Stamford Queen Eleanor School on the cusp of ‘good’ Ofsted rating, says headteacher

Stamford Queen Eleanor School chair of governors Jonathan Selywn and headteacher Wendy Hamilton. 'Photo: MSMP230413-007ow
Stamford Queen Eleanor School chair of governors Jonathan Selywn and headteacher Wendy Hamilton. 'Photo: MSMP230413-007ow
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A headteacher is confident her school will boost its Ofsted grade as soon as the summer’s GCSE results are announced.

Stamford Queen Eleanor School received a mixed Ofsted report on Friday last week, getting a “requires improvement” mark despite some areas being rated by inspectors as “good”.

The report said teaching and exam results were improving but were not yet consistently good, and there was not enough challenge for brighter pupils.

But inspectors praised the school’s leadership and governance, along with the behaviour and security of pupils, and said progress in English was outstanding.

It comes as a group of Stamford parents are campaigning to open another secondary school in the town to give pupils more choice. They say too many pupils are leaving town after Year 6 - 70 per cent of the total.

Queen Eleanor head Wendy Hamilton and governors’ chairman Jonathan Selwyn said the Ofsted report was exactly as expected. But they promised the school was in the middle of an upward curve and said projected exam results for this year would bring the school up to an overall “good” rating.

Mrs Hamilton said: “The inspection team recommended that if results come in as expected in the summer we could and should invite Ofsted back in.”

And she says that’s what the school will do.

Mr Selwyn said: “Nothing came as a surprise in the inspector’s report.

“We set out exactly where the school was to them. We told the inspectors that we were securely good in two areas and the other two were becoming good.

“We know that last year’s results weren’t as good as they could have been. If the inspectors come this time next year we are absolutely confident we would get “good” overall.”

Mrs Hamilton took over Queen Eleanor in September 2009 and the school became an academy under the Centre for British Teachers Education Trust in November 2011.

When Mrs Hamilton was appointed, the school had just come out of the National Challenge scheme, set by the Government at the time, which laid out a timetable for improvement for under-achieving schools.

In 2008, just 23 per cent of pupils achieved five or more GCSE grades of A* to C, including English and maths. That figure has nearly doubled to 44 per cent last year, the school’s best ever result.

Last year 47 per cent of pupils at Casterton Business and Enterprise College achieved five or more A* to C grades and at The Deepings School the figure was 68 per cent. At Bourne Grammar School the figure was 97 per cent.

Mrs Hamilton is confident her school’s results will be even better this year. She said: “Compared to the year I joined, last year’s maths results were twice as good.

“This year will put another 20 per cent on top of it.”

She added: “We have work to do on teaching and results. But I am confident our summer results will blow any previous results out of the water. It is our responsibility to retain that.”

In their most recent report Ofsted’s inspectors highlighted several areas where the school still needed to improve.

They said achievement and teaching varied too much between subjects and pupils had not made enough progress in maths or science from their starting points in Year 7.

They also said there was not enough challenge for higher ability pupils, although this again varied between subjects.

Finally they said teachers’ marking varied in quality and pupils were not given enough constructive feedback.

Both Mrs Hamilton and Mr Selwyn agreed with the inspectors’ points.

But they asked parents to remember that the school was in the middle of a series of goals, with the overall aim of becoming an “outstanding” school.

Mr Selwyn said: “It’s important to stress we are on a journey.

“We have reached the first stage of our goals. The next stage is to move to good, then outstanding.

“You can’t expect these things to happen in the first couple of years.”

Mrs Hamilton added: “The inspectors felt we needed to turn progress into results.

“We have no doubt that the final picture will be extremely positive, both in terms of attainment and the amount of progress.

“Achievement and teaching go together. I would agree that previously we were not good enough. We are on the cusp of making that good. That is exactly where we said we would be.”

Part of the school’s improvement strategy has been to recruit the best teachers. Mrs Hamilton thinks converting to an academy has helped the school attract these staff.

She said: “We have been able to recruit at a really high level to bring new staff in at all levels. The people we have got have applied to us for a reason.

“Over the past couple of years we have put together a far more detailed professional development programme in school.

“We are using areas of outstanding teaching to support others. It is important to grow leadership within the school.

“We are always open to use innovation in the curriculum. We are finding that being an academy helps us to recruit better but also to focus on group success. It makes a huge difference.”

The school has come under fire for its results in recent years. Some parents concerned about the secondary education options in Stamford have even gone so far as to announce plans to set up a free school in the town.

Mr Selwyn, who has two children at Queen Eleanor, conceded that the school’s reputation was an issue. But he said things were improving quickly and if parents wanted a school specifically for higher ability pupils they would have to look elsewhere.

He added: “We won’t compromise in welcoming children of all backgrounds. We have children of all abilities coming here and that is why a lot of us chose to send our children here. That is the reality of society and we see that as a positive.”

Mrs Hamilton said: “In some ways it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our intake isn’t as comprehensive as we would like it to be. Parents of higher-ability children are choosing not to send their children here.”

But she said Queen Eleanor’s brighter pupils were getting results to rival many schools in the area, adding: “Our aim remains to be the secondary school of choice in the town. A comprehensive intake will come naturally.

“All we can do is improve results year on year and that is what we have done.

“For us, the thing is making sure that for that small group of parents where that reputation issue remains, they come and see the school and make judgements on the most recent data set.

“All I have ever wanted is for parents to give the school a fair opportunity. When parents come in they immediately change their opinion. It’s not a valid opinion if you have never visited somewhere.”