject specialism.
We are happy with the progress we
have made to date but know there are
many more improvements to be made.
The future will require our continuing
focus upon every minute detail of what
we do, ensuring that teaching gets
better and systems improve. Ultimately,
we want to see our students improve
their outcomes further and have a
greater proportion of them go on to
top universities.
We have been delighted to be able to
share our story of success. Andy Buck,
the founding director of Leadership
Matters, who works with the school,
encouraged me to write about the
school’s approach in a book entitled
Everyone Succeeds.
We have the
for every
member of
our school
– staff and
students alike
The extra-curricular offer
plays an important part in
the school life

This article was sponsored by Torquay Academy. 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 Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy