This is a good school, where pupils get a high quality education.
We were exceptionally proud to welcome Ofsted to our school community for a full Graded Inspection in December 2022. We are very pleased with the report, and agree with the three areas for improvement, things that we are equally passionate about and have already been working on since last year.
Ofsted confirmed that this is a good school, saying:
Pupils quickly learn that the ‘Hemel Hempstead Experience’ enables them to have a well-rounded education. Pupils benefit from a rich set of experiences, such as theatre trips, house events and an extensive range of sports fixtures. Staff ensure that pupils can participate in the range of activities and curriculum on offer. This allows pupils to live the school motto of ‘Esse Quam Videri’, ‘to be, rather than to seem to be’.
Pupils’ character is developed through the school’s ‘5Rs’. Pupils learn about respect, relationships, responsibility, reflection and resilience. Pupils are happy and safe as they largely live these values. There is an extensive programme in place to support their mental health and well-being. Where pupils do have any worries or concerns,most feel staff will help and support them. Despite this, a minority of girls worry about the intolerant attitudes of a small number of boys.
Behaviour is generally calm and orderly. However, some younger pupils feel that older ones can be a little boisterous at times. Any issues of bullying are tracked to ensure appropriate follow-up takes place.
What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?
Leaders have ensured that pupils access a high-quality education. The ‘Hemel Hempstead experience’ combines both the academic curriculum and pupils’ wider school experiences. This is also the case for students in the sixth form. Leaders have created an ambitious curriculum that allows pupils to learn and achieve well, including being able to experience many additional wider opportunities for personal development. There are extensive opportunities for pupils to develop their talents and interests.
In a few subject areas, there is a lack of precision in curriculum planning about what pupils should learn. Where this is the case, the quality of pupils’ learning becomes overly dependent on teachers’ individual experience. Where staff are less experienced or less well trained, they lack understanding about the important content that needs to be delivered. In these instances, pupils are not learning as well as they might.
Teachers use a range of strategies to identify what pupils know and can do, including in the sixth form. Teachers routinely check that pupils have understood what has been taught. Where pupils have any gaps in their understanding or are finding work tricky, teachers are quick to identify and help pupils. For example, in mathematics, pupils are very confident about how teachers help them to keep pace with the curriculum and not get lost.
Leaders constantly aspire to improve the curriculum for their pupils. For example, leaders continue to work hard to increase the numbers of pupils opting to study a modern foreign language into Year 10 and beyond. As a result, increasing numbers of pupils are being entered for the English Baccalaureate, which is currently lower than the government target.
Leaders prioritise the teaching of reading. There are reading champions in every department, and literacy is actively promoted in each subject area. Suitable interventions are in place to support pupils at the earlier stages of learning to read. More fluent readers are guided to challenging texts and reading material. Most pupils read out loud with confidence, precision and fluency.
Leaders have done extensive work to develop provision for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) within the last year. Pupils’ needs are effectively identified and clear strategies to support their learning needs are in place. There is equal ambition for pupils with SEND, but there is some variation in how well teachers make subject-specific adaptations to learning. Consequently, a few pupils with SEND do not access the curriculum as effectively as they should.
Most pupils’ behaviour is kind, courteous and allows learning to proceed effectively. On occasion, this is not the case. A minority of pupils worry about this behaviour of a few, but say they do feel confident that staff will follow up appropriately where they raise concerns.
A comprehensive and well-planned programme of personal, social and health education (PSHE) is in place. This ensures pupils learn about relationships and fundamental British values in an age-appropriate way. As a result, most pupils develop highly respectful and tolerant attitudes. Despite this, some girls, including in the sixth form, feel that there are a small group of boys who use inappropriate language and behaviour.
Careers education is generally a strength. ‘Golden threads’ run through all year groups, and there are a wide range of opportunities to engage with employers. This includes work experience in Year 10. Pupils have the information they need to make well-informed choices about their next steps. This includes an appropriate programme of support for sixth-form students. The school meets the requirements of the Baker Clause, which requires schools to provide pupils in Years 8 to 13 with information about approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships.
The school is well led and managed. Leaders, including the governing body, have clear and effective plans for further improvement. They have taken effective action to address the areas for development from the last inspection. Most staff feel that leaders are mindful of their well-being and workload.
The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.
Leaders have ensured that pupils’ needs are effectively identified and that clear and comprehensive records of follow-up are now in place. Staff have received appropriate training.
Pupils receive the right help at the right time. Key to this is how leaders in different areas of the school share information about pupils’ needs so the big picture is captured. Leaders have established effective relationships with external agencies. Statutory duties regarding safer recruitment are met. The curriculum teaches pupils how to keep themselves safe, both in the wider world and online. Pupils are confident to report any concerns they have.
What does the school need to do to improve?
In some subject areas, there is a lack of precision in curriculum planning about what pupils should know. Some less experienced teachers do not have enough knowledge to be able to identify what content should be taught and when. As a result, in these lessons, pupils are not learning as well as they might. Leaders need to ensure that all teachers have a shared and precise understanding of what they want pupils to know, so that the quality of pupils’ learning is always of a consistently high standard.
A small minority of girls experience attitudes and behaviour from a minority of boys which are of an inappropriate nature. Although leaders always take action where this is reported, some girls still feel that they need to ‘put up with’ or tolerate this. Leaders need to ensure that work is continued to fully embed a culture where this is never tolerated or accepted.
Some teachers do not consistently adapt subject-specific learning well enough to cater for the needs of pupils with SEND. As a result, some pupils make slower progress in their learning where these adaptations are not in place. Leaders need to ensure that these teachers are trained and supported in making effective subject-specific adaptations to learning for pupils with SEND.