Challenge Partners November 2019

Dear Parent/Guardian

We want to update you on a recent review of the school commissioned to ensure we are fully focussed on delivering the very best education possible.  The independent review lasted for three days in November and was completed by an organisation called Challenge Partners.  The review team consisted of a lead HMI, Head teacher, two Deputy heads and an Assistant head from a range of schools out of area.  During the review the team visited a range of lessons, spoke to pupils and staff and reviewed student books and work as well as our policies and systems.   

The review team reported back very positively about the school and the commitment of leaders and staff to deliver the best quality education possible.

The students were unaware of the review and throughout the three days they were amazing. Every member of the review team was very impressed by their behaviour and the relationships they have with staff, they stated: 

“Relationships between staff and students are very positive and contribute to the calm purposeful atmosphere around the school, students enjoy their lessons and feel well supported by staff. They are polite and well behaved and show positive attitudes to learning across the school, teachers have high expectations of students’ behaviour and achievements”

The review team talked to lots of students and asked questions about how they are supported in school.  The team were really positive about the lengths the school goes to in order to support all students, as well as the vigilance of leaders to identifying barriers in students learning. 

“Abbeyfield is an inclusive school in which students and staff feel valued and cared for.  Staff are vigilant about looking after students’ individual academic and personal achievements as well as their well-being.  Leaders carefully consider the needs of other vulnerable groups, including those with SEND and those who join the school at times other than the start of Year 7.  There are clear expectations of how teachers should prioritise disadvantaged students in lessons and in their marking” 

The review team were also very positive about the levels of consistency the school is achieving across all curriculum areas in particular with regard to marking and feedback and our work on literacy. 

“Teachers consistently apply the school’s feedback policy, as seen in the way they provide feedback in students’ books.  Teachers identify key words in lessons and recognise that students’ difficulties with the meaning of words can be obstacles to their achievements.  Leaders have given a strong focus to literacy across the curriculum.”

The work that our school leaders are doing at all levels was clearly recognised by the team who fed back on how committed and determined they are.   

“Middle leaders came across as enthusiastic, knowledgeable and committed to the school’s ambitious vision for its students.  Leaders have an accurate view of the school’s strengths and what needs to improve.  Their focus is firmly on improving the consistency of the quality of teaching and learning and raising standards of attainment for all students”.

During the review the team also looked at our sixth form provision and were impressed by the curriculum offer and the support provided to develop their independent study skills. 

“Sixth form students have a good range of subject and pathway options and benefit from recently introduced supervised study sessions”

As a result of the process we have identified some key areas to improve on:

Creating more opportunities in lessons to help students retain information as well as retrieving knowledge and understanding.

  • Ensuring our lesson starter activities sufficiently challenge our most able students
  • Further development of teachers’ questioning strategies, including probing questions and ‘bouncing’ questions to other students

We have always strived to focus on delivering the very best education we can to all our students; this external validation, by other school leaders, will help us to achieve this.

Finally the review as a whole has reminded us all just how fortunate we are to lead a school with such great students. Abbeyfield is a wonderful community and we look forward to your continued support in the future.

Kind regards

Ralph Plummer & Nick Norgrove