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10th ‘Thinking School’ accreditation for the Thinking Schools Academy Trust

10th ‘Thinking School’ accreditation for the Thinking Schools Academy Trust

Students and staff at Holcombe Grammar School are delighted after the school became one of only around 30 schools in the country to receive “Thinking School” accreditation from the University of Exeter.

The report by the University of Exeter’s Graduate School of Education, issued as part of the accreditation process, praised staff for “actively seeking out opportunities to continuously drive improvements in learning and teaching”.

The school, in Chatham, is part of the high-performing Thinking Schools Academy Trust, which pioneers an innovative ‘Thinking School’ approach to enhance students’ cognitive capabilities and learning habits. More than half of the schools in the Trust have now received this prestigious accreditation.

In its report, Exeter University highlighted the strong partnership between the School and the Trust, noting that staff at Holcombe Grammar School have “fully embraced” the Thinking School vision and are “committed to creating a positive learning culture”.

This accreditation marks another significant milestone for the school. Prior to joining Thinking Schools, the school, then known as Chatham Grammar School for Boys, was rated ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted. Since joining the Trust, it has been transformed and is now rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted, with inspectors noting how the school’s “vision to develop pupils’ thinking skills was having a positive impact on the quality of learning and teaching.”


The University of Exeter’s report highlights a wide range of other strengths, including:

  • “Holcombe Grammar School recognises the teaching of thinking as fundamental to developing the skills of persistent, open‐minded and independent, lifelong learners”.
  • “The school prides itself on providing a caring, supportive environment, and this is underpinned by the house and pastoral systems, which ensure that every student has a sense of community and belonging”.
  • “The Regional Governing Body and the Academic Advisory Board are fully supportive of the ‘Thinking School’ ideal and recognise the part it plays in the development and achievements of students as skilled, independent and reflective learners, who embrace challenge and aspire to and strive for  personal excellence”.
  • Schools across the Trust work together to “improve the life chances of all their children and young people, underpinned by a common mission to nurture successful children who are confident learners and can think and act independently”.


Mandy Gage, Executive Principal at Holcombe Grammar School, said:

“We are all very proud to have been awarded ‘Thinking School’ accreditation by the University of Exeter, demonstrating our commitment to excellence in teaching and learning.


“This achievement shows our continued journey to improve the life chances of all our pupils through a rich, varied, and interesting curriculum. Our accreditation and ‘Good’ Ofsted rating have been extremely important milestones in our development, and we look forward to building on our success over the coming months and years.”

Stuart Gardner, Chief Executive of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, said:

“Achieving accreditation as a ‘Thinking School’ is a hugely important step for Holcombe Grammar School, showcasing the dedication and hard work of pupils and staff to foster an open, critical learning environment. We have greatly enjoyed working with the school since 2013 and are very excited about continuing our work together as the school goes from strength to strength.


“We are also delighted that more than half of our schools have now achieved this prestigious accreditation. We look forward to continuing to encourage best practice sharing and providing support and expertise to schools across the Trust to help them to do the same.”