I Love St James’ Catholic High School

29 Nov 2019

It’s often said that we learn something new every day, via family, friends, or during our time spent in the education system. St James’ Catholic High School is dedicated to providing a welcoming, family environment whereby their students can continue to further themselves.

A hugely popular, oversubscribed establishment, St James’ Catholic High School has recently undergone a rebrand, whereby the school’s previous core values have been considered by both the staff and the pupils. The resulting ethos is inspiring, encapsulating the school’s progressive mindset, as outlined by the school’s headteacher Anthony Pontifex.

“During the rebranding process, it was important to seek input from everyone associated with the school: Governors, staff, parents, as well as pupils. We came up with three values that we think reflects the school – family, faith, and excellence. These values are displayed on the iconography around the school.”

Anthony Pontifex

For any educational institution, the school badge epitomises the philosophy that’s promoted amongst staff and pupils. Therefore, as part of the school makeover, St James’ Catholic High School redesigned their badge, with the logo mirroring the aforementioned values.

“We’re proud of the values in place here at St James’ Catholic High School; as such, the new school badge highlights each of the three values that we have in place.

“The bushels of wheat represent family; wheat has roots for growth and support, the same way in which we support our students during their period of growth at the school. We’re a Catholic school, and this is a core element of the setup here. The cross on the badge is the cross of our patron saint St James, so that represents the faith element. The book on the badge isn’t the bible, rather, this represents academic excellence, because we want our students to excel, achieve in life as well-rounded, Catholic citizens.”

The school motto, With God All Things Are Possible, is befitting of the mindset adopted by St James’ forward-thinking headteacher, who has maintained his high expectations for staff and pupils alike since arriving in January. Mr Pontifex’s appetite for success across all areas is immediately distinguishable, as he continues his bid to establish St James’ Catholic High School as a leading school in the local area and beyond.

“The school strapline, With God All Things Are Possible, permeates throughout the school. Whether we’re doing a Maths lesson, taking part in Art, participating in football or hockey, it’s about being great in all that we do and striving to achieve that excellence.”

Finding a suitable school for a child is a challenging proposition for any parent, with several factors to consider and OFSTED reports are often amongst the defining factors. 

However, there are instances whereby some schools have outstanding features that differentiate them from their competition, as is the case with St James’ Catholic High School.

“The main difference that differentiates our school from any other is while we achieve amazing results and we’re lucky enough to have a wonderful building for the students, we have a family element in place; every person who walks through the door feels that sense of family and a sense of belonging. There’s a genuine warmth when entering our school. 

“Ultimately, the most important people in St James’ Catholic High School are our children. Every decision that’s made is with them in mind, whether that be from myself, the teachers, or the governors – that’s what makes us different from any other school.”

There is a prevailing viewpoint held by the staff that the students are at the heart of St James’ Catholic High School; there are plans in place to ensure that they continue to surpass their potential, long after leaving education. These efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by the St James’ pupils, who are appreciative of the efforts made by the staff members at the school.

“When we spoke to the students during the rebrand, they also identified the family value – it wasn’t something that the staff thought of on their own. Students are proud of the school and where they come from.”

As well as the rebranding of the school logo and values, there are plans for other additions shortly. For example, a school video is set to be launched, highlighting a day in the life of a student.

In addition to on-site improvements, the school has celebrated academic and sporting successes. St James’ Catholic High School were third in the local authority for progress and first in the local authority for attainment at 9-4 in English and Mathematics. 

“The achievements have been fantastic – we’re always trying to move to the next level and progress. This isn’t always necessarily in a traditional sense. For example, we’ve just opened our brand-new chapel; this was opened by Mark Davies, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, who visited the school to bless it personally.”

Each member of staff at St James’ Catholic High School is passionate about helping the students under their duty of care to achieve. Naturally, there are instances whereby some students are more successful than their peers, but this hasn’t deterred Mr Pontifex from making sure the relevant support is in place throughout all areas of the school.

“Whether a student is SEND (Special Educational Needs), disadvantaged, or high-attaining, we all make sure that every one of our students is provided with the best possibilities.

“This model for success has seen our extra-curricular teams flourish. Year 9 and 11 were champions last year for football, while we’ve just won the Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 badminton competition for Stockport schools – our hockey teams are also strong.”

The focus for staff at St James’ Catholic High School hasn’t solely been channelled into how pupils thrive during lessons and their respective sporting areas. Voluntary sessions focusing on requisite life skills are held for students at lunchtime, presenting quintessential information for students to prepare them for life when they leave school, with sittings focusing on mortgage applications, financial information and so forth.

“I think that the life skills sessions are a great chance for our students to learn invaluable skills for when they do eventually leave education and fend for themselves. They’re able to ask simple, but important questions such as, ‘what’s the difference between a credit card and a debit card?’, and this extends into further discussions about general wellbeing. 

“Mental health, well-being, and awareness are so prevalent at the moment, so members of staff are running drop-in sessions for students to share any problems that they may have and destress.”

Whilst there’s no doubting the importance of traditional academic subjects such as English, Maths, and Science, an innovative approach has been incorporated within every department, with pupils encouraged to express themselves creatively via art, textiles, and drama.

A school steeped in ambition, St James’ Catholic High School prepares its students for life’s journey, whilst providing a stellar education. For more information about admissions, please call 0161 482 6900. 

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