Helpful advice after a tough build-up

Caroline St John-Brooks

This 11-16 comprehensive is in a commuter town about 30 miles south-west of London, on the edge of a council estate. Its 510 pupils come from a socially mixed range of families, a quarter of them headed by a single parent.

A team of 13 inspectors (including one lay inspector) spent a week in the school and observed 167 lessons.

They concluded that more than four out of five of these were satisfactory in terms of standards of educational achievement and the quality of learning observed.

They also noted that examination results at 16 were above the national average, and commended the school's "excellent ethos" and "clear sense of direction".

The school accepted the inspectors' criticisms of its history teaching, and responded by redeploying a history teacher - a measure which was made easier by the inspection.

But it was less willing to accept a question mark over its tradition that all 12 and 13-year-olds study both French and German.

This was seen by the school as an element in its distinctive ethos, but by the inspectors as a divergence from the national curriculum which deserved further review.

The headteacher intended to use the positive tone of the report to build up the school's local reputation, and the inspection was viewed as a helpful influence in the school's development; but the build-up of pressure in the months leading up to it was seen as damaging.

The seven country studies in the report include a number of case studies of individual schools. These are designed to be illustrative rather than typical of that country and in view of the sensitive nature of the material it was agreed that the schools would not be identified.

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