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The best inspection ever

THE staff of a Birmingham school are celebrating inspectors' decision to award them the highest teaching grades on record for a comprehensive.

Ninestiles school - where every teacher has a laptop and pupils set their own learning goals - was told by the Office for Standards in Education that 85 per cent of its lessons were "good" or better, compared to an average for English secondaries last year of 57 per cent.

Ninestiles is a technology college that selects 10 per cent of its 1,400 pupils. Dexter Hutt, headteacher, said the inspection results were a tribute to an innovative approach to teaching and management in a school where 30 per cent of pupils get free meals.

The school has a young staff - a third of those in the classroom have joined the profession in the past four years - and eight advanced skills teachers.

All are igorously monitored, using a system of classroom observation that won particular praise from OFSTED. Each teacher is observed by colleagues three or four times a year.

Pupils effectively decide which sets they will be in for each subject. In their first term, they spend a week working with teachers to set themselves learning goals, which are then reviewed termly.

The school's report was not completely unblemished: inspectors argued that some of the pupils' homework could be more varied and challenging.

However, new OFSTED supremo Mike Tomlinson still described the teaching grades as a "tremendous achievement".

Mr Hutt said: "Teaching is obviously a central part of the life of any school, so to achieve these marks is very pleasing. We have had lots of letters of support from people in Birmingham. We're delighted."

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