Whitworth Community High School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Whitworth Community 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 Whitworth Community 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


Highlighting best practice
GillianMiddlemas, head teacher
Relentless drive to embed a culture
of high aspirations and expectations
throughout the school”
– Ofsted
Based in the town of Whitworth, Lancashire, is an 11-16
comprehensive school by the name of Whitworth Community
High School. In December 2014, it was designated as
“good” in all categories by Ofsted for the first time – a formal
recognition of the great progress made across all areas from
their time as being rated “requiring improvement”. In December
2015, their leadership and management, policies and practice
relating to all aspects of safeguarding were also judged as
“exemplary” by an HMI Ofsted team. Since then, the school has
continued to climb higher, with another “good” Ofsted rating in
February 2018. Here to tell the story of how this was achieved is
the school’s head teacher, Gillian Middlemas.
The challenge to reach “good” had undoubtedly been made more difficult over
the years by a series of inspections which had always judged Whitworth to be
“satisfactory” – ever since the first Ofsted inspection in 1992. Then, in early 2013,
the school had been judged to be “requiring improvement” across the board.
Sadly, some considered even this a generous outcome.
By June 2013, I had arrived as acting head at Whitworth Community High School,
with a weekend’s notice and initially “on loan” for the remainder of the summer
term from my role as deputy head at an “outstanding” school in the same area.
Whitworth was experiencing very difficult circumstances, with only 495 students
on roll; significant staffing issues, including long-term absence due to stress and a
reduced senior leadership team presence; a fragile atmosphere; incomprehensible
»Head teacher:
»Founded in 1965
»Based in Whitworth,
»Type of school: Mixed
secondary comprehensive
»No. of students: 630
»Ofsted: “Good”
Whitworth Community
High School
data and poor outcomes for students.
A dwindling reputation meant there
were only 90 students in year 7 and
all year groups were undersubscribed.
On the very edge of Lancashire, with
a selective grammar school in the
vicinity, Whitworth seemed to be
languishing and in danger of slipping
off the map.
Not all was negative, however. There
were fantastic staff who were ready to
step up, lovely students, great support
from Lancashire County Council and
governors and a genuine, forward-
looking commitment to improvement.
What did we do first?
We introduced the “7 Respects”: a
code promoting respect for others,
for learning and for the community,
something which underpins everything
we do, and which ensures everyone
knows exactly what is expected of
them. We also created a culture of
high expectations and consistency,
which is at the heart of all our
It was important, too, that we focused
relentlessly on what goes on in the
classroom, on the curriculum, on
self-evaluation, on sorting the data
and on target-setting. Importantly,
we listened to student voices, gave
students responsibility and made them
By Ofsted’s December 2014visit, we
knew we had done everything we
could at that stage; something we
had to convince their team of, too.
The school still had a long way to go,
but could demonstrate sustainable
improvements. Student numbers were
rising; outcomes were improving; the
staff team had enormous potential and
parental and community support was
growing along with our reputation.
The Ofsted team gave the school both
a fantastic challenge and fantastic
encouragement, remarking that
it was increasingly characterised
by sustainable improvements and
determination, demonstrating
leaders’ detailed knowledge of the
school along with its strengths and
They additionally acknowledged
students’ pride in their school,
considering the community to be like
a family: “Students demonstrate a
real care for one another and their
teachers. They demonstrate excellent
British values, particularly in tolerance
and respect for each other, regardless
of background or ability.” As a school
community we were immensely proud
to be judged as “good”, and saw this
as the beginning of our journey to
become an outstanding school.
So what did we do next?
We built our mission statement and
our vision around “climbing higher”
because, although the Rossendale
Valley is a great place to live and work,
we want our students to broaden their
horizons, ready to become responsible,
Leaders are responsive
to meeting pupils’
needs and provide
good support for all
– Ofsted
Pupils said that
one of the
best things
about the
school is ‘the
teachers and
the help they
give you’
Ofsted 2018
Highlighting best practice
thoughtful global citizens. Our key
principles are to promote the highest
aspirations among our students; to
develop resilience, self-belief and self-
motivation; to enable every student
to reach their full academic potential;
to promote the holistic development
of every student and to develop in
them British values and, above all,
to create a safe, disciplined and
happy learning environment. We also
listened to student voices and made
improvements to some aspects of
our ageing Langspan building, which
boosted morale, made the school
a more inviting, healthier place and
improved provision for teaching and
learning. Vitally, we ensured that there
was leadership capacity at all levels.
In 2016, under the government’s
new headline measure, our students
made considerably more progress than
students nationally, placing us in the
top 25 per cent of over 80 schools in
Lancashire. Every group of learners
– boys, girls, high-ability, mid-ability,
disadvantaged and our least able
students – all outperformed Lancashire
and national averages. That’s what a
comprehensive school is about: making
sure everyone has opportunities and
everyone succeeds.
In 2017, the school achieved its best
ever GCSE results: 73 per cent of
students achieved at least grade 4
in both English and maths, and 69
per cent achieved at least 5 GCSE
A*-C grades, including at least grade
4 in English and maths. A massive
improvement from 2013 when 39
per cent achieved 5+ A*-C including
English and maths.
Our determination to identify,
focus on and monitor key priorities
to move the school onwards and
upwards led our 2018 Ofsted
inspection team to comment on our
“consistent, persistent and insistent”
approach which drives our continued
improvement. Parents told Ofsted
how the school is continuing to “grow
from strength to strength” because of
strong leadership and our “forward-
thinking, innovative and child-centred”
When I arrived at Whitworth, I never
saw myself staying here. Rather, it
seemed a great opportunity to sample
headship in demanding circumstances.
I am extremely fortunate to have had
the opportunity to build an outstanding
leadership team – the best I have
ever worked with. They’re the most
committed, balanced, generous,
talented and emotionally intelligent
team, who share the vision of
“climbing higher”, who set a clear and
ambitious pathway and who have the
drive to take our school to the summit.
One of our governors summed up our
vision and ethos,saying that it is an
honour to be part of a school where
the staff offer so much energy and
passion. “Each improvement quickly
becomes a stepping stone for the next,
with no room for complacency; just a
drive for stellar achievement, by staff
and students alike.”
Leaders set
targets for
Ofsted 2018
English is a strength of
the school”
– Ofsted


This article was sponsored by Whitworth Community 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 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