Whitley Bay High School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Whitley Bay High 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 Whitley Bay High 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


Head teacher, Steve Wilson,
at an MFL Gifted and Talented
Art and Media Studies
trip to New York
Whitley Bay High School is a mixed 13–18 comprehensive
High School maintained by North Tyneside local
authority. The Whitley Bay area is unusual because it
has the three-tier system with eight first, four middle and two
high schools. The schools work closely together to provide an
excellent education for students. Our last Ofsted, in May 2013,
rated the school as “outstanding” in all categories and our results
have improved further since this report. Our 2017 GCSE results
placed us as one of the highest performing schools in the north
of England for attainment and progress. Also, despite an inclusive
post-16 entry policy, our average grade at A level was aB.
Steve Wilson sets out the challenge of leading an already
successful school
Having been a member of the school’s leadership team since 2004, supported by
an active body of governors, I knew what the school’s success was built on. The key
factors were:
»Our distinctive ethos
»Outstanding teaching and learning
»A highly committed staff
Distinct ethos
Visitors to the school comment on our distinct ethos built on strong positive
relationships between staff and students and the desire to help students not just
»Head teacher: Steve Wilson
»Founded in 1963
»Based in North Tyneside
»No. of students: 1,619,
including 530 in the sixth form
»No. of staff: 160 (103
teaching staff, 57 support
»Ofsted: “Outstanding”, May
»One of England’s first teaching
Whitley Bay High
Highlighting best practice
acquire knowledge but develop a love
of learning and become curious, happy
learners with high self-esteem. Despite
all the changing curriculum pressures,
we have stuck to our principles and
staff devote a huge amount of time
to making lessons creative, interactive
and fun. It is no accident that students
and parents evaluate their school
experience so highly. Comments from
two parents exemplify this:
»“You have given my child passionate
teachers, engaging and exciting
lessons and such a positive ethos”
»“At WBHS my child has developed
a can do attitude and teachers have
made her believe in herself and given
her the confidence to really have ago”
This is achieved through outstanding
teaching and careful support. We never
forget the value of praise – indeed one
of our by-lines is “catch students being
good” - we absolutely believe that all
students have a talent/talents that we
recognise and acknowledge.
We do not want students to leave
school with excellent results but not
having enjoyed their school experience.
Staff give generously of their time
resulting in students leading busy
lives. Large numbers of students are
involved in a whole variety of sports,
from early morning clubs, to after
school activities, matches and national
competitions. Music, drama and art
thrive. There are frequent concerts
involving choir, wind, strings and
contemporary bands. We promote a
love of literacy and numeracy through
clubs such as the student staff reading
group, STEM and robotics clubs. We
work with our student council to ensure
all interests are catered for – this led
to the creation of a comic and manga
club. Educational visits are numerous
including an art and media studies
trip to New York, history to Russia,
geography to Iceland, applied studies to
Barcelona and a year 10 activity week
in Dubai.
The library is at the centre of school
life and has a hugely positive impact
on learning. Amongst many activities
it runs a Christmas lectures week, a
maths fest week and a week-long
Literature and performing arts Festival
every summer term. It also plays a
critical role in raising achievement with
such initiatives as “Rise and Read” and
the year 9 reading challenge.
Outstanding teaching and
Mike Hughes, educational consultant,
referred to us in his recent book as
an “extraordinary school”. He said:
“Whitley Bay High School’s success
has been achieved without sacrificing
children’s learning and enjoyment.
Indeed, Ofsted describe lessons as
exciting and innovative – I would
describe them as typically ‘Wow!’”
Students achieving their potential does
not need to be at the expense of their
enjoyment of learning. Our training
reflects this and our number one priority
is that teachers enjoy training, engage
actively with it and learn from it.
Some clear milestones in our success are:
»Our decision to reduce the
curriculum by one hour a week so
that staff have dedicated time each
week to high-quality training.
Our in-house CPD programme
Teaching is outstanding.
There is an absolute
determination amongst all
staff to ensure that lessons
are exciting and effective.”
You (WBHS)
have given my
engaging and
lessons and
such a positive
evolves year on year based on
changing priorities.
»The building of our observation
gallery so that creative teaching
could be modelled. We introduced
a gallery week in the summer
term allowing staff to observe as
many colleagues as they wished.
This showcased our teaching and
explored where we and teachers
from other schools felt we could
improve. This links to our culture
that everyone is a learner and we
can always improve.
»Our involvement in the DfE’s
Workload Reduction Project allowed
us to successfully investigate how to
reduce teacher lesson planning time
while improving the quality of lessons.
Evolution not revolution!
The leadership team set out simple
criteria to assess the school’s progress:
»GCSE/A level progress
»Student enjoyment
»High staff morale
I am a great believer that small
changes can lead to big improvements.
This led to the introduction of:
»“Drop Down Days” for the core
subjects – all year 11 students are
taken off their normal timetable to
spend full days mastering skills in
English, maths and science.
»Streamlined department action plans
– these became simply five-point
plans that, based on the previous
year’s results and experience, would
lead to improvement in outcomes.
This reduced the workload for heads
of department and led to improved
GCSE results.
»Kept year 11 in school longer and
introduced an alternative timetable
during the examination period
consisting of revision sessions, exam
warm ups and examinations.
»Increased contact time for English
and maths in year 9 to help students
develop the skills needed for the
more challenging GCSEs.
»Developed our training cycle to
adapt to the changing educational
landscape – including giving more
time for departments to work
collaboratively to prepare for the
curriculum changes.
»Focused a lot of our training on
high-quality student intervention. All
schools are data rich but using that
data to drive improvement is critical.
»Worked with staff to improve
assessment and feedback – not more
marking but rather methods to make
teacher feedback more effective for
We are determined to maintain
a motivated and happy teaching
environment, with support staff
who enjoy work and make clear
their pleasure in working with young
people. We want training to enthuse
our teachers so that they can inspire
students to exceed their potential. We
want every child’s experience in school
to be a happy one where their self-
esteem constantly grows. Not an easy
task – but an ideal worth striving for.
achieving their
potential does
not need to be
at the expense
of their
enjoyment of
Year 9 students surfing
on sports day
Geography field trip to


This article was sponsored by Whitley Bay High 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