Inspection Report 2006
INSPECTION OF DAUNTSEY'S SCHOOL
INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS INSPECTORATE (ISI) - 6th - 9th February, 2006
Full Name of School
Registered Charity Number
Dauntsey's School, West Lavington, Devizes
Mr S B Roberts
Chairman of Governors
Mr Richard Handover
11 - 18
6th - 9th February, 2006
This inspection report follows the framework laid down by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI). The inspection was carried out under the arrangements of the Independent Schools Council (ISC) Associations for the maintenance and improvement of the quality of their membership. It was also carried out under Section 162A(1)(b) of the Education Act 2002, as amended by the Education Act 2005, under the provisions of which the Secretary of State for Education and Skills has accredited ISI as the body approved for the purpose of inspecting schools belonging to ISC Associations and reporting on compliance with the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2003.
The inspection was carried out in conjunction with the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI). The CSCI report is available separately (www.csci.org.uk).
The inspection does not examine the financial viability of the school or investigate its accounting procedures. The inspectors check the school's health and safety procedures and comment on any significant hazards they encounter: they do not carry out an exhaustive health and safety examination. Their inspection of the premises is from an educational perspective and does not include in-depth examination of the structural condition of the school, its services or other physical features.
@ Independent Schools Inspectorate 2006
- The Educational Experience Provided
- Pupils' Learning and Achievements
- Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development of Pupils
- The Quality of Teaching (Including Assessment)
- The Quality of Pastoral Care, and the Welfare, Health and Safety of Pupils
- The Quality of Links with Parents and the Community
- The Quality of Boarding Education
- The Quality of Governance
- The Quality of Leadership and Management
- Overall Conclusions
- Next Steps
Characteristics of the School
Dauntsey's School aims to provide a friendly, supportive environment in which all pupils can realise their full potential academically, culturally and spiritually, and emerge as responsible citizens. In addition, the school aims to lead in the modem world of education.
The school was founded in 1542 by William Dauntesey, Alderman. He was a member of the Mercers' Company, who are well represented on the governing body and still support all aspects of the school's work today. Set in the pretty village of West Lavington in the Vale of Pewsey in a hundred acres of rolling countryside, Dauntsey's is a co-educational boarding and day school for pupils aged 11 - 18.
Recent years have seen an extensive building programme, which has included a new art department, library and information centre, information and communication technology (ICT) suite, lower school centre, science laboratories, and a girls' boarding house. In addition, the day boy houses and the modem languages department have been re-located, and the design and technology (DT) department enlarged.
When the school was last inspected by the HMC in 2000 there were 657 pupils on the school roll; 368 boys and 289 girls. There were 248 boarders (153 boys, 95 girls). At the time of the ISI inspection in 2006 there were 747 pupils on the school roll, 396 boys and 351 girls, 246 of whom were in the sixth form. There were 274 boarders (142 boys and 132 girls).
Entry to the school is by selective examination at the age of 11 or 13, and some 30 enter at sixth form level. Standardised national tests taken in Years 7 and 9 indicate that, with very few exceptions, the ability of all pupils is above the national average, and some threequarters of the pupils are well above. If the pupils are performing in line with their abilities in public examinations, therefore, their results would be above those of maintained selective schools. One pupil has a statement of special educational needs, 98 are receiving learning support and 56 are receiving help with English.
Pupils come primarily from professional families. The boarders are from all parts of Britain, other European countries and, in substantial numbers, the far east. Many day pupils travel in by coach, and the school provides the facility for all day pupils to complete their prep. under supervision before returning home. The number leaving after completing GCSE examinations is, on average, about 10 a year. Year 13 students proceed to higher education.
