Tough going, but High School is making progress - Ofsted

BEXHILL High School has been graded Satisfactory in its latest Ofsted report.

Ofsted inspector Patricia Metham and four additional inspectors were in the school for two days in June.

They say standards of achievement are proving "hard to move upwards" but there are "clear signs of progress."

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"This large non-selective school is on a split site. Students enter Year 7 with broadly average levels of attainment but there is a higher-than-average proportion of students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, principally moderate learning difficulties or issues relating to challenging behaviour.

"Planning is well advanced for a complete redevelopment of the school, scheduled for completion by autumn 2010."

Ofsted grades range from Grade 1 '“ Outstanding, through Grade 2 Good to Grade 4 Inadequate.

The report says: "Bexhill High School is providing a satisfactory quality of education at this stage in its progress towards substantial rebuilding and reorganisation.

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"Leadership and management are responding with energy and a vigorously articulated sense of purpose to the challenge of planning for the future whilst keeping a firm grasp on immediate priorities.

"The principal is to devote half his time to overseeing the new project, whose inception owes a great deal to his entrepreneurial drive.

"This has created opportunities for the development of strengths in senior and middle management. With persuasive and practical leadership from the two vice principals, these opportunities are being explored and exploited through a productive process of consultation with governors, staff, students and parents.

"Since standards and achievement are proving hard to shift upwards, the school reasonably judges the current impact of leadership and management to be satisfactory.

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"There are, however, clear signs of progress and capacity to improve is good, founded on a realistic view of the school's strengths and weaknesses. Honest analysis of data, improved systems for tracking progress and setting targets, and close collaboration with the local authority (LA) to strengthen the curriculum are ensuring that self-evaluation generally leads to effective action.

"There has been a perceptible infusion of energy and enterprise into the school's work as a specialist technology college, bringing benefits across the curriculum and within the local community.

"Students' attainment in national tests commonly taken at the end of Year 9 has been below national averages for the past two years, especially in mathematics.

"Changes in staffing, more rigorous monitoring and well-targeted interventions, with extensive support from the local authority are beginning to raise standards, and recent rates of progress have been satisfactory.

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" Standards and achievement are markedly better in Years 10 and 11 than across Years 7 to 9. The proportion of students gaining five or more A* to C grades at GCSE in 2007 was above the national average; however, the proportion fell below national averages when English and mathematics results were included.

"This, in part, reflects the impact of a wider vocational provision designed to match the abilities and aspirations of many students.

"Results gained in BTEC, NVQ and Award Scheme Development Accreditation Network examinations matched or exceeded national averages. The development of a competency or skills-based curriculum in Year 7 is proving effective in raising standards and strengthening the engagement of those who find academic disciplines difficult. Overall standards are broadly in line with national averages and achievement is satisfactory.

"This is a cohesive, supportive community where students feel safe, make the effort to be healthy and take pleasure in their own and others' successes. They value and respond enthusiastically to unusually extensive opportunities to contribute to major decision-making about the school's future and the day-to-day management.

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"The disruptive behaviour of a small minority is being tackled, partly through the school's well-developed pastoral systems and partly through the level-headed response of most students. Many take advantage of opportunities for teamwork and leadership offered by the house system. Work-based learning and in-school activities develop a range of key skills and students' understanding of the world of work.

"Together with improving levels of literacy and numeracy and strengths in information and communication technology, this gives students a strong foundation for future economic well-being. They feel well supported by tutors and learning mentors and trust the guidance given about applications for future education, training or employment. Feedback in lessons is generally clear and constructive but the marking of written work does not always include specific guidance on how to improve.

"Resolution of recent staffing difficulties and more effective systems for setting targets and for monitoring progress mean that teaching and learning are improving and are now satisfactory. An extensive programme of professional development has led to better planning and assessment and to a more confident use of ICT.

"There are examples of excellent practice but the quality of teaching and learning is uneven. Senior and middle managers monitor this systematically but interventions sometimes lack urgency and planning does not consistently build on an analysis of students' recent performance.

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"Strategies to engage and support vulnerable or disaffected students are clearly having a positive impact."

The inspection team say that to improve further the High School should:

*Address any weaknesses in teaching and learning promptly to ensure that every student is actively engaged and makes progress in every lesson.

*Extend and securely embed strategies to raise standards overall, particularly in Years 7 to 9.

*Improve the use of data as a tool for planning and the promotion of students' progress.