I have been a teacher for 29 years, a Headteacher for 14 years and, at the age of 53, this much I know about our Outstanding OFSTED judgement.

Too much of sport operates under the tyranny of the result…the core principle at Saracens is that we gather talented people together, treat them unbelievably well and in return they try unbelievably hard. That is it. Everything else – winning or losing matches, winning or losing Cups – are just outcomes. They are not the primary aim. We exist to have a positive impact on as many people as possible.

Edward Griffiths, CEO, Saracens RFC

So, an Outstanding judgement. Three days, eleven inspectors, one report. It was a triumph for values-driven education, for holding one’s nerve, for getting a small number of key things absolutely spot on.
The inspectors saw the school as it is, day-in, day-out. We did nothing extraordinary to prepare for inspection. One seasoned art teacher said to me, “The first time I thought about OFSTED this term was when you said they were coming in tomorrow”. We just kept working hard to teach good lessons, every lesson, every day, every week of the year.
Our data isn’t remarkable. It is above average – but not well above average – at GCSE and A level every year, year-in, year-out. But, like teaching good lessons, every lesson, every day, securing above average outcomes consistently over time is outstanding.
There are four features of our school which form recurrent themes throughout the report:

  • genuinely high expectations of ourselves and our students;
  • putting the improvement of teaching at the centre of the school’s activities;
  • underpinning our work with an intelligent, evidence-based  approach to all our work;
  • and a focus upon the golden thread from how we teach to the impact on students’ learning and outcomes.

It is reassuring that the report recognises these four themes, especially the impact of our Research School, which I think has made a huge difference.
Two cultural aspects of our school support those four strands. Firstly, there’s our moral purpose. I tweeted out my favourite paragraph in the report two days ago and it clearly struck a nerve:

Secondly, as Fullan says, the single factor common to successful change is that relationships improve. If relationships improve, things get better. If they remain the same or get worse, ground is lost. Inspectors found that, Relationships between teachers and pupils are harmonious and positive, creating an environment in which pupils make rapid gains in their learning. In our experience, great teaching grows great relationships. Our young people will do anything for you, as long as they know you can teach well and that you care.
You can read the full report below. It is a document which gets our school exactly right and it says some things about a school which is refreshing to read from OFSTED. We’re not faultless and never claim to be; we can always be better. Importantly for me it acknowledges the success of our hard working staff and students. We think we have developed a truly great school, a school which gets on, works hard, has fun and keeps things in perspective. Above all else we try to look after people. Huntington is a school where the students’ outcomes are almost a by-product of the culture we have established over the past decade, a culture where love conquers fear every time, a culture for truly great teaching.
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This post has 8 Comments

  1. Congratulations to you and your team John, a tremendous achievement. Doing your jobs as professional educators in the interests of students rather than running the place around Ofsted is indeed an indication of true leadership.
    One cannot help but respect your opinion and I would like to know more about how you think being a centre for research has made a difference. If you or your team have written on the subject I would appreciate some links.
    As you suggest above, perhaps there are some real lessons to be learned across the system.
    In these days of doom and gloom, it is wonderful to see such a success story, I don’t work in the UK these days but from a distance I am inspired to think how I might do things a little better tomorrow (we have a Friday/Saturday weekend). Your books will also be added to my xmas list for Santa.
    I would wish you, your team and your students a happy xmas and may you continue to flourish in the new year.

  2. Hello John. Congratulations. I feel able to say this because you have taken the brave decision to operate the way you do despite the tyranny of Ofsted just over the horizon, you have made decisions based on what you (plural) perceive to be the right thing to do. At this point in time, Ofsted appear to agree with you, but this may not have been the case (and may not be the case in the future). Long may you operate on this same basis; and be an inspiration to like-minded people who want to do the same.

  3. Great blog John and congratulations. The inspection report mentions research that underpins your curriculum decision around MFL. Any chance you could point me in the direction of this research ?

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