National Curriculum nomenclature is used throughout this report to refer to year groups in the school. The year group nomenclature used by the school and its National Curriculum (Ne) equivalence are shown in the following table.
|Form 1||Year 7|
|Form 2||Year 8|
|Form 3||Year 9|
|Form 4||Year 10|
|Form 5||Year 11|
|Lower Sixth||Year 12|
|Upper Sixth||Year 13|
THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION
The Educational Experience Provided
The educational experience at Dauntsey's is outstanding and is a major strength of the school. The curricular and extra-curricular opportunities provide breadth, challenge and enjoyment, and are highly appreciated by the pupils and the parents.
The school's aim to encourage every pupil to make the most of his or her talents in a lively and caring environment is fully met, in that the curricular and extra-curricular programmes are broad and challenging, and are enthusiastically taught by a well qualified and hardworking staff.
The inspection of 2000 recommended a review of the curriculum. In carrying this out the school carefully analysed the pupils' needs and provided a rigorous, varied programme, which the pupils, to a very large extent, enjoy.
In Years 7 - 9 the curriculum is broad, balanced and enriching, as demonstrated by the reinforcement given to English and mathematics, the separate sciences taught from the start, the four languages and four creative subjects, the varied personal social education (PSE) programme, the time-tabling of physical education (PE) and games separately, and the compulsory outward bound programme in Year 9. In Years 10 and 11 provision is made for able pupils to study an extra subject to GCSE and for pupils needing help to drop one. The same flexibility is evident at A level, where pupils may study from three to five subjects. The compulsory general studies and a critical thinking programme add breadth to their studies. Over the years an increasing number of pupils have volunteered to take part at the three levels of the English Speaking Board examinations, and the debating societies are strong. Many of those interviewed were articulate, and opportunities to develop oral skills abound.
As PE and games are taught separately in time-tabled time, the extra-curricular programme is accessible to all pupils, including team players. The very wide range of sporting, creative and social opportunities offered, as well as the interest taken by the school in both high achievement and whole-hearted involvement, are much appreciated by the pupils. At their instigation initiatives such as ball-room dancing and self-defence have recently been introduced, which indicates both a positive attitude on their part and a readiness by the staff to respond. The provision of academic societies to provide intellectual stimulus is, however, somewhat uneven.
A number of sixth formers opt to do community service, and this is one of many school initiatives to encourage pupils to take responsibility and to develop an awareness of the local community. Pupils are well prepared for the future with a secure base to make choices. Careers education is extensive and of high quality, and support for university entrance procedures is especially strong, not least because of the interest the staff take in each pupil. The work experience programme for Year 11 pupils is very popular and pupils had found it beneficial.
The curriculum is carefully planned to provide enjoyment and challenge to the selective intake. Great care is taken to ensure that, as far as possible, pupils' option choices can be met by structuring the time-table after the choices are made. The A-level subjects offered are mainly the more traditional, rigorously academic ones to match the pupils' abilities. The curriculum is regularly reviewed by the academic board to ensure the school's aims are met.
The language development department provides for pupils in need of learning support. This department was highly praised in the last inspection, and it has continued to develop. The recently opened premises, housed in the sanatorium, provide a discreet and welcoming area for the pupils to develop their skills under tuition. The department is well staffed and very well run. The identification of problems, the caring support provided and the meticulous communication with the rest of the teaching staff ensure that the pupils are given every opportunity to develop self-confidence and progress in their studies.
The support offered to pupils with English as an additional language is carefully tailored to their needs. Courses are offered at different levels to help those with basic English, or to prepare them for external examinations, or to extend their English if they are quite fluent. Here too, the strength of the programmes provided is based on careful analysis.
The school meets the regulatory requirements for the curriculum [Standard I].
Pupils' Learning and Achievements
The high quality of teaching, the breadth of the curriculum and the excellent facilities for study give the pupils every opportunity to develop the talents they have. The high levels of achievement in many areas are fully celebrated by the school.
This accords with the school's aim to develop each pupil's learning potential as fully as possible and has been achieved by meticulous and visionary planning.
In the last inspection the pupils' attainment, progress and quality of learning were highly praised. Much has been done in the interim to enhance their opportunities, and the school has set itself further targets in the new development plan to encourage more intellectual curiosity and increased opportunities for independent learning.
