When we were thinking of a name for our new school we thought about the many different terms associated with our vision. There were numerous words emerging that had the letters ‘x’ and ‘p’ in them. For example: high expectations, expeditions, experts, experience etc. As a result, we chose the name ‘XP’!
Typically, we have six sessions on each day. We start every morning with Crew for 45 minutes then students have expedition sessions with a mix of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM) and Humanities including English and History and Arts (HUMAN). On three days a week students also have X Block.
We deal with medical conditions in line with guidance for schools.
Our website is used as the main form of communication with parents and we post information about the school on a daily basis. Crew leaders are in regular contact with the families of their crew members.
We collaboratively plan our curriculum so staff work closely together to plan exciting and comprehensive learning experiences. Every single learning expedition is reviewed for quality by staff, both during the process and after the expedition has finished. As such, the school has very robust procedures to monitor, challenge and support the quality of teaching and learning as stated in our recent Ofsted inspection, ‘XP staff are constantly seeking to improve. Led by the headteacher, there is constant discussion about how best to refine and focus teaching and learning so that all pupils do well. Staff work well together and are robust in their assessment of each other’s work. Staff at the school collaborate closely with other schools to check and improve the accuracy of assessments. As a result of this determination to improve, pupils make excellent progress.
Public transport buses run from the Doncaster Interchange on a regular basis to XP school.
We do have a dress code that allows students to wear clothes that are appropriate for the activities we engage in. The culture of the school is built on respect and compassion so we do not have issues of bullying regarding the clothes students wear.
We are really keen to offer as many sporting experiences as we can for students and we have a strong relationship with both Club Doncaster and the Doncaster Athletics Club. We are constantly looking to develop new partnerships and most recently we have started training sessions with the Doncaster Eagles Basketball team.
We have entered teams into competitive competitions wherever possible and we are committed to supporting and promoting community sport. As such, our new building at XP East will have a four court Sports Hall. This will be used by students during the school day but open to the community after hours and during the school holidays.
Girls and boys play football in separate teams.
Currently, we offer Spanish as our main language. However, more recently we have offered French as part of our Duke of Edinburgh programme.
Learning expeditions are planned to cover all the necessary requirements for GCSE and the broader Key Stage 3 curriculum. Because of the nature of expeditions, where students study through detailed case studies, learners have deep and broad learning experiences.
Students start working on GCSE assessment objectives right from the start of Year 7 and we begin to test students so that they are used to GCSE assessments as part of our learning expeditions. Subsequently, students are well-prepared for GCSEs.
X Block allows us to teach subjects that might not fit neatly into learning expeditions in Years 7 and 8. X Block has three discretely sessions that take place over a week where students study subjects such as Music, Computer Science and Drama in a carousel. In addition, PE is taught as part of X Block and is a constant throughout the year.
We integrate English and Maths into expeditions but sometimes we teach English and Maths discretely. We cover all the standards required to ensure that students are successful at GCSE and are well prepared for the International Baccalaureate at post 16.
XP is a place where we learn about the world, and therefore its religions. XP as an organisation does not have a particular view on religion, or doctrine, and takes a secular (non-religious) approach to its activities as much as possible, whilst fulfilling its statutory requirements. Any student wishing to practice their own religion will be given a negotiated way to do this.
We do not have a school uniform. Instead, we have a dress code, which you can read about by clicking here.
Our school structure, timetable, pastoral system and curriculum give us many advantages that ensure good behaviour.
We know our students, families and background well. Our school is small, with a fixed class size of 25 and a teaching assistant assigned to each class. Classes work with three teachers for each expedition allowing teachers to know each student personally.
In most other schools, teachers would see 250-300 students over a fortnight, and students would see 20-30 teachers.
Our curriculum is engaging, personalised and authentic. When students do work that actually matters and is useful to them and their community, they have a much greater need to engage in it. When they know that they will be exhibiting their work in front of people that they care about, positive peer pressure is a great motivator.
We have an extremely strong behaviour policy and extremely high expectations for our students.
On top of our firm zero-tolerance anti-bullying policy, we have pastoral structures that support the total elimination of bullying, such as our ‘crew’ and the small, personal size of the school.
