Excellence by stealth: achieving the best possible academic results in the most relaxed way
Pupils make good progress at GCSE and excellent progress at A level when compared with pupils of similar ability. Those with SEND and EAL make particularly strong progress.
ISI Inspection Report February 2017
Data from Durham University shows that pupils at St Swithun’s typically achieve at least half a grade higher at A level than would have been predicted from base-line data, with 25% of results a grade or more higher than predicted according to this same data. St Swithun’s is in the top 9% of schools nationally in terms of our value added in spite of the fact that significant value has also been added at GCSE (top 3% nationally at GCSE) making it more difficult for additional value added to be achieved at A level. This excellent value-added data reflects the way in which our teaching and support enable the girls to achieve higher grades than they would have believed possible.
We never put a ceiling on what girls can achieve. We will work as hard as the girls – and sometimes harder – to help them get the best possible results. We will ponder on the way to school or while having a cup of coffee at weekends how best to explain new concepts so that the girls understand, how to present material in engaging ways so that the girls want to study, how to motivate those girls who haven’t yet found their own self-discipline.
If you are wondering how this level of support prepares the girls for university, the answer is that we treat them as individuals and offer as little or as much support as necessary to achieve skills and grades. Some girls will need very little support and some will need a great deal. We have experience with both ends of the spectrum and with everything in between. Our teaching extends far beyond the classroom and will ensure that girls are prepared for university and the world of work both academically and far more broadly.
How do the girls achieve such excellent value-added scores? The girls are in classes of 12 or fewer taught by committed, experienced, intelligent and caring teachers. In many cases these teachers will already know the girls and will have formed strong relationships with them. There is much research to show that learners thrive when they know that their teachers care about them and are interested in their progress.
We offer extensive individual support and / or stretch and challenge as appropriate. For example, there are extension opportunities such as dissection club, academic lunches and BMAT preparation, and we offer individual and group interventions if we find girls falling behind. Our teachers are easily accessible outside class so that the girls can ensure they properly understand the material they are studying.
Some people wonder how we develop independence in a school environment. It is true that in general the girls are expected to be in school from 8.15-4.20, but within that structure there is plenty of freedom and independence. For example, they can choose whether to work during their study periods or not. If not working they could be having individual tennis, music or C+P lessons, they could have arranged to see one of their teachers to go through some aspect of their course, they could be having a driving lesson, they could be involved in some form of community service or they could have chosen to socialise with their friends. The choice is theirs provided that homework is submitted on time and to a good standard.
The girls can choose to have as little or as much contact with their teachers as they wish outside the classroom. They will be offered excellent teaching, extra reading, challenging enrichment opportunities, but they don’t have to take these. They might already have extremely full lives.
We offer a wide range of A level subjects in addition to the EPQ and Italian GCSE. Where we do not offer a particular A level it is generally because it is a subject that can be started ab initio at university such as law, business studies, Chinese, accountancy, sociology, environmental science or media studies.
St Swithun’s has a long-standing reputation for academic rigour and success, with girls attaining places on competitive courses at top universities in the UK and internationally.
|Destination of 2023 Leavers||Course|
|Cardiff University (x2)||Medical Engineering, Architecture|
|Durham University (x6)||Classics, Geography, Heath and Human Sciences, Modern Languages, Politics, Politics and International Relations|
|Goldsmiths, University of London||Psychology with Clinical Psychology|
|Imperial College London||Biochemistry|
|Lancaster University||Psychology and Linguistics|
|Leiden University, Netherlands||Philosophy|
|London School of Economics and Political Science||Geography with Economics|
|Newcastle University||Biomedical Sciences|
|Queen Mary, University of London||Biomedical Engineering|
|Royal Holloway, University of London||English with Philosophy|
|Royal Veterinary College, University of London||Bioveterinary Sciences|
|SOAS, University of London||International Relations|
|University College London (x5)||Economics, English, French and German, Geophysics, Linguistics|
|University of Bath (x2)||Psychology|
|University of Birmingham||Physics and Astrophysics|
|University of Brighton||Biomedical Science|
|University of Bristol (x2)||Social Policy|
|University of California, Santa Barbara (USA)|
|University of Cambridge (x2)||Medicine, Human, Social and Political Sciences|
|University of Exeter (x7)||Classical Studies, English, Flexible Combined Honors, Geography, Law, Medicine, Psychology|
|University of Leeds (x2)||Medicine|
|University of Liverpool||Business Economics|
|University of Manchester||Sociology|
|University of Nottingham (x3)||Classics and English, Architecture, Veterinary Medicine|
|University of Oxford (x4)||History and Economics, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Music, Physics|
|University of Plymouth||Ocean Science and Marine Conservation|
|University of Reading||Business Economics|
|University of Sheffield||Medicine|
|University of St Andrews (x3)||Sustainable Development, Biology, Economics|
|University of Warwick||Law with French Law|
|University of York||Chemistry|
St Swithun's offers a comprehensive careers and higher education advice and support service for sixth form students through the student guidance department. Our Oxbridge programme is part of our wider whole-school academic enrichment programme which provides another elevated and engaging academic layer for students needing rigorous academic challenges and stimulation. Oxbridge candidates have access to an activity programme and have regular tutorials and meetings with the head of academic enrichment. These sessions are designed to support their application at every stage and will help them develop critical and creative thinking skills and a rigorous approach to academic study and scholarly endeavour.
Weekly drop-in session
Symbols of scholarship:
Oxbridge questions Stretch session
for weekly drop-in
Three minute thesis/
Personal statement drop-in session
Oracy and action group
Academic reading group
Philosothon is a friendly competition in which a team works together to reach a set of academically and philosophically satisfying ideas. Members who forward the thinking of the team by being prepared to contribute controversial points of view score well. Topics include: What is Art? What is the point of Education? What is Happiness? What is the Law? This is an absolute must Stretch option for any girl considering Oxbridge or wishing to develop her academic and thinking skills.
Guests joining girls for Symbols of Scholarship Academic Lunches talk about their work, academic interests and research.
Oxbridge Questions Stretch sessions invite students to engage in high level thinking skills by examining a range of responses to some of the renowned Cambridge and Oxford University interview questions. These sessions are valuable for any girl considering Oxbridge or indeed wishing to sharpen her academic skills.
Oracy and Action Group helps pupils improve both public speaking and thinking skills by deconstructing and analysing a famous speech or reading.
Three Minute Thesis / Personal Statement Competition is inspired by a famous competition on the university circuit. The winner is the student who can best present themselves through their personal statement in three minutes.
Specialist advice and support
Many of our girls wish to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. In the lower sixth we organise a trip to the Oxford and Cambridge Student Conference in Epsom and individual subject staff hold enrichment sessions from Easter onwards.
These enrichment sessions become more interview / admissions test specific in the autumn of the upper sixth. In addition, we encourage girls to attend open days, take part in some of the many essay competitions and read and think beyond A level specifications.
Furthermore, we have a dedicated member of staff to oversee each girl’s individual Oxbridge preparation.