The most significant factor in the school's improvement in academic standards has been the investment in facilities over the last eight years. The vision to place the superbly appointed library at the heart of the school and to design it to allow all who pass by to see into it has provided an excellent resource for learning, whilst at the same time demonstrating daily to the school community how purposefully it can be used. This has produced a climate in which hard work is the norm and this in turn influences the atmosphere in class. The quality of learning was very good in a large majority of lessons observed at all levels in the school. The excellent displays of pupils' work throughout the school enhance this ethos.
Other areas in the school have benefited in the same way. Most recently, the re-location of the modem languages department to provide a base for all three languages has improved communication and the sharing of resources and ideas among the staff. The investment in inter.,active whiteboards for the department has already significantly enhanced the range and efficacy of teaching techniques. In the same way the recent investment to improve the facilities in the boarding and day houses ensures that pupils have very good conditions for private study and research.
Pupils have a thorough knowledge of the subjects studied which often goes beyond the requirements of the syllabus. The level of achievement in lessons observed was high in a very large number of cases, and at all levels in the school. Most pupils have a good understanding of what they have been taught, and the easy relationships within the classrooms encourage them to ask for clarification if they do not. They can apply their knowledge well when given the opportunity. This was evident at times, especially in the creative subjects, where pupils were strongly challenged. In some lessons, however, such opportunities were lost, often as a result of a reluctance to leave more to the pupils.
Differentiation was mainly evident in written work, notably in open-ended tasks which enabled pupils to challenge themselves. Setting of pupils by ability in certain subjects allows differentiation, and the top sets in French and mathematics take their GCSE examinations a year early. In some all-ability classes good use was made of group work to help weaker pupils.
In large measure, the pupils perform in public examinations in line with their abilities and achieve good results. There has been a steady improvement in results over the last ten years. At A-level the results in the three years to 2004 show the pupils achieving results above those of maintained selective schools in some subjects and in line with them in others. Results in 2005 improved on this. The proportion of AIB results rose to just under four-fifths of the entry. At GCSE over the same period results in two-thirds of the subjects were above or well above those of maintained selective schools, and in 2005 the proportion of A*/A grades was just under two-thirds of the entries. In addition, in this year four pupils were congratulated by the AQA board on the quality of their English Literature examinations.
The range of activities in which individuals and teams have achieved distinction within the last year is extensive. It includes academic, cultural and sporting successes, which demonstrate the varied talents of the pupils and the dedication and expertise of the staff. In addition, the very successful fund-raising which takes place on behalf of various charities involves large numbers of pupils. This is, in large part, a result of the very friendly and supportive atmosphere which, the pupils say, 'makes you want to get involved'. The very large number of pupils involved, and the very high levels achieved by the best, exemplify the school's philosophy of encouragement to try things out and to strive as high as possible. Perhaps the most distinctive of the very many successful enterprises recently are the school expedition to Bhutan and the sailing successes of the pupils in the school's own tall ship 'La Jolie Brise '.
Overall, the pupils achieve a secure base of knowledge, skills and understanding in the subjects and activities they undertake, and are able to apply their learning productively. These qualities were praised in the last inspection and there has been a steady improvement over the years. The parents expressed a very high level of satisfaction with the way the school promotes good study habits, and the reasons for this are evident in any tour round the school.
The school has invested more time in English and mathematics in the lower school, and developed ICT resources. In both cases the benefits are evident. The pupils are articulate and confident. Good listening skills are evident throughout the school. The staff set an example by listening to the pupils, and a number of the pupils have opted to be trained as listeners by the school counsellors. Discussion in PSE lessons contributes to this. Many pupils also show evidence of good literacy skills. The lower school reading scheme encourages them to read widely and to experiment with new books. Extended writing skills are well developed in many subjects, particularly English.
