“ Leaders and governors are creating a culture that enables students and staff to excel. They are committed unwaveringly to setting high expectations for the conduct of students and staff. Relationships between staff and students are exemplary.  “

External inspection by Charles Rice, Independent Schools Inspector

It is just over two years since our first Ofsted inspection, and we were keen to see how we are progressing against the targets we have set ourselves as a school since then. Last week, we invited Charles Rice, to come and do a mini inspection for us.

Charles met with our heads of department, senior leaders, students and governors. He carried out book trawls, learning walks, and a curriculum review. He was highly complimentary about what he saw, identifying what he feels is going well as well as highlighting areas for further improvement (our own www and ebi, if you like).

Charles mentioned many areas of strength, including the richness of our curriculum, exemplary progress across a range of subjects and our high expectations for students. He also noted that:

  • Leaders are able to present a coherent picture of progress. Middle leaders are able to identify strengths and weaknesses well, and pin-point gaps in achievement. Monitoring and tracking systems ensure no child is left to slip through the net without intervention.
  • Middle leaders are enthusiastic about the culture of learning and risk-taking that all teachers are encouraged to adopt. They also feel empowered to lead: “SLT see potential in staff and support our development”
  • Self-evaluation shows year on year teaching to be to a high standard (96.3% good or better). The system used for tracking the quality of teaching rests on detailed analysis at every level and is first-rate – clear expectations are backed up by systematic and personalised 360 degree approaches.
  • Outcomes in end of year exam subjects were very good, especially in most of the EBacc subjects.
  • Leadership of behaviour is strategically and coherently directed from the top with strong ownership by Pastoral Leads who are committed to empowering their tutors.
  • A comprehensive Pupil Premium Action Plan is in place with bespoke leadership on the SLT since Sept 2016. Middle leaders know where the gaps are and are able to cite strategies they are introducing to close those gaps.
  • The celebration of staff as well as student achievement is absolutely integral to the way the school improves. At every level effort and hard work are expected but also recognised, and used to promote further improvement.
  • There is a strong informal culture of “sharing” best practice. The steps are now in place for the “systematic spreading” of best practice.

He also noted that we, as a school, continue to demonstrate substantial capacity to drive improvement, stating that we identify issues accurately, are never complacent, and are creative about developing solutions.

Among the areas that we agreed should be our focus for further development are:

  • More consistency given to DIRT (Dedicated Improvement Response Time) time afterwards but especially beforehand to help students improve their work. Train students to respond more consistently to teacher feedback.
  • Homework review – setting of tasks, sign-posting in books, completion.
  • Further review the impact of interventions and fine-tune their allocation.
  • Develop the focus on boys’ achievement, researching and defining the small steps needing to be achieved to ensure students master the challenge of meeting Quality Minimum Standards as well as their own potential.
  • Investigating further parental capacity to support the school in improving attitudes to learning amongst certain boys.
  • Further develop the culture of spreading rather than just sharing best practice. The CPD programme is very well-devised and the evidence is there to enable ever sharper performance objectives.

We are delighted with both the outcomes of the assessment and the food for thought it has given us as we continue to develop as a school. It is clear that there is so much to celebrate at this point in our journey as a school and we look forward to the next steps. Charles’ input has been invaluable in helping us create a springboard for our further success.