Each crew is a group of 12-13 students and an adult that stay together for the 7 years they are with us. Crew meet every morning and follow a supportive and challenging pastoral and academic curriculum.
Each Crew Leader visits and regularly contacts parents which gives us a very strong pastoral team enabling them to deal with issues such as bullying extremely effectively.
All our projects are rigorously mapped to the National Curriculum standards as well as skills and competencies such as problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, persistence toward excellence and active citizenship.
As your child progresses through an expedition, they create evidence of their learning and maintain a physical and digital learning portfolio that they can share with you.
All their evidence of learning will map against the standards and skills, so rather than just being given a report once a year, you will be able to actually see your child’s progress through their work, along with critical feedback from their teacher.
After every expedition, your child will exhibit their work along with the rest of their class, where your child will present to you their work and that of their classmates.
As well as this, our teachers will know you and your child personally, and will make sure they keep you up to date with their progress, any issues and how you can help with them.
For further information as to how we do assessment at XP, please click here.
We have the highest expectations of all our students that go way beyond the National Curriculum and qualifications, to include skills, competencies and knowledge crucial to life, university and career readiness.
However, in terms of qualifications, we aim for 100% of our students gaining the equivalent of 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths, and 100% of our students gaining the English Baccalaureate. We know that in reality, there will be some issues we cannot overcome, so the actual figure will be a few percentage points off this target.
More importantly though, we aim for 100% to be able to go to university. We recognise that for some students, this may not be their chosen path, but we see no reason why any of our students should not have the opportunity and option to go to university either straight after graduation, or in the future.
At XP we follow the same methods as a number of schools in the USA have been doing for over twenty years. High Tech High and Expeditionary Learning schools have been incredibly successful, with the evidence showing that they outperform their district equivalent schools across many measures.
As teachers, we have experienced this for ourselves, and have established sustainable relationships with HTH and EL that allows us to draw upon their knowledge and experience.
Our aim, like HTH and EL is that 100% of our students are able to go to university.
XP underwent its first Section 5 Ofsted inspection on 12-13th July, and was found to be outstanding in all areas.
It states that:
Our students are making outstanding academic progress, including the most able.Our students’ behaviour is impeccable and they love coming to school.All our staff have consistently high expectations.Staff morale is very high and leadership is held in very high regard.Parents are overwhelmingly positive about the work of the school and the positive impact it is having on their children’s intellectual progress and moral well-being.
Free schools, like academies do not have to employ qualified teachers. All secondary schools in Doncaster are academies, and we have the same statutory requirements.
However, we have as high expectations of our staff as we do our students, and our expectation is that all our teachers engage in masters level professional development.
We have not employed an unqualified teacher in our first three years, but if we ever do, they would have had to have demonstrated outstanding practice, and would immediately be placed on a professional development programme to become a qualified teacher.
One of our founders, Gwyn ap Harri, was first employed as an unqualified teacher at Hatfield High School (now, Ash Hill Academy) in 2000, and qualified to Headship level (NPQH) in 2011.
We are proud to say that Mrs Chappell started with XP as a Learning Coach in 2014, and is now an NQT Physics teacher in 2016.
Learning expeditions are academically rigorous, standards-based, cross-subject projects that involve research, problem-solving, community engagement and result in students creating a product as close to a professional quality as possible.
The best way to understand this is to look at our expeditions page by clicking here.
XP was established as a ‘Free School’, which is a normal school, funded directly by the Department for Education. Once established, all Free Schools become Academies.
All Secondary Schools in Doncaster are Academies, and XP has the same statutory requirements as every other school. The same funding, admissions, Ofsted, examinations etc.
The only difference is that we were set up by an independent organisation, the XP School Trust, rather than historically by the Local Authority.
We offer a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities to learn. From football, rugby and hockey with Doncaster Rovers staff, to music, computing and many other after school clubs, a number of which have been facilitated from the suggestion of our students.
As well as Outward Bound, we start the Duke of Edinburgh Award in Year 9, allowing our students to lead their own learning in a voluntary, skill and physical form, in addition to the outdoor expeditions.