Pupils are taught mathematical concepts well and they can apply them to practical tasks. This is particularly evident in science. ICT skills are well developed in DT and art, and are evident in other subjects. Pupils make good use of the many ICT resources they have available to them for research and private study. A good start has been made with investment in, and innovative use of, modern technology in accordance with the school's aim to enrich the pupils' learning experience.
Teacher prompts in some lessons observed enabled pupils to reflect and then ask excellent questions, and it is this quality of teaching that the school now aims to promote throughout the school. In some lessons such opportunities were given little scope owing to an excessively teacher-led approach. The pupils' abilities to respond to such challenges were well demonstrated in the inspection interviews.
Pupils study, take notes and organise their work well, although the proliferation of work sheets does not encourage written notes. Co-operation among pupils is very good and best seen when they work in pairs or small groups, as this provides good support for the weaker pupils. Because pupils generally enjoy their studies they settle quickly. Behaviour is good and there is no time-wasting.
Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development of Pupils
The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the pupils stems from the opportunities provided for the pupils for reflection and discussion, and these are greatly enhanced by the ethos and the example set by the staff.
The school's aim is to give pupils every opportunity to develop in these areas and to take responsibility both for themselves and for the school community. The pupils interviewed showed a good awareness of the issues and an appreciation of the opportunities they had been given to reflect on them. The school also seeks to educate the pupils as responsible citizens. The many areas in which pupils undertake responsibility and the positive way in which they behave indicate that they succeed in a very large number of cases. This aspect was commended in the last inspection report and remains a strong feature of the school.
The religious studies and PSE programmes, through which pupils can explore a range of moral and spiritual issues in an atmosphere of security and trust, enable them to develop self-knowledge and self-confidence. Opportunities to participate in debate and discussion forums such as Christian Union and 'Crosstalk', (a 'drop-in' forum run by the chaplain), help them to form their views. The chaplain spoke of an openness to ideas and a readiness of the pupils to listen. Self-confidence is enhanced by the challenging but supportive outward bound programme in Year 9, and later by opportunities to take part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme or to sail in the school's tall ship. Success in all areas of the school is regularly celebrated, either in assemblies or through headmaster's commendations.
Pupils successfully develop their own sets of values and beliefs within an ethos that is openly Christian but which encourages tolerance. School services offer time for quiet reflection, and A-level subjects such as modern languages provide opportunities to consider topics such as religious fanaticism and different moral codes. Through individual research and group discussion the pupils reach their own conclusions.
The pupils have a strong sense of morality and develop the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Encouraged by the very positive role models of the staff and senior pupils, and supported by a code of conduct that is understood and accepted by all, pupils also have opportunities to consider a range of moral issues in PSE, and to form their own judgements. They accept the rules as fair and know when they have infringed them.
The school regards itself as a community and fosters this feeling effectively. Sixth formers work as prefects in the Manor House (for the lower school) to help the younger pupils to settle. Mutual consideration and support in class are widespread. Pupils have good social skills and are courteous to visitors to the school. From the first year they are keen to participate in sports teams, extra-curricular activities and groups or committees. Their collective sense of social responsibility is evident in the amount of time, effort and money they give to the annual charity. Opportunities to take responsibility abound in such roles as prefects, house and team captains, and heads of house, but the systems of mentors and of pupil listeners, and the opportunities for community service allow pupils who are not natural leaders to take responsibility and to support others.
A broad programme of PSE, now increasingly incorporating topics from citizenship, ensures that pupils gain a general knowledge of the main public institutions and services in England. A lively, structured debate in Year 7 allowed pupils to form an understanding of parliamentary processes. Older pupils, however, confessed to some ignorance of public institutions.
The pupils develop a respect for their own and other cultures, through the curriculum and the very strong extra-curricular programme. School music is wide-ranging and inclusive in opportunities for listening and performing. Art and drama are very strong, and a large number of trips and visits, from exchanges to other European countries to a tour of the temples of Bhutan, mean that participating pupils develop an appreciation of other cultures. Events such as the Chinese New Year celebrations or an Indian banquet bring other cultures into the school. The multi-cultural nature of the school also offers many opportunities for pupils to share experiences and to learn at first-hand about different cultures.
