Nestled at the foot of the South Downs National Park, a more idyllic setting can hardly be imagined. Surrounded by green fields and the vibrant community of Hassocks, it is no wonder that Downlands Community School students are inspired to reach their full potential.
Downlands is an Outstanding (2017), medium sized secondary school where traditional values sit comfortably alongside leading edge approaches to learning . Ofsted describe Downlands as “A caring and inclusive environment which fulfils the school commitment ‘to place learning at the heart of everything we do’. The outstanding outcomes which pupils consistently achieve are a result of this commitment. As one parent said, ‘I would not hesitate to recommend Downlands – the teaching is excellent, the staff really care, and my children are developing into lovely young adults.’”
Students throughout the school are fully engaged in learning across the curriculum from art to physics, drama to mathematics. Ofsted describe how “the academic curriculum is rigorous and challenging. It is enriched by provision for the arts and a strong programme of extracurricular activities which further enhance pupils’ social, moral, spiritual and cultural understanding.”
Headteacher Mark Wignall explained: “Our results have been really outstanding for the last five years and Ofsted has recognised the work that we have done.” Inspected by Ofsted in November 2016 Downlands was judged to be “Outstanding” in all areas. “We look at learning in the wider holistic sense and provide an environment where creative arts, sport, student leadership and other opportunities are equally important as traditionally academic subjects. The high expectations we have ensure students develop a passion for learning and confidence and belief that they can succeed in anything they want to do in the future.”
Downlands provides a wide variety of opportunities for students to extend their educational experience. The Creative Arts department stages drama productions, concerts and an annual exhibition of GCSE Art work which is open to the public as part of the Hassocks Open House Trail. There are extra-curricular clubs in a wide variety of areas from Chess to Ultimate Frisbee. The school is very proud of the talented students who take part very successfully in a variety of sports competing at national, county and local level in a variety of teams including equestrian, tennis, netball, cricket, football, rugby and badminton.
Downlands is proud to offer a curriculum to suit a wide range of abilities from those students who need extra support to those who have been identified as being gifted and talented.
Pastoral care is also strength at Downlands. With dedicated Achievement Leaders for each year group working closely with Pastoral Support Officers and caring tutors, students’ well-being is closely monitored. As result the students feel cared for and appreciated. “Staff cater for pupils’ needs very well. Relationships are strong and this enables pupils to thrive academically and personally.” (Ofsted)
There is a very positive vibe at Downlands. Students are encouraged to believe that determination, resilience and a willingness to learn from constructive feedback are the key to their own success. Behaviour is outstanding. “Pupils’ behaviour is exemplary. They engage enthusiastically in lessons and show respect and care for each other.” (Ofsted)
Downlands is very proud to be at the heart of the Hassocks community. Mr Wignall explained, “We believe that education reaches far beyond the taught curriculum and we promote a strong community ethos which enables students to make outstanding academic, social and personal progress.” With the annual Summer Fayre and Christmas Market the school invites the local community onto the school site. Students regularly visit local primary schools encouraging younger pupils with science, modern foreign languages and sport. Not only is Downlands an active member of the Hassocks Twinning Association but it, together with Freedom Leisure, runs a community sports centre which includes a gym, sports hall and full size flood lit 3G football pitch. In the future Downlands is looking to make the most of its stunning location by creating an outdoor amphitheatre – to be used by both the students at school and the local community. As Ofsted reported “The school makes an exemplary contribution to the community; it is a community school in action as well as in name.”
In the Autumn of 2017, new state of the art facilities including a Music suite, ICT suite, language suite, dance studio, extended Library and a New Learning Support Suite will open.
Downlands is an exciting, outstanding school. As Ofsted put it “pupils are confident learners who value their education. They are happy to talk to each other and to adults about their learning and support each other well. One pupil said of her classmates, ‘We have a nice community here. If one of us gets it wrong, we help each other to get it right.’”