What Is NTS-ness?

It is crucial that as we continue to develop as a school and that we retain the atmosphere and environment that is ‘NTS’. We call it NTS-ness. We expect to ‘NTS’ all new members of our community and constantly remind existing staff of the importance of NTS-ness. Staff and pupils need to understand why we are special, how we achieved this status and recognise that it is not a ‘given’. To this end, we want everyone to have pride in ‘NTS-ness’.

We expect staff to:

  • Have a common understanding of what the standards and expectations of NTS are
  • Be ‘on-board’ in terms of acting on these standards and expectations (uniform, behaviour, equipment, manners etc.)

We expect pupils to:

  • Look the part
  • Act the part
  • Act in a responsible, thoughtful and decent manner
  • Take pride in our school and the standards we uphold

What’s In A Motto?


The school’s motto was actually taken from the coat of arms of Admiral Lord Nelson (none of our founders was remotely grand enough to have any such thing), and its original application was no doubt theological. Today, we see its relevance somewhat differently – as a reminder of what’s possible for us as a school if we set about things in the right way.

By any standards, we are today a very high-performing school – but there was nothing inevitable about our success: our achievements (our works) are the result of an act of group will (faith, if you like). We actually set out to do what we’ve done – to turn an “average” school in to a “top” one. So naturally, we’re rather proud of this – which is why we’ll now run the risk of boring you for a paragraph while we tell you the story.

In terms of intake, Nelson Thomlinson is a near-perfect example of the average comprehensive school. It used to be very slightly below average: we used to assert that our pupils joined us with a mean CAT (IQ) score of 98 or 99 and that we made them clever. The success of the school has changed things a bit, though, and the average CAT score for each year group now ranges from 99 to 103. Having said that, our socio-economic profile remains very distinctly “average”. Wigton is an admirable place in very many ways, but no one ever accused it of being privileged.

At the end of the 1980s, our results were consistent with these intake statistics (27% of our pupils were getting 5 or more A-C grades at GCSE when the national average was 30%). At that time, though, we set ourselves the aim of becoming “recognised as the best comprehensive school in the area.” In 1998, by which time our GCSE A*-C percentage had doubled and we had enjoyed successive years in the top ten of the nation’s comprehensives at “A” level, we upgraded our ambition and resolved to establish our school as the top comprehensive in the country.

During the last two decades we have had three highly successful OFSTED inspections (2001, 2006 and 2013) and an equally successful interim inspection in 2010 which upheld our Outstanding status. These days, on the new P8 measure, we consistently score something in the region of +0.1 to +0.2, which is higher than the national average and considerably higher than the county average. And given our context (socio-economic profile, challenging geographical situation and truly comprehensive intake), these achievements are quite remarkable. We make full use of our observation room, taking the quality of teaching and learning to new heights.

We are successful in every area of school life and our current desire to turn every pupil into a ‘complete learner’ is highly ambitious but certainly in keeping with our motto.

Buildings Worthy Of The Enterprise

We are lucky to have an attractive site and some lovely historic buildings – their dignity and beauty are testimony to the Victorians’ seriousness of purpose about education.

“Aedificium incepto dignum” (A building worthy of its purpose) – We think we deserve nothing less.

For our part, we’re certainly no less serious than the Victorians about the dignity and importance of our profession – which is why we’ve ensured that every new building that has been put up over the past twenty years has been designed to enhance the beauty of NTS.

NTS History & Traditions

It was Aneurin Bevan who said that the worst poverty is poverty of ambition. Anyone doubting the truth of this assertion should try comparing the aspirations of pupils of similar natural abilities at Eton and a Comprehensive School.

But how do we learn to aspire? Perhaps the most accessible way is by following the examples of our predecessors, and one of the particular richnesses of NTS is in the examples set by some of its former pupils. Royal Academician? Fellow of the Royal Society? TV journalist? Head of MI5? World Champion? International Businessman? Judge? Successful novelist? Peer of the realm? Olympic athlete? Pupils of this school have achieved all these things and more – and none of them started from a privileged background.

