The Earls is a genuinely ancient institution. Almost uniquely among non-selective schools we are 360 years old. Founded in 1652, we are an institution with a strong blend of the best of tradition and the best of the new. The Governors chose to become an Academy in January 2012, this does not change our admission arrangements or the service we offer the community. Whatever outer form the school designation takes we will hold to the tradition encapsulated in the school motto: ‘Ut filii lucis fiatis’, almost literally ‘to become the children of light’, that’s what we want for our students: to become enlightened.
We have 1200, 11 to 16 year old students, on role and so an intake of 240 in each year group. We also have a sizable and growing 6th form. This is in a Collegiate arrangement with Halesowen College and allows us to offer, and to deliver, over 40 A-level courses as well as the full range of post-16 vocational options.
So what do we stand for?
We believe passionately that education has one, deeply important, characteristic that nothing else can match. A good education gives the opportunity for any individual to transcend their starting point. Education is the one thing that allows us all to enhance our natural talents, gifts and abilities. That is what we strive for here at The Earls, creating enhanced life chances for our students and that needs two things to happen.
The first is to support every child in getting the best possible academic qualifications. This requires stretching and challenging the least able, stretching and challenging those of middling ability and stretching and challenging the most able – the gifted and talented. Our headline pass rates for the measurement that matters nationally, the percentage of students who get 5 or more good GCSEs including passes in Maths and English, the 5 or more A*-C (including E&M rate) was 72% last year and we are are on a continuing rising trend. In fact most students achieved 9 or more and a significant number of them had all passes at grade A or A*. Individually 81% of students passed English and 76% passed Maths. This means that we had the best results in Halesowen for the second year running, one of the best in Dudley and we are nationally in the top 10% of schools.
We would describe getting the best qualifications as “necessary but not sufficient”! We are also committed, as the second thing that needs to happen, to developing each child personally. Enabling them to work independently and to work with others, to have enthusiasm and to have resilience (because sometimes in life things do not go as well as we hope for at the first attempt), to have a care for themselves and to care for others. We want them to crave success, but not at the expense of others because we want them to have a clear moral purpose in their lives.
So, how do we actually do this?
Here we think there are three requirements that we fulfil:
Firstly, we have very high quality teaching and support.
Secondly, we have a broad curriculum – this is enhanced by our specialisms in Performing Arts, and as a Leading Edge school (because of our action research on learning) and is especially broad at Key Stage 4 (years 10 & 11) and Post 16. If you are sporty, musical, dramatic, linguistic, mathematical, we have the opportunities for you to indulge your talents, indeed, you will find it very hard not to. The following are just a few examples of this: Sports are supported by our extensive grounds that include the astro, rugby and football pitches, tennis courts, dedicated cricket pitch, fitness centre and 3 gymnasiums. In the Arts, our 2 Dance and 2 Drama studios support a massive range of activities and we host our own Dance Company and a Youth Theatre Group. Musically our facilities and activity is unrivalled, including the Little Big Band, where 25 year 7’s with no previous wind instrument experience are supported and trained as a band. We’ve been running this for 6 years now and because of it have an orchestra that is too large to fit on the stage and still growing. This year the Little String Band has been formed to run alongside it. We have more individual music tuition than any other school in the area, extensive choirs and jazz, folk and rock groups. We also run a major Musical, Shakespeare and other Drama performances each year. If you are not musical then perhaps the Chess, Film, Latin, Warhammer, or other groups are for you. And that is really just a small flavour!
Thirdly, we provide challenge for our students to make the next steps in their learning. How? We have tracking and intervention systems that follow every student’s progress closely and are updated, and reported to parents, three times a year. You will know if your child is on track and what their next steps are, you will know if they are not on track and what the plan is to support and challenge them. As parents, you will be involved. Part of that challenge is our expectation for them to behave well to create the right climate for learning. If they do not behave well we challenge them on that and if necessary we punish them. We have very clear systems for rewarding good behaviour and for punishing bad behaviour.
We expect good dress, we model it and we enforce it. We expect good manners, we model it and we enforce it. Many visitors comment on students who politely say hello to them as they walk down our corridors, we model that too. Like all good parents we care deeply about the children in our charge but our care has a hard edge to it because we expect them to engage with their learning, that’s why they are here, that’s what you send them for, that’s what we all expect.
We are, as OfSTED said, an Outstanding school. “This outstanding school provides excellent opportunities for students to thrive and develop as mature and well-rounded young people. It shows that young people can achieve exceptionally well, irrespective of circumstance.” To remain so we focus relentlessly on learning. “Achievement, including progress, is outstanding through a combination of excellent teaching, a highly motivating curriculum, which meets students’ needs well, and a highly caring and supportive pastoral system. The school’s outstanding track record of improving performance is grounded in secure, continuous monitoring and evaluation of students’ outcomes by managers at all levels.” This focus has created a school with an “exuberant learning ethos”. where “students enjoy school greatly”.
Expectations and Behaviour
At The Earls High School we have extremely high expectations of all our students, as we do of all members of the School community. As a school we actively promote respect and feel strongly it has to be given in order to be received. We believe poor behaviour should not be tolerated as its consequences deny the right of students to learn and teachers to teach. However, students will make mistakes and we believe sanctions do have to be imposed in order to maintain the highest standards. We use a stepped approach whereby students will face increasingly severe punishments according to the offence and their own behaviour record. These steps start at a warning and for the worst offenders, once we have tried everything else, will result in permanent exclusion. The most common form of punishment is a Yellow Card detention (15 minutes).
We value and recognise that the promotion and maintenance of good behaviour is dependent on the support of parents.
We believe students who achieve well, attain highly and display a good attitude should be commended. Our Rewards Scheme recognises these qualities immediately whilst also acknowledging longer term, sustained effort.
Success and achievement at school are linked to attendance. We expect students to attend unless ill and we require them to be punctual. If the attendance of a student is a problem we will be contacting parents on a regular basis in order to discuss the matter.
Clearly, in order to achieve, students must come prepared for each school day. Each lesson will demand different equipment and we need the full co-operation of parents to ensure each student is organised for the day.