A high school that recorded its best ever exam results last year has been praised for the way it balances academic success and the wellbeing of pupils and staff.
According to Estyn inspectors, Elfed High School in Buckley was focused on ensuring every student was “ready to thrive in the wider community” when they left.
Over recent years Elfed High has established itself as one of the best performing schools in Wales in terms of academic achievement.
Nearly 40 per cent of the students gained A or A* grades in core subjects like maths and science in last year’s GCSEs with overall results much higher than the national Welsh average.
One of the spin-off benefits of the school’s growing reputation is that pupil numbers have increased from 517 in 2015 to just short of 950 now, enabling it to recruit more high quality teachers.
Headteacher Alistair Stubbs was singled out for particular praise following the inspection.
The inspectors said in the report: “The headteacher has a clear vision focused on ensuring every student leaves EHS (Elfed High School) ready to thrive in the wider community.
“He has developed and shared the vision well in collaboration with staff, pupils and parents.
“Staff and governors are passionate about the school and are clear in their intention to provide a good education for all pupils.
The report added: “Elfed High School (EHS) achieves an effective balance between academic attainment and supporting the wellbeing of its pupils and staff.
“The school’s core values of ‘honesty, integrity, respect, high aspirations and self-esteem’ are at the heart of what it does.
“Many pupils have a strong sense of belonging, which is reflected in their good behaviour, courtesy and the pride they exhibit in the school. The support for pupils’ wellbeing is a particular strength of the school.”
It was a point echoed by the chair of governors, Rachael Davies, who said: “Speaking as a parent, Elfed High is a brilliant school which is enabling our children to reach their full potential.
“During the pandemic the level of support the teachers gave to pupils was incredible and enabled them to carry on with their studies in the most difficult of circumstances.
“We are fortunate to have a hugely dedicated headteacher and senior leadership team who are passionate about providing the pupils with an excellent, well-rounded education – not only in relation to academic excellence but also in terms of their personal wellbeing.
“The teaching staff are hardworking and determined to ensure that our young people get the best life chances to enable them to progress and become productive members of society.”
Vice chair Canon Martin Batchelor said: “Elfed High is an excellent school that’s at the heart of the community in Buckley.
‘I am very proud of the hard work put in by both staff and students and very proud of what the school achieves.”
Mr Stubbs has been a member of staff at Elfed High for 20 years, having initially been appointed as an economics teacher.
After rising through the ranks and serving as deputy head, he was appointed to the top job in 2018.
He said: “Academically the school has always been very strong. We were already on an upwards trajectory when I took over as head and we have established a reputation for high attainment.
“We continue to improve and the biggest plus recently has been a real improvement in the number of pupils achieving at the top end, gaining A and A* grades.
“This school is a proper comprehensive school. The percentage of our pupils on free school meals is in line with the Welsh average while the attainment of our students is way above the Welsh average.
“Our academic success has led to an increase in pupil numbers with 26 different primary schools feeding in because parents are choosing to send their pupils here. I take that as a vote of confidence in what we are doing.
“We’ve had year on year growth and that has enabled us to increase the number of staff and we have been really fortunate, against a backdrop of a recruitment crisis in the sector, that we have been able to recruit a large number of really excellent teachers.
“I can confidently say that I’ve got a staff who are 100 per cent on board who are able to give of their best because they are supported in the right way.
“The same with the pupils. We have really invested in pastoral support for our students in every year group with a team of non-teaching pastoral support assistants.
“If you speak to the staff who’ve been appointed in the last five years or so, they’ll tell you that the excellent reputation of the school was the reason for applying for a job here.
“As for myself, I have reached a point where I feel such part of the Buckley community that I can’t imagine myself working in another school.
“You become very attached to a community and many of the current parents have been students here and that’s a real positive because they know how I operated.
“The fact that they were once pupils makes the relationship with them as parents that bit stronger.”