The school meets the regulatory requirements for the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils [Standard 2].
The Quality of Teaching (Including Assessment)
Parents and pupils greatly appreciate the high quality of teaching in the school, which provides challenge and support, and which enables pupils to enjoy their lessons and gain good public examination results.
The school's aim to help pupils fulfil their academic potential has largely been achieved in the matter of results. The management now recognises that more needs to be done to develop independent learning and foster even more intellectual curiosity, and is seeking to invest further in new technology to promote this. .
The quality of the teaching was highly praised in the last inspection and the school has continued to improve. It is a sign of the visionary management in the school that more ambitious aims are being set.
The quality of teaching owes much to the excellent relationships between staff and pupils. The staff are well qualified and enthusiastic about their subjects. They are secure in their knowledge and are keen for pupils to share their enthusiasm. They are also very caring, hard-working and supportive. The pupils recognise this and trust their teachers, so classroom management is carried out with a light touch. Time is rarely wasted on disciplinary matters.
Pupils are encouraged and stimulated to work hard, and they make good progress in acquiring knowledge and developing skills. They claim to enjoy their lessons and this enhances their learning. The very high quality of provision for pupils needing learning support or help with English ensures that their self-confidence is developed and that they have every opportunity to make progress in line with their abilities. Where a pupil is finding genuine difficulty in understanding the work teachers are very generous with their time in breaks to give help. Pupils also receive help from other pupils through the mentor system, which trains volunteers to provide support and brings double benefit.
Much of the work is challenging, in line with the school's aims to challenge academically able pupils. Some of the teaching is planned to encourage pupils to apply themselves to meeting the challenges, to experiment, to ask questions and to find their enjoyment in ultimate success. A significant number of lessons of such high quality teaching were seen during the inspection across virtually every department, and the quality of the response indicated the benefits to the pupils. In other lessons the teaching was very carefully planned and thorough, but at times opportunities to develop curiosity or to think creatively were lost, in some cases because the teacher undertook too much.
Staff appraisals take place once every two or three years. This process is protracted, and the follow-up does not always ensure that proposed targets are met or that necessary support is provided. The management recognises the need to review the system. Some mutual observation of teaching takes place but it is limited, often owing to time pressures, and the potential benefits of observing some of the outstanding teaching that takes place in the school are, for the most part, lost.
Good use is made of resources to enhance the quality and variety of teaching, particularly where whiteboards have been installed and suitable training has taken place.
The quality of assessment of the pupils' work is variable. Most of the work is promptly marked in accordance with department expectations, but some is not. The assessment of pupils' progress over time and the quality of reporting were highly praised in the last inspection and the system remains very good. National aptitude tests taken by the pupils are used as an internal guide to monitor their progress.
The school meets the regulatory requirements for teaching [Standard 1].
THE QUALITY OF CARE AND RELATIONSHIPS
The Quality of Pastoral Care, and the Welfare, Health and Safety of Pupils
The school provides outstanding pastoral care and welfare, which results in happy and confident pupils. This is achieved through the full commitment of the staff and through careful planning and investment in both people and buildings.
The school fully meets its aim of providing a lively, caring community in which pupils can feel secure and develop their talents.
The quality of pastoral care was recognised in the last inspection as a major strength of the school. It still is.
The staff know the pupils well and are aware of their individual needs both pastorally and academically. The small tutor groups and the well structured house system for boarders and day pupils provide close communities in which no one is neglected. The senior management team and the housemistresses and housemasters give an excellent lead in creating the friendly and supportive atmosphere, and the staff provide first-class role models for the pupils. As a result, relationships between staff and pupils are excellent.
