When I worked in Secondary Education, the phrase “Ofsted are coming” was often met with a sense of foreboding dread, but no such fear was evident at Haddon Dene Preparatory School recently,  where the Leadership Team, teachers and support staff were all confident of the progress that had been made there over the past twelve months.

After a disappointing inspection last year, measures had been put in place by head teacher, Miss Hatch, and her fantastic team to ensure improvements could be made in all areas of the school’s operation.

It appears that the Ofsted representatives agreed, and the school was given a rating of ‘Good’ in all areas in their latest inspection.

The remarkable thing about this achievement is that the turnaround has happened within a year … usually, Ofsted schedule the second visit a full two years after the original inspection.

The Gruffalo visiting last September

When Ofsted visit a school for an inspection, they make judgements, based upon what they see and what can be evidenced, in the following areas …..

  • Overall Effectiveness
  • Effectiveness of Leadership and Management
  • Quality of teaching, learning and assessment
  • Personal development, behaviour and welfare
  • Outcomes for pupils
  • Early Years provision

For a school to be judged as ‘Good’ in all of these areas, it must not only be able to ‘put on a show’ for the visiting inspectors on the day, but also demonstrate and document that good working practice has taken place over a period of time.

This doesn’t just occur in the classroom, either. A school’s Leadership Team must also evidence procedures and protocols that enable a school to provide a high quality, safe learning environment with high expectations for its pupils.

During the inspection, nineteen lessons were observed, with all year groups being visited at least once. Inspectors also spoke with staff and students outside of lessons. Parents were also consulted.

A full copy of the report is available from the school but some of the reported judgements are quoted as follows …

  • “The headteacher and those in positions of governance have ensured that the school has improved significantly since the last inspection”
  • “Pupils are respectful and polite. They have good attitudes to learning because they enjoy coming to school”
  • “The curriculum is a strength. Teaching staff are knowledgeable. Subject specialists provide pupils with good-quality teaching and tuition, especially in the Arts and in Sport.
  • “Safeguarding is effective. Pupils told inspectors they feel safe in school and appreciate the care and attention given to them by staff.

I asked Miss Hatch how the improvements highlighted by the Inspectors’ report had been made, and she was full of praise for her Leadership Team, teachers and support staff who had helped implement the changes required to move the school forwards. Miss Hatch went on to speak at length about how fantastic the school’s young pupils had been over the past year and how supportive their parents were. When you put all of these ingredients together, you truly do have a recipe for success.

I have visited the school a number of times since starting my role with Educational Life and I have always found Haddon Dene very welcoming.

There is a lovely warmth and sense of community throughout the school and I always get the feeling that there is a really healthy balance between a strong teaching and learning ethos and an understanding that children need to enjoy their schooling in order to thrive.

I spoke with Miss Hatch about this and it was something she clearly feels passionate about. “Just this week”, she explained enthusiastically, “a group of students will be visiting Manston Stables for an introduction to horse-riding … a special treat that is offered to all students in the school.” As I walked around the school, visiting classes, it was clear to see how engaged the pupils were with their lessons.

I wish all of the staff and pupils my best wishes as they continue to drive this fantastic school forwards and really look forward to, one day, being asked back to report on an Ofsted inspection that has judged Haddon Dene as … dare I say it … “Outstanding”.

Please take a look at some of the photos from my recent visits to Haddon Dene and feel free to share this article with anyone who may be interested.