Higher Apprenticeships help to raise standards at Newtown High School

19 October 2022

Newtown Highschool

Engaging with Higher Apprenticeships has helped Newtown High School to move out of special measures by improving leadership and management, teaching and learning standards.

The school, which has 1,200 pupils, was put into special measures following an  Estyn inspection in 2015 when weaknesses were identified in leadership and management, self-assessment and overall planning for continuous improvement.

To address these issues, 18 staff members have either completed or are working towards a Higher Apprenticeship (Levels 4 and 5) in Leadership and Management delivered by Cardiff-based training provider Portal Training.

The school was removed from special measures in October last year and all but one of the current leadership team of five have engaged with Higher Apprenticeships.

Leadership and management, teaching and learning standards and attendance levels have all improved.

The number of school lessons rated as good or higher has increased significantly and the attendance level increased from 94% to  95.5%, taking the school from the bottom 25% to the top 25% in Wales within 12 months.

In recognition of this transformation, Newtown High School has been shortlisted for the Small and Medium Employer of the Year Award at the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2022. The winners will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on November 10.

The awards highlight the outstanding achievements, during unprecedented times, of employers, apprentices and work-based learning practitioners.

Highlight of the year for apprentices, employers and work-based learning providers and practitioners, the awards are organised by the Welsh Government and supported by the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW). Headline sponsor for the third year is Openreach.

Praising Portal Training’s contribution, headteacher Robert Edwards says Higher Apprenticeships have given staff the knowledge and skills to work in senior positions, secure internal promotion and become effective leaders both within and outside of the school.

Staff are now contributing to Powys-wide education strategies and talking to other schools across Wales about Newtown High School’s successful improvement journey.

Since the last Estyn monitoring visit, the school has adopted a range of strategies to enable middle leaders to be more effective in their roles.

Partnerships have been established linked to work experience placements in local businesses and community wellbeing projects.

Describing the impact of Higher Apprenticeships as “vast”, Mr Edwards committed to continue them alongside a leadership and management development review toolkit to support succession planning with the aim of future proofing the school.

“By engaging with Higher Apprenticeships in Leadership and Management, we strongly believe that strong leaders with a moral conscience have been and will continue to be developed, who will buy into the senior leaders’ vision for the school,” he added. “This will subsequently create a whole-school approach to improvement.”

Clare Jeffries, Portal Training’s operations director, said: “Newtown High School has been on a remarkable journey, demonstrating resilience and passion to implement changes to improve standards, staff motivation and the confidence of parents and the community in the school.”

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething congratulated Newtown High School and all the other shortlisted finalists. “Apprenticeships make a huge contribution to our economy and will be crucial as Wales continues to bounce back from the pandemic,” he said.

“They can help futureproof, motivate and diversify a workforce, offering people the chance to gain high-quality vocational skills.

“As part of our Young Person’s Guarantee, the Welsh Government will be investing £366 million over the next three years to deliver 125,000 all-age apprenticeships across Wales during the current term of government.

“We want to increase opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to develop transferable skills in the workplace and improve their lives. The investment will also help tackle skills shortages and gaps in priority sectors critical to drive productivity and economic growth, supporting our net zero ambitions, the every-day foundational economy and public services.”

The Apprenticeship Programme is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund. For more information about recruiting an apprentice, visit: gov.wales/apprenticeships-genius-decision or call 03000 603000.