Ruth Robinson

Executive Principal, Nova Hreod Academy and Swindon Academy
Speaking at


How tough love and evidence informed practice transformed a white working class school

Can a white working class school with high levels of deprivation achieve a high Progress 8 score or be graded ‘Good’ by Ofsted?
For Swindon Academy, the answer to both of these questions is ‘Yes’.

The school has a chequered history. It opened as an academy in 2007, replacing the notorious Headlands School. The academy found itself at the bottom of the league tables in 2008 when 9% achieved of pupils achieved A*-C with English and Maths.

Ruth joined the school in January 2012. Things really changed when members of the senior leadership team were given iPhones in January 2014. They joined twitter and started to read educational blogs and books. They realised that many of the approaches they had adopted to improve standards were actually contributing to low attainment. So out went TEEP, Philosophy for Children, Building Learning Power and graded observations. In came Disruption Free Learning, Teach Like A Champion, Incremental Coaching, and a Knowledge Rich Mastery Curriculum.

The results speak for themselves. The school was graded ‘good’ by Ofsted in May 2017. In 2017, Level 4+ in English and Maths was 66% and the P8 figure of 0.76 put the school in the top 4% nationally.

In this session, Ruth will share how leaders researched what works, visited schools that were bucking the trend, then took and shaped the approaches that worked in London schools and applied them to Swindon Academy.


Having graduated from Sheffield University, Ruth has spent her career working in schools with high levels of deprivation. Ruth took on her first headship in January 2004 at a Birmingham school that was part of a hard federation with Ninestiles School. She went on to open North Oxfordshire Academy and then to take over as Principal of Swindon Academy in January 2012.

Over fourteen years, Ruth and her senior teams have navigated an ever-changing accountability framework, and a number of Ofsted Inspection frameworks. Ruth favours an approach which promotes high expectations, a knowledge-based mastery curriculum and disruption free learning alongside excellent pastoral care and a rich programme of extra-curricular opportunities.