Cottenham Village College Celebrates Another Outstanding Endorsement

++ National Charity gives Cambridgeshire school top marks across the board once again ++

++ Principal ensures ‘not a moment is lost’ when students enter Cottenham ++

Cottenham Village College is today celebrating the findings of a second external review by national education charity, Challenge Partners.

The professionally led peer review rated the secondary school at its highest grading, “Leading” in all categories: leadership at all levels, quality and provision of outcomes, and more widely for disadvantaged pupils and pupils with additional needs.

Challenge Partners is a charity that works with over 400 schools nationally, carrying out annual Quality Assurance reviews of schools focusing on leadership and teaching and learning. Cottenham Village College is part of the Astrea Academy Trust, a family of 25 schools in Cambridgeshire and South Yorkshire.

In the report, Challenge Partners highlight that leaders have focused relentlessly on developing a rigorous and innovative curriculum that is tailored to meet the needs of each individual student. They are praised for setting the same high expectations for all groups of students. Reviewers say that students are rightly proud to be members of the college community.

The review took place in October and notes the following:

  • Leaders, including governors, have developed a clear vision for the future direction of the college that is shared by staff and students alike.
  • Leaders are routinely invited to contribute to courses for those preparing to enter the teaching profession and to the wider professional development programmes offered by the Astrea Academy Trust, as well as being invited to present at regional and national conferences.
  • The culture and climate for learning across the college are exemplary. Students are eager to engage in the extensive range of musical, sporting and wider extra-curricular activities.
  • Students’ behaviour and attitudes to learning in and out of classrooms are exemplary.
  • Students know what to expect in their various lessons across the different subjects that they study. They say the way that they receive written and verbal feedback is very helpful.
  • Students benefit from the challenging and engaging activities that their teachers plan for them. They are provided with clear explanations and real-life examples, which enable them to better grasp new learning.
  • Work in students’ books shows a clear progression in their learning and demonstrates the sequential building of knowledge.
  • The pastoral support system has been restructured to ensure that there is an even closer working relationship with individual families. This personalised approach means that overall attendance is now above the national average and the rates of persistent absence are below the national average.
  • Teachers are giving enhanced focus in developing students’ reading and phonics skills. The school library is not only used constantly through the school day, but is particularly busy during lunchtimes, with students reading for pleasure and wanting to engage in research to support homework.
  • All students follow the same curriculum at Key Stage 3. Specialist teachers work quickly to ensure that disadvantaged students and those with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) are able to access it. Immediate support is given any students who are struggling.

The reviewers also pointed to the extensive range of external agencies the academy works with to support and advise students on contemporary issues. They gave an example of a speaker who sensitively introduced students to issues concerning mental health. Reviewers commented that the behaviour and response of students to follow-up questions were superb. They also note that students speak of how the SHINE programme – which rewards students for successes they have achieved outside of the classroom – supports them to develop into well-rounded citizens as well as preparing them for the next stage in their education.

In recent years, the progress of pupils by the end of Year 11 has placed Cottenham Village College in the top 20% of schools nationally. An increasing proportion of students get the highest grade at GCSE. Reviewers say this is testament, not only to the hard work that they put in, but also thanks to the rigorous curriculum. In the 2019, over 120 students gained the highest grade 9 at GCSE. For the past two years the progress of disadvantaged pupils has been in line with that of other students nationally. As such, the reviewers say these students are very well prepared for their next steps.

Libby Nicholas, Chief Executive of Astrea said:

“This review makes clear that Cottenham Village College are now leaders in their field – not only locally but nationally too – sharing their knowledge and skills all over the country. These students are very lucky to have the inspirational Principal Helen Cassady and her team who are utterly focused, no matter what, on providing an education to their pupils that inspires beyond measure. Huge congratulations to Helen and her team for another resounding endorsement.”

Principal Helen Cassady said:

“We have a strong ethos at Cottenham Village College and it is through aspiration and endeavour that we ensure we flourish. We are absolutely delighted that the reviewers have recognised our efforts to realise our vision through our ambitious and demanding curriculum, alongside our pastoral support and extra-curricular activities.“Our big focus now is continuing to drive and enhance our positive culture and ethos to achieve the very best for our students. My congratulations to the team who continue to achieve incredibly well. These superb outcomes are well-deserved.”