Five years ago, Ofsted established Maidenhill School’s status as a GOOD School. Inspectors commented that students were ‘confident, courteous and extremely proud of their school’ and that they make ‘good progress in a wide range of subjects including English and Maths’.
Since the 2017 inspection, Maidenhill School has gone from strength to strength and another routine Ofsted inspection in March 2022 has again confirmed that it remains a GOOD School.
Headteacher Pam Wilson has worked at Maidenhill since 2007 and was appointed to the role of head ten years ago. She told Stroud Times about her philosophy and future plans for the school and its 757 students.
“There have been huge changes in the way we’re perceived by the local community. There is a real positivity around the school – we are oversubscribed in our lower year groups now and that’s working its way through the school. But I think there’s a real appreciation amongst community members and families about what we stand for, and we are very much about serving our families, our community, and we are really inclusive. That’s a word a lot of schools use, but we live and breathe it.
“We really put a lot of store in celebrating students’ success, so you will see students’ work all around the school. We are developing a culture of positivity and a ‘can do’ attitude – and that was particularly evident during COVID where obviously we were thrown various different challenges, but as a school we really came together and it was all about, ‘okay, we’ve got this, what can we do for the students to make that as good as we possibly can?’
“We did a staff survey in February and 100 per cent of the staff said they enjoyed working at Maidenhill and valued it and the culture and the ethos of making things work for the students.
“Our students are very normal young people. Some of them have additional challenges in their lives, but what we do is we talk about those being challenges, not barriers, and our job is to show them the way through so they can achieve their personal best – that’s another thing that we live by, that every student is an individual, every student matters.
“There are three things that we live by: ‘be kind, work hard and look smart’, and those are three things that underpin everything that we do. We’ve got really committed staff and we have a really committed governing body as well. They bring different skills and experiences themselves and they really support the work of the school and challenge us as well. They hold us to account, but we’re all moving in the same direction. We all want the same for the students.”
Maidenhill has 757 students aged 11 to 16 and each year group has 157 students: “That’s something I don’t want to change because I think one of the really unique things about our school is that relative to many secondary schools, we are smaller and 157 in a year group is smaller than many schools and it enables us to know the students,” explained Ms Wilson.
Staff engage with students from an early age about their post-16 choices, and where they will continue their education, whether at a sixth form, a college or an apprenticeship.
“Some of them go to Cirencester College, some go through to Hartpury, some go to GlosCol, so they go off in all different directions, but they’re making a deliberate choice about what to do. There’s a danger I think at the age of 15 or 16 that you drift into maybe the sixth form at your school. Whereas ours, because they all make that decision, we do a lot of work to support making that decision.
“One of the significant things we do is that we divide our school population into four. We don’t call them houses because we didn’t want them to be focussed on sport or music, which traditionally often houses are. We call them learning communities. They’re named after four local hills and they are what we call ‘vertical groups’ of students,” explained Ms Wilson.
“We mix all the ages in one tutor group, so it’s what’s called a vertical tutor group. It very much supports our ethos and philosophy because it’s about students being part of a community. Every single day a year seven student has 20 minutes with the year 10 and 11s as well, so it breaks down those barriers of ‘we don’t talk to year 10s because they are scary’ which traditionally was the case; it means they interact more.
“We do tutor group activities and focus on emotional mental health and have discussions about looking after ourselves. But that’s then a mixed age group rather a specific age. It helps them understand each other and have empathy towards one another. It enables them to be seen as individual students rather than age-specific.
“The performing arts is still one of our things that we really appreciate and and put time into because again, what we find is sometimes when students arrive in year seven, their self-confidence can be a little bit down, particularly with on the back of COVID, we do a lot of work on emotion and mental health through music and through drama. It’s also about building confidence and building that belief in yourself to perform, and drama is one of the things that we really stand by. When the students are in year seven, we give them additional drama lessons because if you look at the skills they’re developing, it’s all about working together, getting to know each other.”
In the wake of the pandemic, what does the future hold for students at Maidenhill?
“Our plans for the future are to go from strength to strength. We obviously are really pleased with the Ofsted report that came through and it recognised the work that we’re doing in terms of our curriculum development.
“We want to work even harder on that. We want to really be focussing on how we help students to remember more because the GCSEs now are broader and the expectation around the wealth of knowledge that students are expected to remember, retain and apply is greater.
“Like all schools we are working on that. How do students learn and how do they learn how to remember and how do they learn how to remember and apply in different contexts? So that’s really exciting because that’s our bread and butter. But there’s a lot of research out there now about how our brains function, and it’s about embracing that and making sure that we use in that in school and do the very best that we can for the students.
“It was nice to see the Ofsted could see what we have already done and how we’re going to be building on that going forwards.”
What do the students say about Maidenhill?
Mia, in year seven, enjoys school: “I like hanging around with friends and the teachers are lovely. The work is pretty good as well, I really enjoy drama and music.
“I also do STEM club after school, it’s really fun because you get to do things you don’t do in science lessons. We do cool experiments and find out about science. I really recommend it.”
Max, in year nine said: “It’s a good school, the teachers are very helpful.” This was echoed by year seven student, Elsie: “I like going to my tutor room because my tutor’s really lovely – she makes us laugh a lot. The teachers are amazing at their jobs. They’re very helpful and ask us if we need help in case people are too scared to put their hand up.”
Barney added: “Maidenhill’s a great school, I came here on my own from my primary school and made friends really easily, it’s a great environment. Teachers are very nice.”
Students produce a school newspaper each term, called The Red Rose. Elsie helps put the paper together after school: “We all have different roles, and I’m doing the comic strip for this one and writing an article about the top films at the moment. “We work on it on a laptop and then get it printed. The first edition was a great success, and all the teachers were really impressed.”
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