“The richness of the academy’s curriculum is significant in relation to students’ progress. The diversity of subjects and themes, combined with skilled teaching, results in genuine challenge for students. This demanding curriculum encourages self-confident, assertive young people who are, largely, ambitious for their own success and that of their peers.” Ofsted, June 2015

Challenge Partners report

We have the highest expectations of ourselves as a school, and are keen to ensure that we continue to go from strength to strength. So in February 2018 we asked an external organisation called Challenge Partners to carry out a review of our progress since their last visit in December 2016 and importantly since our 2015 OFSTED inspection.

The 3 day review was a thorough, in-depth process, carried out by a serving OFSTED inspector as lead reviewer, one deputy headteacher and two assistant headteachers from other secondary schools. They observed lessons as well as interviewing senior staff and students. Their conclusions were extremely positive, highlighting a large number of key successes which clearly identified sustained and continued improvement since December 2016, most notably in the areas of questioning in lessons. The report also highlighted some areas for further development and these will be used to underpin the next stage of school development planning.

Among the areas for which we received praise were:

  • The clear and ambitious educational direction of the headteacher and senior leadership team.
  • The strong sense of common purpose and of collaborative working to achieve the best possible outcomes for the students. Staff and students are quick to say how proud they are of their school.
  • The quality and drive of Heads of Department and Heads of Year.
  • The preparation of students for the next steps in their educational journey, to 6th form and beyond.
  • The quality of lesson planning, teachers are creative and use a range of strategies.
  • The level of challenge generated in lessons through the use of the school’s ‘honours thinking’ strategy and in Year 7 and Year 8 the personalisation of this through the flight path model.
  • The subject knowledge of teachers and confidence with the assessment objectives of the new GCSE syllabuses being explicitly taught to students.
  • The strong relationships between teachers and students. Teachers know their students well and there is an ethos of trust and respect.
  • The use of questioning in lessons to secure challenge, curiosity and truly engage students in thinking hard about their learning.
  • The profile and shared vision for literacy and oracy throughout the school; a love of reading is encouraged and students regularly engage in debates and discussions in class.
  • The quality and depth of the Enrichment programme and wider extra curricular opportunities.
  • The engagement of students in their learning.

Equally useful for us were the areas highlighted for ongoing improvement, such as:

  • Improving the charting of starting points and tracking of interventions for key groups of students, to identify the most successful routes more clearly.
  • Continuing the development of curriculum and assessment planning within the Thematic Learning curriculum.
  • Securing consistency in marking and assessment processes across the school.
  • Enabling students to effectively respond to their teachers’ feedback to further accelerate their progress.

We have already started to incorporate their recommendations into our school development plan for 2018 2019 and will be monitoring their effectiveness over the coming months, as well as continuing to focus on our areas of strength.