Canons High School received a visit from Ofsted to inspect provision at the school at the end of March. I am writing to let you know that the decision of the inspection team was to downgrade the school from its previous ‘outstanding’ grade to ‘requires improvement’. I wish to explain what led to the outcome, what we need to do to improve in the coming months and years ahead, and to share with you the many positive things that the inspection team saw during their visit.
As well as being financially strong at a time of well-publicised budget cuts, the school has had eight consecutive years of achievement and progress at Key Stage 4 well above the average for secondary schools, as well as two outstanding Ofsted judgments in the past decade. In 2015, the government decided to make a change to the performance tables that would mean older qualifications would not count in the 2018 performance tables. Many of the 2018 cohort of Y11 students took such exams in their Year 9 and Year 10 options, which left the school eligible for inspection even though students achieved better in these exams than previous cohorts.
The inspection team were also keen to look at the quality of provision in sixth form. Outcomes had been improving until a difficult year for us in maths and science last summer, although outcomes in almost all other subjects continued to strengthen. Finally, they wanted to review procedures at the school to ensure that your children were safe with us.
In terms of the Key Stage 4 curriculum and safeguarding, Ofsted were very happy with our work and they saw excellent provision in the vast majority of subjects (see their comments below). However, they did have concerns about the overall quality of provision in science and the consistency of provision in maths. They also wanted us to work harder to ensure that the very good behaviour, punctuality and attendance of the vast majority students be true of all students in all year groups.
Overall, the school accepts the findings of the report, although we believe that, in reaching the ‘requires improvement’ judgment, the inspection did not give full credit to all that we do well. We recognise that all schools, whatever their Ofsted grade, require improvement. Now we have a clarity of focus and purpose resulting from the report and we welcome the opportunity to show rapid improvement. As a result, our key areas of focus in the months and years ahead will be:
Further improving teaching, learning and assessment across the school.
Making sure that behaviour, attendance and punctuality are very strong.
Building upon excellent work in sixth form to improve outcomes significantly.
Ensuring that leadership, management and governance is consistently excellent.
Improving the quality of curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment in science.
Ensuring consistency of provision, and of achievement and progress, in maths.
The leadership team has written a detailed action plan covering all areas for improvement outlined in the Ofsted report. These actions will be taken rapidly, with the full support of our governing body.
The report highlights a great number of areas in which the school’s provision for children is very strong. Some quotes from the report will give you a flavour of these.
On safeguarding, behaviour and personal development, they wrote that:
“The arrangements for safeguarding are effective… Leaders’ practice in this area has been modelled by the local authority as an exemplar to other schools.”
“Pupils told inspectors that they feel safe in school.”
“Most pupils behave well. Where teaching is effective, pupils’ behaviour is often impeccable.”
On the curriculum, teaching, learning and achievement, they said that:
“The school’s innovative curriculum makes a strong contribution to pupils’ learning.”
“Inspectors found compelling evidence…that pupils make consistently good progress across many curriculum areas, including the humanities, the arts and modern foreign languages.”
“In lessons and over time, disadvantaged pupils make broadly the same progress as other pupils in the school.”
With regard to the sixth form provision, the team agreed with us that:
“Teachers typically have high expectations and, in most lessons, ensure that learning is purposeful and productive.”
“The school’s football development programme in partnership with Barnet FC is a strong part of provision.”
“Sixth-form students are highly complimentary about the new leadership of the sixth form.”
And finally, Ofsted recognised that:
“Governors are highly committed to the school and play a key role in setting the school’s vision.”
“The headteacher has developed a very strong culture of professional development at the school. He is highly valued, respected and supported by staff.”
I know that this is a very special school serving a very special community, but we acknowledge that the inspection team has not found that we have been good enough. This outcome is a challenge for all of us – governors, staff, students and families – to do better and to be better. Together we will meet these challenges and not rest until Canons is judged good or better in our next inspection.
Ofsted Report 2013