The school rightly prides itself on the quality of its care, which is greatly appreciated by pupils and by parents. A culture of listening permeates the whole school. Pastoral issues are discussed openly and freely in PSE lessons, and staff are readily available to pupils in need. The work of the tutors is supported by the chaplain, the school counsellors, who train pupils who wish to become listeners or mentors for their peers, the school nurse, the higWy professional lallguage development and English as a foreign language (EFL) departments, and the dedicated careers adviser.
The planning of the buildings also contributes to the quality of care. They are attractive and welcoming. The sanatorium is superbly equipped and furnished to give a sense of security. The boarding and day houses provide pleasant rooms and facilities for study and for relaxation. The Manor House, a boarding house for pupils in Years 7 to 9, provides a small community for new pupils to ease their entry into the larger school. The whole site is extremely safe. .
The clear policies to promote good behaviour and guard against bullying are well known by all the staff. Pupils recognise the code of conduct as sensible, and the sanctions for bad behaviour as fair. Regular meetings of the tutor board and between the house staff ensure that problems are dealt with promptly and consistency in dealing with pupils is preserved.
As confirmed by the CSCI report child protection measures are in place and effective, all necessary measures to reduce risk from fire and other hazards have been taken, arrangements to ensure health and safety are effective and the school has due regard for health and safety measures.
The school meets the regulatory requirements for the welfare, health and safety of pupils [Standard 3].
The Quality of Links with Parents and the Community
The school communicates regularly and well with its parents. They are welcomed and encouraged to become involved. Their concerns are listened to and their views are sought on the quality of education the school provides.
This is in line with the school's aim to provide good value to the parents. The response to the questionnaire sent to parents before the inspection indicates that they achieve this aim in very large measure. The parents expressed themselves pleased or very pleased with every aspect of the school's provision, and this was true even when some reservations were made. The inspection endorsed these views. In part the success in this area is due to the developments that have taken place in recent years in response to earlier consultations with the parents.
Parents are encouraged to play a part in the Dauntsey's School Parents Association, which organises fund-raising events throughout the year to support the school. Social contact is encouraged through the Dauntsey's community choir. Parents also help with the organisation of the Year 11 work experience programme, which is taken up by virtually all the pupils. In addition, they are encouraged to support the school sports progamme and to attend the many concerts and plays throughout the year. Regular newsletters, such as WOAD (What's On At Dauntsey's), give them very full information on these events, on the many school trips and on school plans for development. The parents feel they are well informed.
Regular parents' evenings, reports and assessment grades provide information on their children's progress academically and socially, and the school diary provides a means for them to comment. The school is developing its contacts by electronic mail where it can.
The school etlcourages parents to raise concerns if they have them, since this helps to improve standards. A formal complaints procedure is in place for parents and for pupils, and the school states in these the time-scale in which it will respond. A few criticisms were expressed in the questionnaires about the school's response to concerns but there were more compliments about the speed and sensitivity shown by the school in dealing with problems.
The school actively seeks contact with the local community and succeeds in a number of ways. Its newly published aim is to maintain and improve its commitment to the local community and beyond. Here too management recognises that, whilst much has already been achieved, more can be done. Pupils in the senior part of the school undertake voluntary service in local care homes and charity work, which they find very rewarding. The school's recently instituted outreach programme involves two members of their staff teaching PE and drama in five local primary schools, and organising occasional sporting events for them. There are plans to develop this programme. The school's facilities are also well used by the local community for sports and social events.
The school meets the regulatory requirements for the provision of information and the manner in which complaints are to be handled [Standards 6 and 7].
The Quality of Boarding Education
(Note: The CSCI inspection, which took place at the same time, reports fully on every aspect of boarding in relation to national minimum standards.)
Boarding provides the pupils with good accommodation and a secure family environment in which they enjoy a very high quality of pastoral care and good opportunities for leisure.
The governors are committed to providing a top quality boarding education, since the balance of boarders and day pupils is a key ingredient in the character of the school. They succeed in this aim in very large measure.
