AssessCASE STUDIES - St Bede's Catholic School

Richard Varey
St Bede's Catholic High School


St Bede’s Catholic High School in Ormskirk is a specialist arts college with over 700 pupils. It has an excellent reputation among the local community, but in recent months the school has undergone huge changes in its management structure, bringing in a number of key personnel.

Richard Varey became head of St Bede’s 18 months ago. One of his first tasks was to restructure the school to reflect the Government’s recent Teaching and Learning agenda, while at the same time maintaining the school’s well-earned reputation for high achieving.

The issues:

During his first 12 months in post, Richard made 17 internal teaching appointments out of a staff of 42, including a six-strong senior leadership team.

It was a task that required effective leadership and Richard felt it would be useful to look at the leadership skills in the school — starting with his own.

He explains: “The school was going through a period of significant change, including a series of key appointments to the leadership team, and when the opportunity arose to get funding to help develop leadership skills, the timing was perfect, particularly as this was my first head post.”

The process:

Richard started the process by taking the Assess diagnostic test via McCormac Ltd — it’s an online tool which helps identify an individual’s core strengths and areas that can be developed. This was followed up with 1-to-1 coaching sessions. He was immediately convinced of the wider benefits of the work.

He said: “It was a very useful exercise because it immediately helped strengthen my decision-making and made me look at the way I consult with staff. I felt far more optimistic having gone through the process and came out of it fired with a ‘can do’ attitude.”

Richard believed the new leadership team would benefit too and wanted to make sure all the new post holders had enough development support. The Assess tool, which looks at how people measure up to the general competencies their roles demand, was used again. This time Richard and his team were able to identify the professional development needs.
In practice, this meant giving some responsibilities to individuals who were shown to be better suited to them.

Richard took the leadership team away to work out key priorities. With the guidance of McCormac Ltd the leadership team were able to agree and construct the leadership competencies. “In just 1 day we developed our own St Bede’s competency model – our target for leadership success”.
“It’s a continuing process, but so far it has allowed the leadership team to get closer together, share a common vision and become very focussed on the main things that we want to achieve: to be inspirational,” says Richard.


“Not only has the process had a positive impact on the team and school, but it was effectively free because the training was funded — indeed, it even opened up other funded training opportunities.
“We have found Liz and Gwen from McCormac Ltd personable, jargon-free and never once felt we were being given an off-the-peg solution — everything was very tailored to our needs. That’s why I have happily recommended McCormac Ltd & Assess to the West Lancs Excellence Cluster and the West Lancs Heads’ Group.”



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