2 March 2012: SHINE’s Climbing Higher project had an amazing finale to its first year when every single student successfully achieved five A*-C grades in their GCSE exams last summer.
The achievement is even more impressive given that the project, run by Watford Grammar School for Boys, was set up to provide support to disadvantaged underachievers considered by their schools to be at serious risk of failing their exams.
Every Saturday, students are taught in small groups by Watford’s teachers, helped by its sixth formers. This enables the students to receive highly personal support and, when necessary, one-to-one attention. Short, intensive sessions cover core subjects, as well as study skills. As Martin Post, Watford’s Head, points out: “Exams are only 50% knowledge. The other 50% is technique and that’s one area that Climbing Higher focuses on intensively.”
Learning the ropes
For the students themselves, however, Watford’s main attraction is a 10 metre high climbing wall. This provides them with more than just fresh air and exercise – it’s also there as a challenge. “It’s quite daunting to look up that wall, but that’s the point,” says Martin. “It’s meant to be difficult. If you can master that wall, something like GCSE maths will seem relatively easy by comparison.”
So it proved. In their GCSE maths last summer, 100% of the project’s 30 students achieved a grade C or better. Other grades were almost as impressive, with all but one student achieving a C grade or above in English language and English literature. And all but one are now continuing their education at school or college.
“An outstanding achievement”
Naturally, Martin is delighted. “Every single one of these students was identified as being seriously in danger of not achieving the five A*-C threshold,” he said. “Their schools were really worried about their progress. But a large number achieved two grades higher than their target grades … across eight or ten subjects – that is an outstanding achievement for these students. I am confident that they will go on to be successful at the next stage of their education.”
Having delivered results like these, it’s no surprise that Climbing Higher is also going from strength to strength. This year, it has doubled its intake and, in response to student demand, has widened the range of subjects covered to include history, geography and some modern languages. “We have more subjects involved; we have more students wanting to take part; we could fill the places here three times over,” Martin says. “In every way it’s just been a tremendous success.”