I received a letter this week from the coach driver of the ski party (I knew the trip had gone well, so wasn’t worried what he was going to say), but it was the most effervescent praise following a trip that I have received; without breaking confidence of the communication too much, he spoke about his fear of getting a school party from an academy given the reputation of the academies where he lives, and how our students (and staff) had reshaped his thinking. It was lovely to read, and shows how easily misinformation can spread if left unchecked. I know that our students are wonderful, and I knew they would be a credit to the school and young people from this area, but it doesn’t mean that is what others are anticipating.
If we need any further proof that our students, school and staff are good, then I can only say it was a relief to finally release the Ofsted report yesterday; I won’t spend time here being repetitious from the letter yesterday, but suffice to say at a personal level I feel proud that we have all worked together to deliver a school that has been graded good for the first time since 2008. My reflections over half term, having confidentially seen the draft the week before we broke up, were a mixture of pride coupled with making sure that we don’t now become complacent and that we strive to improve further. The element of the inspection I enjoyed, was that the team entirely got that we were trying to deliver a good education in an inclusive environment through a robust curriculum; in my humble opinion too many schools are finding ways to avoid their commitments to those goals in the high stakes accountability system we operate under now. Whilst it is always challenging dealing with the wide array of students that we have in a truly comprehensive school, I still believe it is a powerful tool for social inclusion and mobility.
I don’t necessarily like the new style Ofsted reports, but I understand the need to make them more succinct for the parental audience; the problem is that the explanation for the areas for improvement have little context in the public forum. The comments about Maths and MFL were largely around how we need to challenge our students to stretch their learning sooner in their education; the comments about curriculum coverage in Art, Music and DT is code for the fact we have had a truncated KS3 experience, and absolutely no reflection on the leaders of those departments per se. However, the report was very positive and shows how far the school has come on its improvement journey over the last few years, and that we are delivering a good quality of education.
My final comment on Ofsted has to go down to the professionalism of their team; I wrote in my letter for the time capsule 2 weeks before about the things that made me proud about the school, and that I hoped any impending inspection team would recognise the same qualities. Unfortunately for Ofsted, it is too easy for a few poor experiences to dominate their reputation that they build. The team we had were very professional, thorough but also helpful and supportive. They took time to understand the school and community, and spoke to huge numbers of students, in all sorts of settings, to capture the spirit and culture at Marshalls Park.
Apologies about the length of the blog this week, and it doesn’t capture all of the events since I last wrote (the PSHE Drop Down Day, the Charity Cake Sale, The Dance Show, the lousy weather, the Year 11 PPEs etc.); however, I felt it was important to elaborate further on the culture and context of our school.
Have a lovely weekend.