New Hall School, a Catholic independent boarding and day school for 1,250 boys and girls aged 3-18 in Chelmsford was declared the Times Education Supplement Independent School of the Year 2016, at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Friday night, at an awards ceremony attended by hopeful schools from across the country. The award was collected by Principal, Katherine Jeffrey, and members of the Senior Leadership Team.
Mrs Jeffrey said: “This recognition was unexpected and it is a real joy to know that our wonderful school is considered a model of excellence and an inspiration to so many. I feel overwhelmed by the moment; it is a proud one for all of our students, staff, parents and Governors at New Hall. We have been on a long journey of development and growth, in some challenging times. Teamwork and commitment to a vision of education that remains true to our Catholic values have been key to our success.”
Judges cited that “New Hall is a clearly effective school at all levels and exemplar of a can-do attitude throughout.” New Hall students have achieved outstanding success in academic and co-curricular fields. Judges were also particularly impressed by the “holistic approach by school leaders that has reaped success across the board.” The school roll has grown by 150%, with plans to expand further, following the significant expansion of junior boarding from age 7-13. In 2018, New Hall will open a new Pre-Prep building, with a Forest School provision, and expand to 3-form entry from Reception to Year 6.
The main part of the school, nestled within a 75 acre campus, yet just 20 minutes from Stratford (London), is the breath-taking Beaulieu Palace, once owned by Henry VIII. New Hall has grown exponentially since the first lay head of the former all-girls convent school, Katherine Jeffrey, took over the reins in 2001. Mrs Jeffrey’s leadership has maintained the integrity of the Catholic ethos and foundation of the school, which welcomes those of all faiths or none. It has also seen the introduction of senior boys and the adoption of the extremely successful Diamond Model, a co-educational Preparatory Division, separate teaching for boys and girls in the Year 7-11 Divisions, together with a co-educational Sixth Form. New Hall has been assessed as Outstanding/Excellent in all ISI, Ofsted and Diocesan inspections from 2004 to 2016.
New Hall was recognised for its pioneering move, in 2013, when it became the first independent school to set up a Multi-Academy Trust and to help turn around the fortunes of a local primary school, a revolutionary move that has now been imitated by many public schools. Messing Primary School faced closure, in special measures with only 31 pupils. Two years on, with a roll of over 80, it is oversubscribed and is rated ‘Good’, with ‘Outstanding Leadership and Governance’ by Ofsted. New Hall Governors have significant expertise in Multi-Academy Trusts; they generously advise many schools in the maintained and independent sectors. Governance at New Hall is consistently assessed ‘excellent’ by ISI, Ofsted and Brentwood Diocese: “Governance of the school is excellent, pupils’ achievement and personal development demonstrate high levels of success in accordance with the school’s aims.” (ISI).
Last night was also a success for New Hall, as they picked up the initiative of the year for their Green Travel and Transport Strategy. New Hall created a plan to improve journey times and promote alternatives to car use for the school journey. The school secured funding from local property developers, as well as the support of Chelmsford City Council, to create a new access road to the beautiful school Avenue, easing local congestion. In addition, the school persuaded developers to finance a bridleway, footpath and cycle-route between the nearby housing development and the school, arguing the case for community benefits and green travel. The school invested significantly in its own mile-long Avenue, building a dedicated footpath & cycle route. In addition, coach routes were extended and park & ride collection points established.
New Hall was praised by the judges for developing an original, inclusive and collegial style of leadership, with 20 members of the Senior Leadership & Management Team (SLMT), which includes key support staff as well as teachers. This approach is rooted in the Catholic understanding of leadership as service to others. The role of Chair rotates around all members, to reflect the non-hierarchical structure favoured at New Hall and to enable best practice to be shared. Every member of the team has experience working with Governors; unusually, many SLMT members regularly attend at least one of the Governors’ subcommittee or strategy meetings. Strategic improvements can be initiated by anyone in the organisation; all good ideas are listened to and acted on. Support staff are highly valued as equal members of the team. In 2014-15, New Hall devised an original and effective structure for leading improvements to the quality of education; to enhance communications with middle managers, 4 serving Heads of Department (HoDs) are full members of the SLMT, holding roles as Directors of Learning & Teaching.
Working closely with Governors, the SLMT have proved themselves effective in strategic school development. They meet three times a year specifically to consider strategy and to review the school development plan. All reports and plans link back to the ‘7 strategic aims’, devised with Governors. The senior team leads a workforce of over 400 employees, with a high priority on staff well-being and professional development; New Hall has produced more than 10 promotions to recent/serving Headships of other schools. The team have overseen outstanding growth and development of the school, to become one of the largest IAPS and HMC schools in the country. The quality of leadership and management at New Hall has consistently been assessed as ‘excellent’, by ISI, Ofsted and the Diocese of Brentwood.