FROM the Welsh Government's lowest possible ranking for schools, to one of the top-rated in Gwent in the space of two years, Caldicot High School is celebrating its recent positive Estyn inspection report ahead of a multi-million-pound rebuild on the site.
The Estyn report praised the 1,293-pupil school's performance in English and maths at GCSE level and pupils' good behaviour, while Welsh second language was described as "very good".
Head teacher Susan Gwyer-Roberts and her senior management team were praised for "strong and effective leadership" with performance "closely monitored".
Both performance and prospects for improvement were described as "good", out of the possible categories "unsatisfactory", "adequate", "good" and "excellent".
The report is a continuation of the positive feedback left by Estyn inspectors back in 2008, but a significant leap from the Welsh Government's band five, to band two ranking this year.
"We have very committed and dedicated teachers, who have worked their socks off," said Mrs Gwyer-Roberts, who has been in charge at the school for 12 years. "It's a privilege to be head teacher of this school."
Senior staff roles have changed but staff numbers have not been cut, she explained.
"These people now are doing a much more refined, focused role with a group of children and a group of projects," she said. "There have been a significant amount of challenges that the leadership has had to face in all schools, and we've risen to the challenge."
Besides ageing buildings spread across an enormous site, the challenges the school has had to face include getting its pupils to be totalling engaged in their learning and raising their self-esteem, getting them interested in school.
Inspectors felt this was reflected in the high levels of support, care and guidance at the school.
"All these qualities would be significantly enhanced when we have a learning environment fit for the 21st century," said Mrs Gwyer-Roberts of the impending £31 million rebuild, which will also see £3.9 million-worth of refurbishment for its eight feeder primary schools.
Head girl Rosie Lewis, 17, from Caldicot, said of the rebuild: "We know in the future it's going to be so much better especially for the younger students, and the older students are quite happy that the school can progress. Some pupils' grandparents came to this school."
For a school so close to England, the school's track record in Welsh second language was singled out by Estyn inspectors as being "a very strong feature", with nearly all pupils following the GCSE full course as opposed to the short course, and attainment is high.
"The school provides a wide range of opportunities to develop pupils’ knowledge and understanding of Welsh culture and language," inspectors found.
"It's probably our best subject," said Mrs Gwyer-Roberts. "We have a good leader of Welsh and the experience pupils get in their lessons is so enjoyable."
Chair of governors at the school, Peter Nurcombe said he was "overjoyed" at the report while Steve Davies, head of the Education Achievement Service (EAS) for South East Wales said the school had made "significant, continuous achievement and progress over a number of years".
Leader of Monmouthshire council, Peter Fox, who visited the school on the day the report was published, said: "The next few years will be a very exciting period of development as the council is committed to investing in its new building programme for Caldicot School."