The quality of boarding was praised in the last inspection and since then it has expanded. The accommodation has been systematically upgraded. It is now good in all houses, and the upgrading continues. The latest addition, Evans House, has top quality accommodation. Parents and pupils expressed a high degree of satisfaction with the boarding, and it is normal each year for a number of day pupils to become boarders, which indicates that word of mouth recommendations are positive.
The quality of relationships in the boarding houses is the same as elsewhere in the school. The caring, supportive attitude of the staff and their concern for each of the pupils are evident. Pupils speak highly of the help and guidance they have received. Good friendships are forged amongst the boarders. In addition, the lower school boarders enjoy the benefits of a small community a short distance from the main site where they can adjust to the senior school, whilst enjoying all the benefits of the excellent facilities on the larger site. The distance is a key to the house's distinctive identity.
In addition to the many opportunities enjoyed by all pupils, the boarders are offered a range of trips, social events and organised activities at the week-ends, although the housemasters and housemistresses are aware of their need to relax and enjoy some privacy. They have access to the leisure and study facilities of the school, and the library with its ICT resources which is open until 10.30 pm and at week-ends to boarders and day pupils alike. This is a particularly valued facility.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT
The Quality of Governance
The quality of the governors' work is seen in the many significant improvements in the school over recent years and in the high standards now achieved in every aspect of the school's work.
Their aims are to establish Dauntsey's as one of the premier independent co-educational boarding and day schools in the south of England and to develop it financially to allow substantial further investment in the school. Neither of these aims can be finally achieved, since the targets continue to move forward but the school is very well placed on both counts.
The last report recommended the establishment of a comprehensive development plan and improvements in certain of the facilities. The development plan produced at that time has been a major element in the recent improvements in the school, including a very significant upgrading of the facilities. A new plan has now been drawn up, indicating clearly the school's vision and sense of direction.
The range of the governors' expertise and the structure of their six sub-committees ensure that they can maintain good oversight of the school's performance in all areas without undue interference in the management of the school. The Mercers' Company is well represented with governors who take great interest in all aspects of the school and whose generous support in many of the building projects enables the school to further its development plans. The school also derives much benefit from the regular 'cluster meetings' of all the Mercers' schools, both independent and maintained, where discussions lead to beneficial exchanges of good practice and ideas. The remits of all the sub-committees are clear and the board is developing a system of key performance indicators to ensure standards are maintained.
Governors are aware of their responsibilities and a number of them have been on training courses recently. Financial audits on specific areas of expenditure and on the commercial viability of certain of the school's activities have taken place recently, and the many developments that have taken place indicate that there has been very sound financial planning. The development plan and the compliance with legal obligations are reported on regularly to the full board.
All the members of the senior management team in the school sit in on the full board meetings and on some of the sub-committee meetings. This has established very good relationships between the governors and the staff, and has given the senior management team a sense that their work is valued by the board. The most recent development plan was drawn up by one of the deputy heads. A number of governors take a particular interest in particular aspects of the school. This is done to support the staff and is much appreciated. It has also enabled the governors to provide practical help or advice from their experience or contacts. The chairmen of the full board and the finance and general purposes committee are regularly in the school and have occasional informal meetings with the headmaster.
The governors are very proud of the school and its achievements. They claim that the balance between boys and girls, and between boarders and day pupils gives it a distinctive ethos of high achievement without arrogance.
The Quality of Leadership and Management
A brief tour round the school is enough to indicate that the quality of leadership and management is outstanding.
The welcoming atmosphere, the cheerful and purposeful tone, the relationships and the very high quality of the facilities reflect the aims of the school and their success in carrying them out.
The quality of leadership by the headmaster and the senior management was highly commended in the last report. It is still outstanding and underpins every aspect of the school. The staff clearly enjoy working in a school with such an exciting sense of purpose, and are proud of all it achieves. Their willingness to embrace change indicates their confidence in the senior managers.
Each stage of development is meticulously managed: analysis of needs, priorities, consultation, advice where necessary, discussion, decisions, communication with all parties and execution to the highest standards. Behind it all is a vision of how each development will benefit the pupils.
