Headteacher Blog - September 2019

Posted on: 10th Sep

Once again we have had a busy and exciting start to a new academic year at The Downs School.  It has been such a pleasure to see the students return with such positive attitudes and an eagerness to learn.  Our Year 7s and Year 12s have settled in well and are already displaying the qualities that we expect of a Downs student.

We have had a talented group of new staff join us this year. We have 10 new teachers across  Modern Foreign Languages, Humanities, Social Sciences, Science, Music, Maths and Computer Science. We also welcome Mrs Chapman, our new Head of Department for Business Studies, and two new Assistant Headteachers. Mrs McDowell our Assistant Head for Ethos and Achievement at Key Stage 3 and Mr Mullarkey our Assistant Head for Teaching and Learning. I am sure you will get to meet some or all of them across the academic year.

As you are probably aware by now we had an extremely successful set of exam results at both GCSE and A Level, which has improved upon our strong tradition of academic success. Despite the more challenging nature of the GCSEs this year, a fantastic number of results were at grade 9, with 14% of all examinations taken resulting in grades 8/9 (A* and above) and 25% grade 7 – 9 (A and above). 81% of students achieved at least the standard pass 4 – 9 (C to above A*) in English and Mathematics, and some 56% achieved the strong pass 5 – 9 (B to above A*) in both subjects.

Achievement across vocational courses was also stunning with nine subjects delivering a total of nearly 22% of entries at grade Distinction*; the highest possible grade, and another 30% of entries at grade Distinction/Distinction*.

We had an equal number of males and females in the top 10 for attainment. Special mentions go to Alice K who secured 9 Grade 9s and an A in Extended Project, and Antoni P who got 7 Grade 9s, a Distinction in Business and an A^ in Additional Maths.

120 Year 13 students sat A Level examinations or BTECs. The outstanding results reflected the hard work and commitment the students’ had given to their learning.  An impressive 8% of entries gained A* grades, 28% A*-A grades, 56% A*- B grades and 79% A*-C grades. Special mentions go to:

  • Rachel A  - A*A*A
  • Megan B - A*A*A
  • Isabel C - A*A*AA
  • Annabel C - A*A*A*
  • Hamsini E - A*A*A*A
  • Freya W - A*A*A*
  • Holly H - A* D*D* (double Distinction BTEC).

Many of this year group are now making the preparations for university and will be heading off to institutions including Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Durham to study subjects ranging from Medicine and Maths to Natural Sciences and History.

These results mean we are once again one of the top performing schools in West Berkshire. The successes at both GCSE and A level are the result of a huge team effort and I am so grateful to the teaching staff, tutors and parents who have all pulled together, endured the stress and provided the support and encouragement necessary to make these fabulous results a reality. The challenge now is for our present Year 11 and 13 students to emulate these successes, something that I have every confidence that they can achieve.

Our federated schools - Compton and Beedon Primaries –also performed very well in the Government’s overall performance figures. 90% of Beedon’s pupils were working at the expected standard (including at greater depth) in reading, and 80% in writing, both figures higher than the national average.  Compton’s children were working at expected or greater depth in reading and writing, and in Maths, 100% of its students were meeting or exceeding expectations. Congratulations to both schools.

The Downs School is proud to play a key role in The Downland Alliance, an initiative that sees a number of Primary and Secondary schools from across West Berkshire working together to raise the achievement of all pupils in all schools in the local area by creating a self-sustaining system of school improvement. A significant part of this is delivering Teacher Training provision, and we are delighted that 23 new Associate Teachers began their training at the beginning of September. This year there are 11 primary and 12 secondary school trainees, and from last year’s cohort of 25 trainees, 65% are now employed by West Berkshire schools.

We went into the summer break being reminded by the Government that there’s no magic money tree. Now, it seems, we are surrounded by a veritable forest of them – with the most extraordinary volley of spending announcements over the past week. We will remain optimistic that the Government is committed to delivering this much needed additional funding over the next three years.

Next year The Downs School celebrates its 60th birthday, so dates for your diary include our first ever ‘Colour Run’ event which takes place on April 1, and a Summer Festival, a relaxing afternoon and evening combining theatre, music and food that will take place in the summer term. More details on these events will follow, and both will help us raise vital funds for the school. Meanwhile we remain firmly focused on providing our students with the best possible experiences both inside and outside the classroom to ensure that we move closer to realising our vision ‘Educating todays’ students for the world of tomorrow’. I look forward to working with you and your children over the coming year.

Chris Prosser


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