Quality Mark Case Study: Corby Business Academy

Corby Business Academy were awarded a gold Quality Mark in July 2023. Head of History, Fiona Rowe led the process. What follows below are excerpts from the school's QM report supplemented by samples of evidence from their portfolio and evaluation. 

About the school

Corby Business Academy has approximately 1150 students covering Years 7 to 13 and is part of the Brooke Weston multi-academy trust (10 primary and secondary schools). It is a non-selective, co-educational school. The percentage of students eligible for free school meals is 21.1%. 10% of the school have SEN. 26% are EAL. The school also contains a SEN unit. The last Ofsted inspection in April 2023 rated the school as good.
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1. Teaching and Learning

The particular strengths of teaching and learning include passion for the subject, secure teacher knowledge, a structured but flexible approach, a commitment to teaching all students, self reflection, a harmonious learning environment and effective teacher monitoring of progress. The teaching and learning is very effectively linked to providing all students with the tools to engage with history.
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2. Leadership

There are five well-qualified teachers in the department with a range of experience and roles such as a ECT to a head of year and vice principal. All are committed to the subject. There is a most effective and successful head of history who supports collaborative leadership. An innovative aspect of leadership was the use of A-level history students in carrying out and analysing student voice to supplement that done by the history department.
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3. Curriculum

There is a carefully-worked out rationale for the curriculum in terms of topic, sequencing, pedagogy and assessment. The result is a broad and balanced curriculum which is taught as a discrete subject but with close links to other areas of the school. For example, there is a strong emphasis on supporting the school’s literacy and numeracy strategy.
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4. Achievement

There are two very impressive aspects to achievement – firstly the levels of attainment and secondly the way achievement is tracked and developed. The bottom line is that progress relative to starting points is outstanding. Although the whole school has turned around its results, history has outpaced this. GCSE results have improved consistently since 2017. There has been a 15% improvement since the head of department took over. Results outperform similar schools. 2022 sisra data shows a +0.33% residual and 0.51 subject progress index. AQA data for 2022 GCSE shows better results than both similar schools and all AQA centres. The department recognises the challenge caused by the demands of GCSE and is working at making the subject even more accessible to the lowest attainers to reinforce its belief in history as a subject relevant to all.
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5. Enrichment

The department is outward looking. It is cognisant that a fair number of students lack academic cultural capital and has positioned itself to play a leading role. It acknowledges that this is a priority after the negative impacts of covid. Priority plans include Holocaust survivor talks and visits to the Holocaust Centre and to Auschwitz. Consideration is also been given to an overseas visit for Year 9 students.
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Final comments

The Academy has come a long way in recent years and history has played a key role in this being a respected subject with strong teaching and a concern to give the best history experiences to all students. It offers a relevant and carefully-constructed curriculum helped by excellent leadership, organisation and management. The progress and achievement are impressive ,supported by meticulous monitoring, feedback and support. The care, dedication and commitment to the subject are demonstrated also with the preparation and organisation of this Quality Mark assessment. It was a joy to be involved and thanks especially to Fiona Rowe for all her work on this.


Here's what the school said about the process:

  • Before starting the Quality Mark, what impact did you hope to achieve?

    In recent years, we've invested considerable time and effort to overhaul our curriculum, prioritising diversity, breadth and balance as well as skill and knowledge progression. Our commitment to improvement led us to seek evaluation against external, impartial criteria. We wanted to use the Quality Mark’s robust framework rooted in established best practices to guide and enhance our development strategies and curriculum design.

  • What was the most challenging/daunting aspect of working towards the Quality Mark?

    The comprehensive evaluation of the Quality Mark, which is what makes it so valuable, is also the most challenging aspect, as it requires the collection and organisation of a substantial amount of material against each of the criteria. 

  • What were your biggest success stories during the process?

    Central to our sense of success was receiving external validation that our curriculum efforts were producing desired outcomes, notably the assessor’s praise of our innovative elements and commendation of curriculum themes. Likewise, recognition of our flexible approach, which aligns lessons without being overly prescriptive was reassuring. Additionally, observing superb levels of student engagement in the closing week of the school year was a significant highlight during the visit. 

  • What has been the impact of the Quality Mark for your school?

    The Quality Mark's self-evaluation process shed light on both our strengths and areas that needed development. It was a reminder that we can become inward-looking. The enrichment provided by reopening doors to the community, rebuilding Trust relationships, and organising school trips was pivotal to our history department's identity. The process also highlighted areas of engagement that required revitalisation, such as bringing in more visitors and fostering better collaboration with other departments. Thanks to the Quality Mark, we're now actively pursuing more engagement with departments, sister schools, local communities and higher education establishments.

    The rigour of the QM has firmly established a benchmark for guiding our future endeavours.

  • What effect has working towards the Quality Mark had on a.) curriculum, b.) teaching and learning, c.) achievement, d.) leadership e.) status and overall effectiveness?

    1. 1. While we had some confidence in our curriculum, the Quality Mark bolstered our confidence to maintain our innovative and forward-thinking approaches.
    2. 2. In teaching and learning, it has kept us focused on upholding standards, delivering valuable professional development and lesson resources for all educators.
    3. 3. We want to maintain our high standards in achievement.
    4. 4. Leadership needs to continue to move the department forward utilising the strengths of the team, inspiring all towards common goals of providing high quality history education for all.
    5. 5. There will be an ongoing effort to engage with others beyond the department to increase effectiveness.

  • How effective was the documentation and guidance provided?

    The documentation and guidance were user-friendly. They were presented in a clear and organised manner, offering a diverse array of suggestions.  

  • How easy was the process to carry out?

    The process was easy to carry out, although collating evidence did at times seem to overlap. We tried to think carefully to overcome this. 

  • How effective was the online portfolio for collating evidence?

    The online portfolio served its purpose well.

  • The assessor carried out work according to the roles and responsibilities set out in the process. Did this meet your needs and expectations?

    Tim was an outstanding assessor throughout the process. The initial online meeting provided incredibly valuable guidance for shaping our portfolio. Overall, the experience was exceptionally positive, enriched with excellent insights and ideas, all while maintaining a wonderfully stress-free atmosphere. 

  • How would you rate the benefits of the Quality Mark?

    The benefits of the quality mark have been extraordinarily useful.  

  • What aspect of the benefits is the most useful? Why?

    The most beneficial aspect is the external validation of our efforts, reassuring us that we are indeed on the correct path. 

  • What impact has gaining the quality mark had or do you expect it to have?

    It has given us the confidence to continue developing the department. 

  • Does the Quality Mark represent value for money in terms of a rigorous recognition of quality history education provision?


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