Ballard School follows a broad and innovative curriculum that meets the needs of every pupil. The school uses its excellent and highly qualified staff to deliver syllabi based on the National Curriculum and Common Entrance programmes of study, but enhances and stretches pupils learning by including many extended topics.
The school’s size is ideally placed to help us adjust our timetable to meet the needs of individuals, but at the same time to allow healthy competition between pupils of all abilities. Subject specialism starts in Year 3, while our GCSE subject choice is extremely broad. Pupils have access to three modern foreign languages from Year 7, and the school offers a curriculum for the academic; the all-rounder; for the pupil who needs support; the practically minded - a curriculum innovatively designed to meet the needs of all pupils and to stimulate all pupils. A joy of learning is our priority, in a non-threatening environment supported by an extensive curriculum and extra-curriculum, including an outstanding choice of activities.
The outcome is obvious - our results at all ages are excellent and a tribute to our teaching staff and a carefully planned curriculum.
Headline GCSE results for 2015 - 85% pass rate A* to C including English and Maths
We publish our GCSE results to cover a four-year period (and are thus an average) as we are a non-selective school and this gives a fairer reflection of the performance of Ballard School pupils who leave at the end of Year 11. Despite being non-selective, our pupils mostly achieve at a level well above expectations (as indicated in their CAT assessments – cognitive ability tests). Individual success stories cannot easily be seen in statistics as we often find ourselves rejoicing as much with the pupil who has secured a full set of ‘passes’ (above C grade), when he or she was only predicted to obtain for or five, as we do with the pupil who gains twelve GCSEs at A and A* level!
Whilst we are always somewhat cautious about using statistics to emphasise our academic success, it is worth pointing out that Ballard has consistently been the top-performing non-selective school in our area over several years now. This can be illustrated from the ‘league tables’ published in the local Press which covers our part of the New Forest which includes part of west Hampshire and into east Dorset. In these we consistently lead the field of non-selective maintained and independent schools. Parents may request more detailed information about the School’s academic performance, including exam results, by contacting the Headmaster.
From the Headmaster Alastair Reid
I have sometimes heard it said that because Ballard is a ‘non-selective’ school we are therefore ‘non-academic’. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
We admit pupils to Ballard without an entrance exam ‘hurdle’ but we do expect a personal visit from a prospective pupil, a ‘taster’ day during which we do some informal assessments, copies of recent school reports and a reference from the previous school. We seek to match the child’s potential and needs to what we offer and make a place available accordingly. Once at Ballard, our pupils are stretched and challenged in all directions. Our ethos is a holistic one – to encourage pupils to be fully involved in extra-curricular activities, sport, performing arts and outdoor pursuits and, in so doing, we find they perform way beyond their potential in the classroom. In 2015 we gained five sixth form scholarships at top schools in music and sport. In the previous two years similar awards were gained in academics, the sciences, drama and in all-round education. Our own academic scholarships (at Y4, Y7 and Y9 entry) are prestigious and set the tone for the whole scholarship programme.
A glance at our GCSE results will show that we are the best performing ‘non-selective’ school (that is, without an entrance test) in our region. In 2013, one of our pupils was runner-up nationally for his GCSE results in ISA (Independent Schools Association) schools. A review of GCSE results from the top 10% of our recent Year 11 streams reveals that our students took an average of 12 GCSE's and achieved A or A* grades in 84% of those exams. We offer up to 27 different GCSE courses thus providing a flexibility in specialist areas in order to help maximise the all-round academic potential of our students. Above all our pupils are happy, purposeful and successful. It was evident at our recent Speech Day that many pupils who have had some degree of learning support were amongst our top prize winners. We are skilled at recognizing learning difficulties, putting in appropriate strategies and instilling confidence in pupils. Our Department of Enhanced Learning (DEL) recognises the need to stretch the ‘gifted and talented’ (G&T), some of whom may have a learning approach difficulty which, once addressed, allows them to ‘fly’ academically. Our G&T pupils are stretched through the use of setting for foundation subjects, differentiated learning tasks and special sessions including ‘outside’ conferences and events.
We are also very keen at Ballard on looking for cross-curricular links and building on the natural ‘sinews’ between subjects. For example, we recently appointed a staff member to be responsible for STEM initiatives– that is, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths projects. A group of pupils attended a ‘fair’ in Lymington which displayed the links between school and industry in the Marine world. We also developed the braking and parachute system for the world’s fastest lawn mower powered car via STEM links. Our attendance at the Science Museum in London for the ‘Big Bang’ Science and Technology Awards saw our gravity racer project (for Year 5 and 6 pupils) awarded the ‘outstanding contribution to physics’ prize by the Institute of Physics.
Thus, by avoiding a narrow selectivity based on an entrance exam, we look for the best in all of our pupils in whatever field they excel or have the potential for so doing. Academic excellence at Ballard is partly measured by outstanding GCSE and other exam results (such as in music and in speech and drama) but is also gauged by pushing the boundaries within subjects and exploring the links between them. An understanding of learning needs, as well as of learning styles, enables our pupils to achieve well beyond their apparent potential. ‘Ballard - better and better’ is clearly an apt expression!