THE Secretary of State for Education said William Edwards is setting an "outstanding example" to other schools in the UK during a visit.

Nicky Morgan, the new cabinet minister responsible for education, was at the secondary school in Stifford Clays on Wednesday morning.

She was shown around the specialist sports academy by Finley Wood, the head boy, Ellie Robinson, head girl, and headteacher Steven Munday.

Afterwards, she told the Gazette: "We talk about what we call a school-led self improving system and that basically means teachers taking responsibility for themselves and colleagues in terms of training and schools setting examples and that's exactly what we see here at William Edwards, setting an outstanding example to other schools."

Mrs Morgan went into two English classes where she oversaw a game of pass the parcel desigined to test students knowledge of a poem they had been studying before, in the next class, a pupil read her a poem he had written.

The minister also spoke to teachers before being shown an app designed by William Edwards which helps teachers plan lessons. It has been downloaded 10,000 times and in 35 different countries across the globe.

And Mrs Morgan was also taken into the school's purpose-built Teaching School Alliance room, where teachers from across the UK come to brush up on their skills in courses led by William Edwards teachers.

Mrs Morgan added: "This clearly is an outstanding school. What we see here is a real energy from the head teacher downwards to be outstanding.

"There's a real commitment, with things like the teaching school alliance, like the app that's been designed, to spread best practice."

Mrs Morgan added that she is keen to ensure other schools in the UK learn from William Edwards. She said: "Things like the Teaching School Alliance is very important because that's about teachers talking to eachother and there's no doubt that the Department of Education can say what we think works, like curriculum content, but actually the best thing is for schools and teachers to be talking to eachother.

"That's where with the academy process - and for instance William Edwards is looking to set up a multi-academy trust with two local primary schools - is therefore one way of spreading best practise."

Steven Munday, headteacher at William Edwards, said: "It’s always fascinating to hear from any political leader about the agenda for education and when you have the opportunity to speak directly to the Secretary of State for Education then it’s fantastic.

See Nathan read a poem he wrote to the Secretary of State:

"We’re delighted that Nicky Morgan was able to visit us today to see and hear a little more about what we’re doing, but importantly understand that breadth of experience is so important for youngsters across Thurrock.

"I think what most people would agree on is that innovation and development of teaching should come from schools and there are so many fabulous schools in this area that are leading the agenda in terms of teacher training and development. It’s something Thurrock should be enormously proud of."

Hear Steve Munday talk about the innovation which William Edwards is showing in improving teaching and raising standards:

The visit was enjoyed by Finley and Ellie, 15, who showed Mrs Morgan their school.

Afterwards, Finley, from Orsett, said: "It's been a great experience. It's nice to talk to someone who is at the heart of everything that we do here at William Edwards."

Ellie, who lives in Grays, added that the pupils feel like they are at the heart of driving improvement and innovation at the school, which the pair were pleased to discuss with the Secretary of State: "It's great being part of the school community, knowing how and being able to help it improve. It means we can give something back, too, which is excellent."

Jackie Doyle-Price, Thurrock MP, who accompanied the cabinet minister on her visit, said: "I’ve always been a big fan of William Edwards as a school. I’ve been here less [than other schools] because there’s nothing to worry about – it gets on quietly and does the right things.

"I was more than happy to bring the Secretary of State to this fantastic school.”

She added: "I think this Government’s reforms – which have given schools more independence through the academies programme and enabling free schools to be established where people want them - has been crucial in driving up standards in Thurrock. The direction of travel in the last three years has been phenomenal.

"The proof is here in Thurrock where education has been transformed in the last few years.

"Thurrock is ahead of the game in so many ways."