In 2020 a bespoke programme was piloted with our Y8 Very High Achieving cohort. The programme covered many aspects; but its aim was to identify successful initiatives that would deepen understanding, increase motivation and foster high aspirations and ambition for pupils. Each of the initiatives were then evaluated and aspects identified that would benefit our wider school community. 

It was a very successful programme and we look forward to seeing many of the initiatives in place next year.

This article, written by Poppy O’D 8A, gives us an idea of what the course entailed.


St Edmund Arrowsmith VHAP Programme 

By Poppy O’D 8A


The Scholars of St Edmund Arrowsmith is a project aimed at Very High Achieving pupils in Year 8 to help them reach their full potential. As a school, St Edmund Arrowsmith is committed to ensuring all pupils reach their full potential but realise that some pupils require additional input. 


The programme was launched to Y8 VHAP pupils and parents one evening in January 2020 when Mrs Doolan and Mrs Paul took us through the aims of the initiative. It was all so exciting and innovative. It made us feel very supported as pupils but we also knew about the responsibility we had as well in ensuring the success of its intent. Wigan Athletic Premier League Inspires kick-started the programme with their social action project. This project aimed to build on our interpersonal and team-building skills and encouraged us to think of the local community and their needs. Then the extra-ordinary happened.




We were worried that everything would come to a halt. 


Not so! 


Whilst many of the external agencies were unable to work with the cohort whilst we were learning remotely, Mrs Doolan kept in regular contact with pupils by issuing academic articles and sharing quizzes. She also wanted to gauge our home learning experiences and sent home surveys for us to complete. This made us feel very valued as it gave us a voice. The surveys helped the wider school community because school could alter their approach to remote teaching from our feedback.


As I stated earlier, this programme was not designed to be a one-way street; pupils were expected to take ownership of their individual academic progression through school. It was important that we were involved in extracurricular activities and seized opportunities to develop life skills in our local communities. 


The ‘Breakfast with Industry’ sessions were one of the first things to begin properly again following lockdown. These were sessions that took place every Thursday morning. Pupils were provided with a breakfast whilst they listened to a range of inspiring talks from professionals from different industry backgrounds. These included engineering, law, finance and medicine. These talks gave us the opportunity to explore many careers that we may not have previously considered. It not only gave us an insight into the route to those industries but it also provided information on what it took be successful in them. One of my favourite sessions covered government and politics and was delivered by Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham. His talk really inspired me and made me think about a career in politics. Like Mayor Burnham, many of the professionals spoke about self-belief and seizing opportunities and it filled us with the confidence to do this. 


As well as ‘Breakfast with Industry’ the VHAP programme also benefited from the ‘Premier League Inspires’ sessions delivered by Wigan Athletic. Every week VHAP pupils would meet up in small groups alongside Dave and Dale from Wigan Athletic and plan mental health improvement schemes for school. Once the ideas were planned, we made a presentation to show to a panel of judges. The presentations allowed us to explain how the ideas would benefit pupils and how they could be funded. The winners of this challenge were then chosen. We are looking forward to next year where we will pitch our ideas against those from other schools. This project was very useful as it focused on mental health in school rather than academia and made us think about ways to implement change and schemes to benefit others. I found the activities really interesting and fun and would love to see some of the ideas implemented in school in the future. 


Overall, I think that the VHAP programme is excellent and has inspired me. The sessions have been varied, interesting and fun.