Our school is open until 4:30pm for extended study and extra-curricular activities every day apart from Friday when students need to be off site at 3:15pm.
We have the highest expectations for all students. The aim for our high ability students is to produce work that is indistinguishable from that of a professional.
As such, there is no ceiling to the work they produce.
In addition to this, many academically gifted students find the social and creative aspects of our curriculum extremely challenging.
Our aim is for students not just to pass their exams, but to become the best version of themselves.
Students will study through cross-subject learning expeditions until January of Year 11. This will provide our students with a broad and balanced curriculum. As a consequence of this, our approach to GCSEs is that our students will take a core of GCSEs, then a personal choice.
The core GCSEs that all our students will take are:
English Language English Literature MathematicsScience (Double Award) History Spanish Art
Students will then have a personal choice where they can choose any other appropriate GCSE and study this with guided help, such as Computing, PE, Triple Science, Music, an additional language, Design & Technology, Geography, Economics, Psychology, Drama etc.
Some students may have the capability and capacity to do more than one Choice GCSE.
The reasoning behind our approach is that the core GCSEs offer an academically rigorous blend of subjects that will be covered within our learning expeditions, and the personal choice offers a specific route that they may want to follow towards A Level and beyond.
Our expeditionary curriculum at Key Stage 4 is much broader than the eight Core GCSEs and will cover other subject areas, such as music, computing, design & technology, geography etc.
The core GCSEs cover the English Baccalaureate with the addition of Art. They are also ‘gateway’ qualifications, meaning that students will be able to study any subject post 16.
Provision for alternative GCSEs may be put in place if we deem that a student is better served this way.
We are a mainstream Secondary School with extremely high expectations of our students.
Our curriculum is therefore highly academically rigorous and we have high expectations for all our students to be able to go to university. We expect all our students to work extremely hard to this end.
We are an inclusive school and therefore we try our best to support students with SEN. However, we do not segregate our students according to ability or any other measure and we do not offer an alternative curriculum provision. Therefore all our expedition classes are for 25 students, and no less.
We expect all our students to work hard, get smart and be kind.
If you think your child, considering their needs, will flourish in this environment, we would be happy to talk to you as to how we might be able to support their needs.
We urge parents of children with SEN to visit our school before considering applying to understand our complete offer and to not assume that because we are a small school, we will suit your child. Termly visit days are planned and advertised on our website so please look out for these and contact us to arrange when a date is available.
Every year since opening, we have been oversubscribed. We understand there are many parents who passionately want their child to have a place at XP. However, as a school with a deliberate size of 50 students per year, we cannot allocate places for all children that apply.
Our oversubscription method for allocating places is a random selection. We can think of no fairer way of doing this. Our whole admissions process is carried out independently by the Local Authority.
If you have not been allocated a place through the admissions process, your child will be placed on our waiting list. If a place becomes available, then the Local Authority will apply our admissions policy and if oversubscribed, will allocate this place randomly from the waiting list.
This ensures every child has just as much chance as every other child, which is the fundamental basis of our policy.
Every parent has a right to appeal an admissions decision, and you will be notified by the Local Authority how to do this.
Unfortunately, as we are a deliberately small school, we have a specific amount of 50 places each year, and no more. Everything about our school is designed around this number; our school building, our classrooms, our curriculum and countless logistical systems.
We believe our admissions policy, being based on a random process carried out independently of the school by the Local Authority is the fairest way possible we can allocate these places.
As such, we do not know of any reason a parent could give to prove that what we do is not fair and carried out correctly.
Above this, we see any parent trying to use the appeals process to bias this fair and correct process as being totally unfair to the school, to the students that have been allocated a place, and to the parents who respect our admissions policy by accepting the admissions process and stay on our waiting list without appealing.
Our school would be severely hampered by an appeal allowing more than our Pupil Admission Number. Therefore we will protect our school and admissions policy as rigorously as possible and as a Trust, and we are willing to use all legal avenues possible to do this, including the High Court.
While we understand the disappointment parents feel if they are not allocated a place, we ask all parents to respect our admissions policy and accept the admission decision.
If you have any questions not covered by those above, please contact us.