Our school’s history is not only an important source of inspiration to its pupils; it is no less important to its teachers. For over 300 years, Nelson Thomlinson (in its various guises) has given good service to the young people of this community. We, today, honour and draw strength from these achievements in the best possible way – by building on them and ensuring that standards today are higher than they have ever been in the past, and that standards tomorrow are higher still.

Prize Day 2023

And there’s a final way in which our history enriches us. To join NTS is to become an inheritor of, and a participant in, a developing tradition, and, for many of us, that gives our lives here an extra significance. Through our Founders’ Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies, through the names on our prizes at Prize Day, through the names and photos and pictures on our walls, through the academic achievements book in our library, one easily comes to see oneself as part of an on-going story. And it’s an honourable story too.

What You Can Learn From A Fire Drill

When the fire alarm goes off at NTS, some 1400 people walk totally silently out of school and assemble in perfect order. It isn’t quite to the standard of the changing of the guard, but it’s not all that far behind.

What might this tell you? Well, first of all that we take health and safety matters seriously. But actually, there’s a deeper significance. This is a disciplined school. Wigton kids are certainly not softies and, as in most places, teachers at NTS need to earn their pupils’ respect. Nonetheless, despite our comprehensive intake, teaching here is a doable job; it’s a matter of great importance to us that there should be no unteachable classes at NTS.

Generally we regard our house style as being relaxed and informal. Uniform, however, offers a reminder to everyone that, when it comes down to it, the school sets the standard, not its pupils.

And how is all this possible in an ordinary comprehensive school in the 21st Century? – Because we’re serious about what we do – and because our pupils (and their parents) actually approve of the fact. They know that the reason our pastoral staff set high standards is because they care about them enough to be ambitious for them. They even seem to appreciate the importance of the fact that their classroom teachers judge their own performance in terms of their skills as pedagogues, not crowd-control experts, baby sitters or social workers.

What Makes Wigton Healthier?


The school itself is an attractive place and it’s located near some of the most beautiful countryside in England, 20 minutes north of the Lake District National Park and 15 minutes south of the Solway Estuary. Wigton itself is an interesting little industrial market town; Carlisle is an attractive and developing Border City; Cockermouth is a vibrant little Lakeland town, full of young professionals, many of them teachers.

Professional Satisfaction

The school’s view of teaching as an important, honourable, but also difficult profession requires it to ensure that professional effectiveness and development is a central concern. This makes it a good place for NQTs to learn their trade and for the upwardly mobile to gain important experience. (We have an impressive record of developing HoDs and Senior Managers.) It’s also a good place to stay, though. The school’s record of continued success and progress precludes any possibility of stagnation, and its place within its community gives an extra significance to what it does.

Wigton is a tight-knit community. Innovia Films/Futamura is “the factory”, we are “the school.” The former Head of Sixth Form has twice been Mayor of Wigton, the vicar of Wigton was a leading member of our governing body, “the factory” has been well represented on our Board of Governors. NTS, then, exists within that community but it also makes a big difference to that community. If we were to fail, Wigton would suffer; because we succeed, Wigton benefits. So the responsibility is big – but so are the satisfactions of success.


Housing in North Cumbria is very affordable and there’s plenty to do outside school besides fell walking.

There’s plenty to do inside school besides teaching, too; and one of the reasons why so many of us are addicted to the place is because of the texture of life here. Lots of staff are involved with the school musical and theatrical productions and sports teams; many actually participate in the choir, or the staff rock group. There’s also a staff Friday night five-a-side football session, staff craft club, mindfulness sessions, canoeing, ….. even bird watching (with the Headmaster!).

There are the “set pieces” of the school year, too. Prize Day, Founders’ Day, our Remembrance Service and our Carol Services are not just things that happen here: they are dignified moments in the school year where we pause to celebrate what we do and the historical and cultural context within which we do it.

So perhaps a major reason why staff at NTS don’t miss work very often is the fact that work here is (on the whole, of course!) something that they actually enjoy.