School Development Plan

The School Development Plan 2013-16 was overwhelmingly successful. Balcarras was top of the Gloucestershire GCSE rankings consistently and was recognised as one of the most successful state schools anywhere in the UK. We achieved an average of 65% A/B at A-level which is very impressive. Balcarras continues to be a school of choice; indeed the school is more popular than ever. The physical environment continues to be something that we prioritise and a number of key improvements were made over the last three years. Finally it’s worth noting that we entered 2017 with a budget in surplus and with significant reserves to fall back on. It is right to recognise the contribution of our former head Chris Healy in making the outgoing plan such a resounding success.

Academic Performance

Teaching and Learning is at the heart of the plan, as you would expect.

We continue to set ourselves challenging targets at A-level but we believe we can achieve them.

  • ALPS Target of grade 2
  • 70% A*/B
  • 90% A*/C
  • 50% attending Russell Group Universitie

8 students into Oxbridge/Vets/Medics


The bar has been raised at GCSE. The school will have to respond to this. We will have to benchmark our results very carefully.

  • Progress 8 in top 5th percentile
  • 90% of students achieving Level 5 in English and Maths plus three other higher passes
  • 70% achieving the EBACC at level 5
  • Progress 8 of PPM students to be above national average for all students

Key Stage Three

During the course of this plan the new KS3 grades will be established across every year group. We will establish a new data system for tracking progress. This system will be easy to use and interpret and it will track students’ progress using KS2 as its starting point.


Curriculum Change

We are in the midst of the greatest period of curriculum change any of us can remember. We will prioritise this in the school’s INSET programme and we will encourage staff to attend external INSET. We will carry out a Curriculum Review in the autumn of 2017

This review will include a decision on our future A-level provision. Many schools have adopted three A-levels from the start of Year 12. We currently are still doing 4 AS and then 3 A-levels. We will review this in the autumn of 2017

Curriculum Areas

There will be the challenge for all departments to achieve results in the top 5th percentile for Value Added. We aim to close the gap between performance of boys and girls across all subjects. There are a  number of new HODs who will receive support from SMT as they develop their team and strive to reach targets set


We are happy that the school’s sanctions policy is working well but we believe that the rewards system needs reviewing. Gary Towers will oversee this work but we have established a staff focus group under the leadership of Nick Fivash. They are currently researching this issue and will make recommendations in 2017.

Teaching and Learning


We will continue our relentless focus on improving the quality of our teaching and learning. In doing so we will concentrate on the following areas

  • The quality of marking and feedback
  • Ways to close the gap between girls and boys
  • Ways to develop greater independence of learning
  • Continue to prioritise literacy as the core building block of everything that we do

Focus on the most able

As well as the priorities above we will continue to track the progress of the most able and look for ways to boost their achievement even further. We will make this a high profile issue and we aim to continue the success of recent years where we can prove beyond any doubt that our bright children do better academically than they would in a grammar school. In addition to our work in the school we will launch a programme of Stretch and Challenge events for Year 5

Sixth Form

We want our sixth form to be the most vibrant and attractive post 16 A-level centre in the county. We aim to have over 400 students enrolled on A-level qualifications, although we do offer a small amount of vocational courses as well. We want to continue to offer an excellent range of extra-curricular activities so that there is a positive and aspirational ethos in the sixth form. We are genuine in our aspiration to drive for 70% A*/B at A-level whilst at the time adjusting to the demands of curriculum change.


We want to maintain our high standards of support and progress for SEND pupils. The major changes to SEND at a local and national level continue to have a significant impact on the work of the department with increased administration alongside reduced input from external agencies. The school has developed a growing reputation for its SEND provision and numbers of EHCP pupils choosing Balcarras are likely to remain high and potentially on the increase.

Pastoral Care

We want to ensure that the quality of pastoral care we give in the school continues to be exceptional.  Paul Greenway will have responsibility for the pastoral system from September 2017 and Siobhan Winterbottom has already taken over responsibility for Graveney House. In terms of behaviour we will take nothing for granted and will continue to insist on excellent levels of behaviour across the school. We aim to keep whole school Attendance at 97.5%+. We will carry out an annual review of our safeguarding procedures which will be co-ordinated by Becky Atkin but done by an external source.

Teaching School/Maths Hub/School Direct

Our work as a Teaching School continues to provide real benefits for the staff and students of Balcarras. We want to continue to provide even greater opportunities for CPD in the future.

