Positive and inclusive culture prepares students well

Posted on: 10 January 2017

Students at a South Devon secondary school are well prepared for life in modern Britain because of its clear focus on doing the very best for each individual, according to education inspectors.

They say Dawlish Community College has a strong reputation as an inclusive school where pupils are looked after and cared for well.

The college’s curriculum is broad and balanced and well matched to the needs of pupils.

“Good careers guidance is supported well by many events that are praised highly by older pupils,” say the inspectors.

“As a result, all pupils progress to post-16 courses, training or apprenticeships that meet their needs or aspirations well.

“Pupils’ good spiritual, moral, social and cultural development permeates the curriculum and prepares them well for life in modern Britain.

“Pupils are safe, well looked after and cared for, enjoy coming to school and attend regularly. Bullying is rare.”

The inspectors say that Dawlish has a good record with pupils with special educational needs or disabilities.

“Those pupils are supported well and mostly make strong progress,” they say, “many from previously low levels of skills in reading, writing and maths when they join the school.

“The progress of those pupils is improving because of strong leadership.”

But the inspectors say exam performance has dipped after a peak in 2012 and teaching is inconsistent.

The new senior leadership team, under principal John Simon, is improving performance and has an accurate understanding of what needs to improve.

Overall attainment rose in 2016, say the inspectors, with the number of students gaining five or more GCSEs at A*-C, including English and maths, rising to 57 per cent from 44 per cent in 2015.

“In 2016 the proportion achieving five (good) GCSEs rose to be in line with the national average,” says lead inspector James Sage.

“Senior leaders are mostly supported well by subject leaders,” he says.

“They are clear about where there is good teaching and how to build on this.

“There is a shared understanding of the need for rapid improvements in the quality of teaching.

“However, although actions have been taken and are making a difference, they have not had time to be fully effective.”

Mr Sage says this means that he has to rate the school as requiring improvement because all pupils do not make consistently strong progress  and the quality of teaching still needs to be improved.

Dawlish principal John Simon, who took up the post in September 2014, said he was disappointed with the overall judgement.

“The report identifies areas that need to improve, and these had been identified by us and are already the subject of investment and development,” he said.

“Indeed the report recognises that ‘senior leaders have an accurate understanding of what needs to be done’ and whilst we are disappointed by the overall judgement, we are confident that we will soon see the impact of that work and the next judgement will reflect that.”

He said since his appointment there had been a lot of changes to the leadership and management of the school and there was a full programme of professional development for the teaching staff making use of advice from Devon County Council, the Dartmoor Teaching School Alliance and colleagues at Okehampton College which has been consistently judged as outstanding by Ofsted.

Mr Simon said he was proud of the inspectors’ verdict on Dawlish’s safeguarding and the good behaviour of students.

Ofsted concluded: “There is a strong culture of safeguarding in the school. Pupils feel safe and are kept safe.

“Pupils behave well in lessons and around the school. Learning is rarely disrupted in lessons.”

Mr Simon said he was also pleased that Ofsted recognised pupils achieved well in creative and practical subjects and in Spanish because of the highly effective teaching.

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Posted in: Education