Challenge for All
Herts & Essex has a proven track record in providing for, challenging and inspiring all students. It is one of only a small number of secondary schools nationally to have achieved the NACE Challenge Award, which recognises excellence in the area of challenging students both inside and outside of the classroom.
The primary focus of the ‘Challenge for All’ provision offered at Herts & Essex is outstanding teaching and learning in the classroom, with a continual drive to provide challenge for all students. This provision is supported by pastoral interventions and enhanced by a wide range of extra- and supra-curricular opportunities. Students are continuously and rigorously monitored as part of the school's tracking and reporting system on a termly basis with opportunities being offered to students as a result of their performance both inside and outside of the classroom.
At Herts & Essex there is a strong commitment to ensuring challenge and opportunity for all students, allowing them to develop their full potential in a wide variety of fields as they progress through the school.
Challenge for All in the Curriculum
Herts & Essex aims to ensure that every student is challenged, making progress both in acquiring knowledge and in developing skills. In the classroom, all teachers use appropriate teaching and learning strategies to encourage high achievement, originality, problem solving, higher order thinking skills and creativity. Teachers regularly pose open-ended questions, activities and assignments and may use group work to allow scope for leadership, co-operative decision making and student-initiated perspectives.
As the inspectors for the NACE Challenge Award reported in 2015: ‘The staff are committed, passionate and daring in their teaching, bringing fun and enjoyment to learning, which is clearly recognised and valued by the pupils.’
In addition to the high-quality teaching and learning provided to all students at Herts & Essex, there are regular opportunities for students to extend themselves within the curriculum. These opportunities include the opportunity to study German GCSE and the possibility of accessing Astronomy GCSE. In KS5, two research qualifications are available, which are highly suitable for developing the skills and interests of students, providing them with an opportunity to explore their interests beyond the confines of the curriculum; these are the Extended Project Qualification and the Cambridge Pre-University Global Perspectives and Research.
As part of supporting students' progress in the classroom, regular individual and group intervention meetings take place between students and designated members of staff. The focus of these meetings is to develop metacognition and independent learning skills, and to ensure that students are challenged across the curriculum and know how to progress in their learning.
Extra-curricular Challenge for All
Herts & Essex provides a huge range of extra-curricular activities for its students, many of which are covered in detail on individual subject pages. Activities may be based around individual subjects, such as clubs in Drama, Music and PE, or across broader curriculum areas, such as the Arts Award. Many such opportunities lead to opportunities for performance and competition, ranging up to national level.
The school has a strong tradition of entering students into a wide range of regional and national competitions and of achieving considerable success. Students compete in all levels of the Maths Challenge and they have presented CREST Science projects in regional and national events.
There are also opportunities at Herts & Essex for students to take part in day and residential trips. Choirs from Herts & Essex sing annually at Christmas at St. Pancras station and the Art Department runs trips to many of the current exhibitions in London and beyond. The school's very successful Science German Exchange with the Maria-Ward Schule in Mainz has run annually since 2007, allowing the most able Scientists to develop their Science and language skills alongside their cultural awareness. Students of both History and Ancient History are also given the opportunity to work on an archaeological excavation as part of the HEFA programme run by the University of Cambridge.
In a cross-curricular capacity, there is an annual summer school for students in Years 8 and 9 who have shown excellent progress throughout the year. This takes place immediately after the close of the summer term and involves students being challenged by an exciting variety of problem-solving and team-building activities.
The Excelsior Programme is the flagship of the ‘Challenge for All’ provision. This is an integrated programme for KS4 and KS5 students which aims to prepare them for application to the most competitive courses at university. Highlights of the programme include talks from university admissions tutors from high-ranking universities, trips to Oxbridge Colleges and targeted advice and guidance from the careers team at the school. Students are also encouraged to participate in both the Sutton Trust and Eton Summer Schools, providing them with opportunities to immerse themselves completely in their subject area of choice in a challenging environment.
The ‘Challenge for All’ provision for students at Herts and Essex was described by NACE inspectors in 2015 in the following way: ‘The culture of the school is highly aspirational, with expectations of high achievement embedded in the focus for all students. The latter is recognised by the students and has been noted as attracting new students into the Sixth Form who really value the emphasis the school places on academic success alongside talent development.’
‘There is a culture of high aspiration and celebration of success which permeates all aspects of the school and as a result standards are very high.’
NACE Challenge Award Inspectors