We are pleased to announce the publication of the 2012 inspection report on the Cathedral School by Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales, Estyn, following their visit in February.
The inspectors judged this to be performing well in all respects, having many strengths and with no important areas requiring significant improvement. The overarching judgements are:
The school's current performance
The school's prospects for improvement
The factors which particularly stood out and led to the highest grade for the school's current performance were:
- GCSE results which are described as ‘exceptionally strong' both in raw terms and because of the progress they represent for pupils of all abilities from their starting point aged 11;
- Involvement of Key Stage 3 pupils (age 11-14) in developing a wide range of skills, not least through the Headmaster's Award, during what are, in some schools, years lacking in direction and focus;
- Extra-curricular opportunities throughout the school, especially the range and quality of Sport and Music;
- A ‘very positive ethos' and ‘very supportive community for learning' throughout the school, which sets the context for the high achievement of both pupils and staff; and
- Challenge grades driving forward improvements in standards for pupils in both Junior and Senior Sections.
The report acknowledges the very good standards achieved, and confirms that this is "one of the highest performing schools in Wales" (pg 5). The report praises the curricular and co-curricular provision, the teaching provided, and the impact of challenge grades. It recognises the high level of care for pupils and the fact that staff know the pupils well. The inspectors observed "an inclusive and caring ethos within a strong Christian framework" (pg 9).
In terms of the leadership and improvement of the school, the inspectors commented upon the school having a clear vision based upon a culture of robust self-evaluation and the promotion of personal accountability amongst both staff and pupils" (pg 9). It praises the leadership provided by Senior Managers, Governors and Staff. The inspectors agreed with the school's own self-evaluation, and the recommendations they provided for the school's further improvement are all already within our development plan. They praised the efforts made by the school to seek the views of parents and pupils, and they describe the school as a "strong learning community" (pg 10).
The factors which particularly gave the inspectors full confidence in the school's ability to continue its strong performance were:
- the very strong track record of improvement planning over recent years, which has led to significant improvements in standards and the quality of provision;
- the very clear vision for the future direction of the school;
- senior managers and teaching staff having high expectations of pupils;
- the school has invested well in developing key areas of the school's provision;
- the processes of self-evaluation are rigorous and based on a wide range of first-hand evidence; and
- the school has used external mentors to good effect to drive forward improvements in the quality of teaching and provision.
There are two aspects of the school's work which Estyn have decided to frame as case studies of ‘Sector Leading Practice' for other schools to learn from. These are;
- 1. The impact of the Headmaster's Award on the development of pupils' social, moral and cultural development and on their leadership skills
- 2. The development of a culture of accountability through self-evaluation, the ‘challenge grades' system and the use of external mentors
In each case the school has been asked to write a short report which will be made available to all schools in Wales through the Estyn website. The Cathedral School is the only independent school in Wales which has been asked to provide case studies of best practice for the Estyn website. Click here to see them.
We found the inspection team to be highly professional, properly focussed upon evidence gathering and keen to test the views expressed by the school, and by pupils and parents too, against that evidence. We believe they did well to gain such a comprehensive understanding of the school in such a short space of time.