Taking the temperature…

Winter is here. In school I have been forced to don scarf, thermal jacket and fieldwork hat so that I can endure my daily morning gate duty without hypothermia reducing me to a quivering wreck! The boys are industrially scraping overnight ice from the table tennis tables before games can begin each morning, and even the Dean’s cat has been compelled to walk around to keep warm instead of simply waiting for his breakfast supplied by sixth form students. We are just two weeks shy of the Christmas Break, and the grip of the season tightens daily.

Alongside the freezing fog banks, the autumn in schools is the season of retrospection, when description and analysis of performance on a national scale is put into the public domain. If you are reading this you will probably be aware that I have a healthy scepticism of both performance data and also the narratives provided by the likes of ‘Parent Power’; neither gets under the skin of schools to find out what they are really like, and data that has been statistically cooked is removed one step from reality. I am not saying that such information is purposeless or inaccurate - more that it gives a partial perspective only, through a particular lens. It can also prompt questions, which is useful.

Having said all of that for Bishop’s the DfE data provides an early Christmas present, with more surely to come. The key figure is probably the Progress 8 figure for summer 2023 GCSE of 0.56, which indicates that boys here scored over half a grade better compared to similar students nationally. In DfE dialect this counts as ‘well above average’, replicating previous years’ outcomes and this means that we are part of a relatively small group of schools across the country performing at such a level. The 2023 data for A level has yet to appear, but when it does it should look even stronger.

During the last week the Times Newspaper Group published its Parent Power league tables, presumably based heavily on examination outcomes at GCSE. In the SW Region Bishop’s was listed in 4th place, whatever that may mean(!), but once again I am not moaning about such a result! Our boys and girls and my staff can rightly have a real spring in their step next week as their hard work has been recognised once again.

The frosty conditions meant that my weekend visit to the Somerset Levels was not ornithologically very productive. But as I meandered my way through the whitened reed beds at Ham Wall in a vain search for Bitterns my mind was partly back in Salisbury. Performance data enables us all to take the temperature of the school, and that’s important for both me and my successor Matthew Morgan. Winter warmers for us, and for everyone in the Bishop’s Community.