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 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