St Thomas More School is a co-educational Catholic Academy which provides for the education needs of 11-18 year old pupils from the west of Gateshead L.A. Our school aims to provide a stimulating and encouraging environment within which students can attain the highest standards of which they are capable, and to assist them in taking their place in the world outside school in a useful and fulfilling career, with a firm sense of Christian commitment.
In January 2014 the school founded a multi academy trust, the St Thomas More Partnership of schools at the request of a primary feeder school. The trust now comprises St Thomas More Catholic School, Sacred Heart RC Primary School Byermoor and St Matthews Prudhoe.
The School has a dedicated team of teachers, both catholic and non-catholic, who work tirelessly to fulfil this aim.
St Thomas More School has developed over the past 25 years into a large, highly successful comprehensive school with extremely good examination results at every level, an intake of 235 and a long waiting list of parents seeking admission for their children. The Sixth Form is truly comprehensive with exceptionally high return rates and a wide range of courses that cater for the range of abilities of the pupils. The progression rate to Higher Education is extremely high, including successful Oxford and Cambridge entries on an annual basis.
Our most recent OFSTED inspection (October 2013) said:-
“This is an outstanding school. It provides students with high quality education, linking outstanding academic achievement to splendid personal development. An exceptionally strong Christian ethos pervades the school”.
“Students make outstanding progress and achieve highly in a very wide range of GCSE, AS, A-level and vocational courses. The proportions exceeding expected progress including in English and mathematics are high. They join Year 7 with above average attainment in English and mathematics and proceed to gain GCSE results which are well above the national average. The picture is similar in the sixth form where students build on the very strong foundation provided by their GCSE work to attain well above-average results at AS and A-level”.
“Students in all year groups including the sixth form display exceptionally positive attitudes in the classroom and conduct themselves in a very mature manner when they are socialising or moving around the site. They are exceptionally eager to do well and to participate in all of the activities that the school offers them. Examples of this are the very large numbers of students who participate to a high standard in sport, drama and music. In the classroom they relate outstandingly well to each other during discussion and debate, and fully recognise that teachers and their assistants go out of their way to ensure that all their needs are fully met”.
The catchment area provides the school with pupils who are neither excessively deprived nor excessively affluent. Cognitive ability tests show that the ability profile of the pupils is as near a normal distribution as one can reasonably get for a comprehensive school; there are fewer very able pupils than the national norm, however, and also fewer of the least able.
Despite unprecedented change at National level, the School has sustained its focus on the factors that we believe are essential for success – good teaching, teamwork and commitment amongst the staff, together with excellent behaviour and attitude from the pupils.
A strength of the School is the concentration on Teaching and Learning and the ethos within the staff to explore new ideas and to look constantly for improvement. Our commitment to good teaching is illustrated by the development of a dedicated Teaching and Learning team. The Teaching and Learning Coordinators (Internal ASTs) have time to work with staff and to research and experiment with new teaching methods. There is a culture of sharing good practice, supportive lesson observation, peer observation and exploring new ideas by means of Teaching Methods Groups. The School is also involved in exploring new ways of improving Teaching and Learning through the use of ICT.
We have always recognised the importance of developing our staff skills and we allocate a significant part of our budget into doing this. Our efforts in this area have been recognised by our success in gaining the Investors in People award for a fourth time and we have also been awarded Teaching School status and are committed to sharing good practice in the region.
Teamwork amongst the staff has been engendered by appropriate delegation and consultation and by creating an atmosphere in which staff feel comfortable and supported when expressing their talents in the interests of the school. An atmosphere of mutual respect and a sense of being valued, essential to the development of teamwork, are also central to our Christian Mission.
The high behavioural standards have been reached by the emphasis we have placed on the spiritual and moral development of the pupils. Morality is taught as a belief and as a fundamental part of living, not just as an academic issue. The creation of a loving and caring community in which the pupils feel secure and valued is essential to our mission as a Catholic school. We teach our pupils to respect their teachers and each other. We achieve this through praise and motivating encouragement as well as by the use of appropriate punishments when needed – as would be expected from good parents. By concentrating on these issues, we hope to develop in our pupils attitudes that make them receptive to the leadership and direction given by the staff. We are ambitious for our pupils and have high expectations of them. This is transmitted to the pupils and, by working together, we have developed a strong work ethic to help us realise our goals.
We believe that our strategy has been successful since the school has achieved academic standards well beyond what could reasonably be expected from pupils with similar ability levels and social background. The conduct and attitude of our pupils has been commended on countless occasions.
We recognise that we must always remain open to new ideas while sustaining the practices that have brought success and, in our view, will continue to do so. In this regard, we are developing a standard programme of staff development applicable to all members of the teaching staff. It is our intention to put considerable resources into the continuous improvement of staff skills and knowledge. This should have a long term impact on the quality of the teaching.
The school has featured as an example of good practice in two White papers; ‘Excellence in Schools’ and ‘Schools Achieving Success’. We were also used as a Case Study in the OFSTED document ‘Effective Sixth Forms’.
In 2015, Year 11 students posted excellent results: 71% of the pupils achieved 5+ A* to C including GCSEs in English and Mathematics at grade C or better. At ‘A’ level the percentage of grades A and B was also very good with 51% achieving these grades against a background of a high return to Sixth Form. We gain excellent results in the wide range of vocational courses that are provided.