The GLOW Mathshub is established as one of the most successful anywhere in the country. We will continue to support Steve Lomax in his work as he strives to create even higher levels of engagement across the region.

Out School Direct provision is excellent but like other providers we have struggled to recruit this year.  We will aim for recruitment above 7.

Financial Position

Although we have built up a good reserve, our in-year operating position is precarious. Despite the fact that the school will be at a record size next year (c.1440 pupils) we are forecasting that we will just about break even. Unless something changes in terms of our revenue we will face being in deficit by 2019. We need to continue to look for ways to cut costs and to boost income. It is crucial that we continue to operate a lean teaching structure. We will continue to aim for a Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) above 17.0.


Balcarras is under considerable pressure. In 2016-17 demand for places far exceeded availability and based on our PAN of 194 we would have had 30 children inside catchment without a place. We agreed to take a temporary form of entry but we cannot do this again, at least not until 2019/20 when our existing large year group, currently in Year 9, will have left the school. We will continue to monitor the situation carefully. We are continuing to look into the possibility of becoming an 8 form entry school but it seems unlikely that we could make the necessary changes to the site with the finances available. To accommodate an extra temporary form of entry from 2017 we have been given a grant from the authority. We will spend this on extra catering facilities, extra outdoor social space, extra outdoor play space and extra science laboratories. In conjunction with this we have applied to the Borough Council for a small strip of land adjacent to the southern boundary of the school. If we are successful we will build three Multi Use Games Areas.

New School for Cheltenham

In addition to this we are actively looking in to the possibility of sponsoring a new school for Cheltenham. This new school is very likely to be an all through 4-19 school with over 1500 pupils on roll. We have already established a steering group who will drive the process in conjunction with the governors.

The Site

The summer of 2017 will be a busy one at Balcarras. The new music block will be built and there are several other projects due for completion. It is likely that we will still have some capital funds available for the improvement of the site. We want to prioritise creating more social space for students to use.

Extra Curricular Provision

We are very proud of the huge range of extra-curricular provision we have at the school but we want to improve it still further. We are very keen to invest in extra sporting opportunities through the course of this plan. In addition we will look to support the new Head of Music, Helen Chong, as she develops the extra curricular programme still further.


We will carry out a full review of the school’s PR, marketing and communication. This review will look to modernise certain areas of this work. We will launch a new website in 2017 and we hope that the school’s facebook page will continue to be very popular.


The governance of the school continues to be a real strength. However, we will continue to prioritise governor training and governor involvement. Liz Cullis will take responsibility for reviewing the SDP and he will involve a panel of governors in this. 


The next three years will be a period of continuing improvement, consolidating the rapid gains made in the last three years so that they become the norm. We look forward to continuing high success from our pupils and very high levels of satisfaction from our parents. We want to see our pupils happy in their work and their teachers equally so. If we achieve this we will continue to stand out even in the company of Britain’s most outstanding schools.

2019 review summary

We are making great progress towards this development plan despite the fact that we continue to sail into significant headwinds. Financially we have weathered the storm and I am pleased that we continue to balance the books. We have developed a significant reserve which we have been able to protect during the period of this plan. I believe that we are surviving the expansion of Gloucestershire’s selective schools and I am pleased to report that there is no discernible change to our average profile on entry. The key to all of this is ensuring that our bright students achieve well at GCSE. In 2019 the progress of our high ability students was above 0.8 and this is likely to be higher than the average for the grammar schools. Our curriculum remains strong and fit for purpose although we continue to keep it under review.

Work towards the new school is ongoing. The team we have put in place to deliver the school is incredibly strong and they have worked tirelessly to develop the physical plans for the school. As this review approaches completion our work is turning towards the detailed planning needed around staffing and financial planning. In a similar way we are now in the middle of the detailed planning needed to transfer to MAT status. Both work streams are progressing well.

In the midst of all this we are delighted that the school has been able to achieve record results at both GCSE and A level. Progress 8 of +0.83 is incredibly strong and will probably place us comfortably inside the top 100 schools nationally. Likewise 71% A* to B at A level is the highest for any comprehensive school in the South West. I would be surprised if we were not named as the highest ranking comprehensive school in the South West by the Sunday Times in November. If we are that will be three years running (2017, 2018 and 2019). We are also delighted that two departments have achieved ALPS 1 ratings which means that the results they have achieved are quite simply the best in the country. The awards go to A-level maths and GCSE science. It is significant to achieve both in high traffic departments.

Dominic Burke