Evidencing skills development to increase student engagement and develop the whole person

The Waconian Diploma at Cheadle Hulme School

Andy Wrathall Waconian Diploma Coordinator, Cheadle Hulme School

Life at Cheadle Hulme School is underpinned by a very clear set of values, through which we aim to ensure that each of our pupils experiences a challenging, dynamic and relevant education enabling all to reach their full academic and personal potential and flourish in the wider world. 

This is perfectly illustrated by the Academic, Active and Altruistic pillars underpinning school life. We place a keen emphasis on learning as a developing process, enabling pupils to achieve success in external examinations whilst also instilling in them a desire, and capacity, to further their academic interests outside of the classroom. Our range of co-curricular activities means that pupils are able to gain experiences essential to their wider personal and social development. Developing the rounded individual who has the skills to manage themselves, whilst appreciating their role as a member of wider communities, is key.

In order to help our pupils develop the skills required to manage themselves and to enable us to place a greater emphasis on assessing the development of these skills outside the existing reporting systems, we introduced the Waconian Diploma (Waconians are our pupils) to Year 7 in September 2021. Our aim is to provide encouragement and challenges academically, with opportunities for personal and social growth, leadership, and commitment to social responsibility.

The Diploma is designed around a set of skills aligned to our values, and skills are mapped to different learning experiences across the curriculum.

By requiring our Lower School pupils (Years 7 and 8) participate in The Waconian Diploma, we want to enable them to achieve its three main aims:

1. To develop a strong set of personal values which enhance a deeper understanding of the School’s values. Pupils learn to value themselves and others, appreciating difference and individuality, and supporting those less fortunate;

2. To discover and develop a broad and relevant set of skills and aptitudes, enabling useful and effective roles in communities, and to encourage reflection of these skills;

3. To engage in all that the School has to offer both inside and outside the classroom.

We knew that the initial iteration of the Diploma would only be a pilot and that we would need to consider whether we had identified the right skills to focus on and whether the means for recording progress across the skills was fit for purpose.

Moving into the second year of operation, we mapped the skills explicitly to the School’s values of Compassion, Contribution, Endeavour, Integrity and Resilience, with a range of skills identified within each Value. (see above)

When our pupils undertake a co-curricular activity inside or outside school, or a relevant curricular activity, they can fill in a Google Form as a self reflection. In the form the pupils are asked to do the following:

1. Identify which of the three school pillars does the activity fall under? Academic, Active or Altruistic.

2. Which Waconian Value can it be aligned to?

3. Which skill aligned to the chosen Waconian Value has been exhibited?

4. What did you learn from the experience? A personal reflection on the entry.

All the entries are stored in Google Appsheets which presents a dashboard for each individual pupil so they can continually check their progress. The dashboard can also be viewed by the pupil’s Form Tutor. This dashboard is dynamic and updates whenever a new entry is made.

Throughout Year 7 and 8 we have Diploma review weeks when Form Tutors can discuss progress with each of their pupils. This can lead to suggestions about how to gain more from our co-curricular offering. As Diploma Coordinator, I have quality assurance over the entries. At the end of Year 8 we host a Diploma Graduation event where pupils and their families can celebrate their achievements. 

All pupils will achieve the Diploma but to reflect the efforts of our pupils who have gone above and beyond our expectations, Form Tutors will be able to select several to be awarded the Excellence Award.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Diploma has resulted in the following so far:

  • Increased numbers of Year 7 and 8 pupils are attending co-curricular activities.
  • Pupils are attending a greater variety of activities across our three pillars.
  • They have an improved understanding of our core values.
  • Staff and pupils have an increased awareness of skills required by our pupils to manage themselves.
  • A developing maturity in being able to self reflect on their activities.
  • Form Tutors have gained a more rounded picture of their pupils, which we believe will result in more effective pastoral care and reports which are more reflective of all that a child has been able to demonstrate

The next stage for the Diploma is to review our offering in Years 7 and 8 and consider how we can develop it further for our pupils in Years 9 and above.

The benefits of clearly articulating which skills we believe are essential for our pupils to develop, alongside a more holistic approach to assessing them has already become apparent, and we are therefore committed to implementing a similar, albeit age appropriate, learner profile for pupils in the Upper School and Sixth Form. 

Whether this is an adaptation of our own in-house model or an external approach, such as Mastery Transcript Consortium, is still to be decided. 

Please feel free to contact me at school if you would like to find out more about our Diploma:

Andy Wrathall (Waconian Diploma Coordinator)
[email protected]

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