The quality of management and leadership is equally evident in the very strong pastoral s.ystem. Within the academic departments the management is variable. Whilst some heads of department are very good, others preserve a pleasant and harmonious atmosphere where little management of performance is evident. There is some concern in this area about 'initiative overload', as expectations increase without any provision of additional time.
The high quality of the staff is another strength of the school. The headmaster is skilled in his appointments, and new members of staff are carefully inducted. High expectations are clearly communicated. The appraisal system is welcomed by some staff but others find it too protracted and of little value in helping them reach the targets set. In part this is due to the increasing time pressures on the staff, which limits the commitment they can give to making the system effective.
Financial management is also very strong. Sound long-term planning and tight controls on costs ensure that money is spent in line with school priorities. This is demonstrated in the current heavy investment in modem technology to support the aim of developing more independent learning. The bursar also has responsibility for health and safety, and here too professional advice is taken when necessary, and the work carried out is of very high quality.
In administration the staff are making ever greater use of e-mail and this has improved communication. All school documentation is of highest quality and the support staff are efficient, welcoming and very helpful. They share the enjoyment and pride of working in a dynamic, happy school.
The school meets the regulatory requirements for the suitability of proprietors and staff and for premises and accommodation [Standards 4 and 5].
The school participates in the national scheme for the induction of newly qualified teachers and meets its requirements.
CONCLUSIONS AND NEXT STEPS
Dauntsey's is a school with many strengths and no major weaknesses. Among its strengths are the outstanding quality of its leadership and management, its hard-working, dedicated staff, the educational experience it provides, both in the class-room and in its extra-curricular programme, its warm and supportive atmosphere in which the very high standard of pastoral care is promoted, and the very high quality of its facilities, which are attractive and well maintained. These strengths are enthusiastically endorsed by the parents and the pupils, thus it is clear that the school offers outstanding value. The over-arching aim of providing a friendly, supportive atmosphere where teacher and taught can fulfil their individual potential and aspirations whilst remaining courteous, caring and loyal to each other has been met in full.
All the recommendations of the inspection in 2000 have been carried out in full. The carefully constructed development plan has led to the provision of very high quality facilities and continuing development of modem technology.
The school meets all the regulatory requirements.
The new development plan sets further ambitious aims to promote intellectual curiosity and to develop independent learning in the pupils. In preparing to meet these the school is recommended to:
1. spread best teaching practice within and between departments by
reviewing the staff appraisal programme to give it a clearer focus and tighter time-scale,
developing the programme of mutual observation of teaching,
seeking ways to alleviate some of the time pressures upon the staff;
2. promote the growth of more academic societies;
3. continue, as finances permit, the investment in resources and staff training, particularly in the development of modem technology.
No action in respect of regulatory requirements is required.
SUMMARY OF INSPECTION EVIDENCE
The inspection was carried out from February 6th to 9th. The inspectors examined samples of pupils' work, observed lessons and conducted formal interviews with pupils. They held discussions with teaching and non-teaching staff and with governors, observed a sample of the extra-curricular activities that occurred during the inspection period, and attended registration sessions and assemblies. Inspectors visited boarding houses and the sanatorium. The responses of parents and pupils to pre-inspection questionnaires were analysed, and the inspectors examined a range of documentation made available by the school.
National Minimum Boarding Standards were inspected by a team of four Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) inspectors over three days.
A bursar from another school joined the reporting inspector on the preliminary visit as part of the Independent Schools' Bursars Association (IS BA) scheme, spending the day with the bursar's department. The principal findings have been included in the relevant sections of this report.
|List of Inspectors|
Reporting Inspector, retired headmaster, HMC School
Deputy head, HMC School
Deputy head, HMC School
Headmaster, HMC School
Retired deputy head, HMC School
Housemaster, HMC School
Retired head of department,
HMC School Deputy head, HMC School