Wigston Academy

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Wigston 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 Wigston 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


Mike Wilson, head teacher
Mark Mitchley, CEO
In 2015, Abington High School and Bushloe High School, in
Wigston, Leicestershire, merged to form Wigston Academy,
part of the eponymous Wigston Academies Trust. Mark
Mitchley, CEO of the trust, spearheaded this ambitious long-
term plan to improve outcomes for children in the area to
replace the outdated three-tier system. The academy works
closely with fellow trust-member Wigston College, which
offers further education for students between 16 and 19.
Reorganising education in Wigston between the ages of 11 and
19 has undoubtedly been no easy feat, but the mixed secondary
academy now has over 1,500 students on roll in this fully
integrated and freshly overhauled new system.
We have achieved this monumental change through several principal methods.
At the centre of these is an institution-wide refocus onto learning; it may sound
strange for a school to need to do this, but a relentless focus on the actual process
of education and improving outcomes has been necessary in our case. We want the
young people of Wigston to be aptly equipped for life beyond education, and to be
able to perform modern roles in a fast-paced future.
No compromise on good education
This renewed focus on learning and outcomes has been across the curriculum.
We have not neglected the creative aspects of a student’s experience at Wigston
Academy; while we have enhanced English and maths provision, we have not done
so at the expense of creative areas.
»CEO: Mark Mitchley
»Head teacher: Mike Wilson
»Founded in 2015
»Based in Wigston,
»Type of school: Secondary
»No. of students: Over 1,500
»Motto: “Learn, Aspire,
Wigston Academy
Highlighting best practice
To achieve this, we have delivered a
considerable amount of professional
development for our teachers, and
their expertise has created a directory
of good practice to consult for any
educational situation that may well
arise. We have many of the answers
to any possible issues in-house and a
talented staff team. It’s been a very
successful process. Where we don’t
have the expertise, we have gone
outside to acquire it, and this has
led to an outward-facing mentality
all across the school; we also look to
other academies and trusts for further
collaboration. Looking at recent
developments across the educational
landscape to promote and provoke
change in our school, which has
been historically insular, has been
Our key school values are based on
one thing: getting our students a good
deal. The world outside is tough; the
job climate is not an easy one. With
the county-city border metres away,
we are a county school with city
difficulties. Over a third of our children
come from Leicester – we have an
above-average intake of disadvantaged
pupils; our inclusive attitude and
specialist provision for pupil premium
students is certainly beneficial. We try
to make sure no one individual falls
behind or misses out.
Journey and growth
The trust is young but successful,
having been formed only 18 months
ago, but the journey prior to this was
not easy. When I arrived, Wigston
College was judged to be in “special
measures”; the next inspection,
however, was graded as “good”. This
is very rare, as usually, schools must
first reach the “requires improvement”
stage. This was all thanks to a large-
scale restructure of both senior and
middle leadership teams, and stripping
away all unnecessary elements of
the teaching process. Absolutely
critical to this transformation has
been one of the key architects for all
constituent changes, Mike Wilson,
the head teacher of both Wigston
Academy and Wigston College. With
the trust’s support, he was able to
bring the college from “inadequate”
to “good” and is now focusing on the
academy; he is a man of skill, principle
Securing this trajectory has required
a real turnover of staff to ensure
the right quality of teaching; where
necessary, we have brought in external
replacements for teachers who are
more suited to Wigston Academy
than the prior two high schools it
was amalgamated from. To achieve
this, we enhanced our recruitment
process, and looked principally for
GCSE experience. Staff, as a result, are
now highly skilled across the board
– where we have been unable to
find an alternative with the requisite
talent and experience for certain
roles, we have left the post vacant.
We are better off without staff that
cannot appropriately deliver required
outcomes and give our students the
teaching they need.
As a result, in a time where schools,
especially those locally, are losing
pupils across the board, we are
retaining ours, even after a period of
seismic change.
Inquisitiveness – another
key value
Our key
school values
are based on
one thing:
getting our
students a
good deal
Seeing these changes realised
Constantly raising expectations at our
school has been integral to this process.
What might have been sufficient one
month will often not be the next –
we keep raising the bar so we can
continually improve. Our adaptation to
the new GCSE specification has been
a prime example of this, having been
an opportunity to really change things
at a fundamental level; even the most
experienced teachers have had to learn
Our improvements have not simply
been across academic areas, however.
The school is now renowned
locally for music, drama and dance
performances. In all sports, we have
a regional competitive record and are
regularly district champions in futsal,
football and basketball. We also have
a significant national presence in
football, rowing and athletics.
We have a specialised provision and unit
for ten autistic members of the student
body; this is also balanced with time in
the main school to ensure a constant
attitude of inclusivity. Their progress
since the foundation of the academy has
been spectacular, and they are receiving
a life-changing education. The entire
initiative is a wonderful, life-affirming
thing to witness, and I personally believe
there is no better example of this
programme in the entire country.
Looking to results
Amalgamating two historically beloved
high schools has been a difficult
process; previously earlier stages in
the three-tier system operated with no
measured success. The college, then,
would have to deal with a number of
underperforming students, all at once,
right at the top end of the model.
Though students have expressed their
happiness with the previous structure,
Ipersonally believe that it was a short-
term attitude. With a focus on advice,
guidance and preparation for the next
stages of education, right from year 7,
I believe that the entire process is now
far healthier for everyone involved.
The real challenge that lies ahead
is ensuring we can prove that this
decision was the right one. We need
to see results, of course, to realise
this; and that will take a few years,
but everyone involved at Wigston is
confident they will come. Until then,
we will keep preparing students for life
in modern Britain and enable them to
get the most from their education.
We will keep
students for
life in modern
Britain and
enable them
to get the
most from
We have a reputation
for sport and performing
School days are special,
and we want our
students to be happy


This article was sponsored by Wigston 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