Almost seven years ago to the day, I came to Basingstoke for the first time, to be interviewed for the role of headteacher at Brighton Hill Community School. At that time, it was starkly apparent that the town didn’t have a strong reputation for secondary education; too many young people were being put onto buses out of town, looking for something better. However, now, right at the time of year when so many from our local communities are making life-changing decisions for their Year 6 children, I like to think that the standard of schooling in our borough is better than ever.

Since 2019, when the new Ofsted framework was introduced, the inspectorate has only given five ‘outstanding’ judgements (in any of the four graded categories) to secondary schools who have had full inspections within Hampshire. It fills me with great pride to be able to say that all five of those judgements were given to Basingstoke schools. Of course, Ofsted is not everything, and, having got to know each of our schools and colleges very well over my seven years in the town, I can assure all readers that there is an abundance of quality secondary education here, with all of our educational establishments on upward trajectories.

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Aldworth School has recently won an award for their innovative careers programme, and has developed a new careers hub and ambitious work shadowing programme to prepare students for further study and work; Bishop Challenor continues to deliver strong GCSE outcomes; at Costello school, students are about to embark on a digital learning project where their students will use integrated technology in lessons to combine traditional teaching methods with exciting advances in technology; Cranbourne is aspiring towards new heights under strong new leadership; Everest, another school under new leadership, is building on its strong ‘good’ Ofsted report; Testbourne School continues to impress visitors with its calm, focussed atmosphere; The Vyne School’s leaders are understandably proud of their strong sense of community in their school and the opportunity to provide an excellent education to their children and, at my own school, Brighton Hill, we have grown from a school of 502, in 2017, to 1,283 wonderful students today, thanks to the local community which continues to put its faith in us.

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When speaking of secondary education in Basingstoke, it would be remiss of me not to mention our two fantastic colleges, (both of which have received ‘outstanding’ elements within their recent Ofsted reports): Queen Mary’s College (QMC) and Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT), which provide exceptional transition from our schools into the next educational phase. At QMC last year over 160 students took part in their international Citizenship Challenge trips (Tanzania, Panama, Cambodia, Nepal and Thailand) where they supported education in schools, worked in elephant sanctuaries and immersed themselves in global culture and nearly 70 per cent of their students achieved A*- C grades at A level. BCoT continues to lead the way with innovation, winning numerous awards for technology, as well as launching their new University Centre at the college.

Clearly, every child has different needs, but I would recommend, heartily, that you visit as many of our Basingstoke secondary schools as possible, during the “Open Evening” season, as I am certain you will be impressed by what is on offer in our town.