St Christopher's is a highly successful and popular 11-18 co-educational Church of England school with 1,310 pupils and students. We are situated in the Lancashire town of Accrington close to the Ribble Valley. Good motorway links mean that Preston, Burnley, Blackburn, Manchester and North Yorkshire are all within a 30-40 minute car journey. The school is situated in a pleasant setting with views towards Pendle Hill.
Our pupils come from a wide catchment area. Pupils join us in Year 7 from over fifty primary schools, and the sixth form receives students from around thirty secondary schools. We enjoy an enviable reputation, built-up over many years, for providing high quality education for a comprehensive intake of pupils. Our reputation means that we are a popular school, and always over-subscribed. However, we do not allow ourselves to become complacent, always striving for higher standards in all areas. In 2015, for example, over 700 pupils applied for one of our 195 places. 7% of our pupils are eligible for free school meals and 4% are from minority ethnic groups.
There are 93 teachers and 28 teaching assistants. The Senior Management Team is substantively the Headmaster, two Deputy Headteachers, the school Business Manager, and three Assistant Headteachers.
The school's commitment to learning extends to staff as well as pupils; there is a well-developed support structure for NQTs and other new members of staff, and a culture of ongoing professional development among our teaching and support staff. We are continually looking to develop innovative approaches to learning, with an increasing focus on collaborative learning. All classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboards and access to laptop computers. Whilst we appreciate the contribution that technology can play in assisting learning, we remain committed to the idea that it is the teacher who makes the difference.
Our pupils achieve very well but we strive always to improve further. This year we celebrated some pleasing results, with 77% of Year 11 pupils gaining 5+ GCSE passes at grades A*-C. Our Sixth Form, which opened in 2010 and now has over 300 students studying A-level, achieved impressive results, with 60% of students gaining A*-B. The school has grown significantly in recent years but this period of change has been managed without compromising the high standards of pastoral care and academic achievement for which we are well known.
We offer a broad and balanced curriculum to all year groups. Pupils acquire the skills, concepts, knowledge and skills necessary to prepare them to take place their place as active and successful citizens of the 21st century.
At Key Stage 3, subjects are taught according to the National Curriculum guidelines and a wide range of learning styles are used to ensure that all pupils are engaged and able to progress. We believe that pupils learn best in classes appropriate to their ability so pupils are set for many subjects from the beginning of Year 7.
In Years 10 and 11, all pupils follow a core curriculum of English, mathematics, science, RE, PSHE and RE. In addition, pupils select courses from a wide range of GCSE options. Pupils are provided with the opportunity to study the EBacc suite of qualifications, with the most able following separate science courses.
Over thirty A-level courses are offered in the Sixth Form. Most students study four subjects to AS level in the Lower Sixth and continue with three of these in the Upper Sixth. All sixth formers participate in our enrichment programme which takes place on Wednesday afternoons. A wide range of options are available including pre-professional work experience, sports academies, archery and dance. Most students progress to university with many making successful applications to Russell Group universities including Oxford and Cambridge.
The curriculum is based around five sixty-minute periods per day, organised as a two-week 48 lesson timetable.
Pupils are encouraged to participate in a wide range of extra-curricular activities including the largest school based Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme in Lancashire, an award winning eco group, and a vibrant music department which enjoys a national reputation. Opportunities for foreign travel are numerous, including, in the last year, visits to India, Iceland, USA, Paris, Rome and Barcelona. All staff are encouraged to participate to the extra-curricular life of the school and contribute in any way they can.
The Heads of Year and Form Teachers (Personal Tutors in the Sixth Form) have responsibility for the welfare, academic progress and discipline of the pupils in their care. Time is set aside each day to enable form teachers to get to know each pupil as an individual.
Pupils are offered many opportunities to accept positions of responsibility in addition to the senior roles of prefect, Head Boy and Head Girl. Pupil Voice is important at St Christopher's and we have an active School Council.
Spiritual care and worship
St Christopher's opened in 1958 to educate the children of Church going families of east Lancashire. Admission to the main school is primarily based on parental patterns of worship at churches recognised by Churches Together or the Evangelical Alliance.
The school motto of 'Ad Gloriam Dei' informs all that we do. We try to establish caring attitudes and lasting values through worship and work done in the classroom, as well as, on a more practical level, supporting charitable appeals.
Each school day begins with an act of worship within the Anglican tradition. A Chaplaincy Team supports our worship and pastoral work, each year group having its own chaplain.
At the last SIAMS inspection (2011) the school was judged Outstanding in all areas. In 2012 the RE department was awarded Gold Mark status from REQM.
The school was inspected by Ofsted in November 2011 and was judged to be Outstanding. The opening paragraph reads -
"Accrington St Christopher's Church of England High School provides an outstanding education for its students and demonstrates palpable enthusiasm and ambition in all aspects of its work. Students' attainment is high and their achievement is outstanding, not only in academic terms but also in the way they develop spiritually and morally into self-confident, caring and responsible young people who work hard and fully enjoy the many opportunities presented to them by school. The school's compassionate and inclusive family ethos is apparent in positive relationships at all levels; students feel extremely safe and benefit from outstanding care, guidance and support that is notably successful in helping them to overcome obstacles and achieve the best that they can. Virtually all students say that they enjoy school. As one commented, 'even though the school is very big, the teachers know us and treat us as individuals.' Students' attendance is consistently high. Their behaviour is exemplary and their contribution to their community is extensive."
We all work hard to ensure that every child at St Christopher's is known, supported and challenged. In the words of one of our former students -
"I am still not sure what I want to be but after studying at St Christopher's I know who I want to be."
R D Jones