Inspection Report

Unique Reference Number 124812
Inspection number 281810
Inspection dates 8 March 2006 to 9 March 2006
Reporting inspector Dr. Ian Seath HMILI

This inspection was carried out under section 5 of the Education Act 2005.

Type of school Secondary
School category Community
Age range of pupils 11 to 18
Gender of pupils Mixed
Number on roll 881
Appropriate authority The governing body
Date of previous inspection 15 November 1999
School address Maidstone Road
IP11 9EF

Telephone number 01394 282628
Fax number 01394 278831
Chair of governors Mr.John Barker
Headteacher Mr. Peter Tomkins


The inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors and three Additional Inspectors.

Description of the school

Orwell High School is slightly smaller than average with 881 students of whom 105 are in the sixth form. Over 95% are from White British backgrounds and almost all have English as their first language. The proportion of students with learning difficulties or disabilities is higher than the national average. The school serves the town of Felixstowe in Suffolk and has collaborative arrangements with another high school in the town. Many of the town's working population are employed in the nearby Port of Felixstowe, and unemployment is low. The proportion of students eligible for free school meals is below the national average. The school has specialist technology status.

Key for inspection grades
Grade 1 Outstanding
Grade 2 Good
Grade 3 Satisfactory
Grade 4 Inadequate

Overall effectiveness of the school

In accordance with section 13(3) of the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector is of the opinion that this school requires significant improvement, because it is performing significantly less well than in all the circumstances it could reasonably be expected to perform. The school is therefore given a Notice to Improve. Significant improvement is required in relation to the students' achievement and progress at Key Stage 3, in particular in English. Since the last inspection, the school has undergone a period of instability and a number of changes of headteacher. The current leadership team, and the headteacher, have recently been appointed. In a short period of time they have begun to introduce many of the changes which are necessary to improve standards, and morale is improving. Overall, the school provides an acceptable standard of education; however, it is not fully effective because of weaknesses at Key Stage 3, especially in English. The headteacher is providing effective leadership and there is evidence, especially at Key Stage 4, that standards have improved in the past year. However, weaknesses remain and it is too early to be sure that improvements will be sustained. The behaviour of a minority of pupils is a concern in a few lessons. Recent developments include changes to the curriculum, improvements to disciplinary procedures, improvements to target setting and the monitoring of progress, and the clarification of line management responsibilities. The school's recently acquired technology specialist status has improved the quality of provision in this area. Many of the weaknesses identified in the last inspection have been addressed, but some remain. Overall, the leadership of the school has demonstrated the capacity to improve the school.

Grade: 4

Effectiveness and efficiency of the sixth form

The school evaluates the effectiveness of the sixth form as satisfactory, and inspectors agree. Overall, achievements are satisfactory and most teaching is good. However there is considerable variation in the success of individual courses. The majority of students are female, and they achieve better grades than male students overall. Retention of students in the sixth form is good as is their progression to higher education. Improved systems for target setting and monitoring the students' progress are being developed. Though some groups are small, collaborative arrangements with a nearby school ensure that the students' learning experience is not significantly affected.

Grade: 3

Effectiveness and efficiency of boarding provision


What the school should do to improve further

- Improve the quality of provision at Key Stage 3, particularly in English. - Redress the imbalance between the achievement of male and female students in all year groups. - Ensure that the poor behaviour of a minority of students does not adversely affect the learning of others. - Continue to introduce changes to improve standards and ensure that they are applied and monitored consistently across the school.

Achievement and standards

Although overall results at Key Stage 4 improved in 2005, achievement is inadequate because students do not make sufficient progress at Key Stage 3 and, in particular, in English. When students enter the school in Year 7 their standards are around the national average. Between 2003 and 2005, the overall progress made by students at Key Stage 3 declined significantly year on year. Progress in English was poor in 2005, and in mathematics significantly below the national average. Progress in science was satisfactory. Male students progressed less well than females. In 2005, GCSE results were close to the national average overall and demonstrated generally satisfactory progress at Key Stage 4, though progress remained low in English. The proportion of students achieving 5 or more GCSE passes at grade A* to C improved significantly in 2005, however they were below the national average when passes in English and mathematics are taken into account. Overall pass rates for these two GCSE subjects were notably below the national averages. Students on GCE advanced courses achieve broadly in line with expectations, although many do better than would be predicted on the basis of GCSE results alone.

Grade: 4

Grade for sixth form: 3

Personal development and well-being

Students enjoy satisfactory relationships at the school and feel that they receive good support and guidance from most of their teachers. Attendance is satisfactory. Although inspectors judged behaviour around the school to be satisfactory overall, there are instances of disruption in lessons. Attitudes to learning in class vary. Whilst most students listen carefully, make considered responses to questions, and work effectively in pairs and small groups, a minority lack the motivation required to concentrate and do not make sufficient effort in some lessons. Students feel that in most cases bullying is dealt with effectively and they appreciate the work the school is doing to build awareness and create peer mentors. Students' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is satisfactory. Through the curriculum and extracurricular activities, most students develop satisfactory self-awareness and self-esteem. However, more could be done to help students to develop a thorough appreciation of cultural diversity. The school is working hard to give students a stronger voice and respond to their desire for greater responsibility. Students appreciate the healthier food options being offered in the restaurant but would like improved access to drinking water. There are good opportunities to participate in sport as part of the activities schedule, though not all students take them. Teamwork is developed through a range of fund raising and community activities. Students learn how to be economically aware and receive good advice when considering career options.

Grade: 3

Grade for sixth form: 2

Quality of provision

Teaching and learning

Inspectors agree with the school that teaching and learning are satisfactory overall. During the inspection, examples of good and outstanding teaching were seen, together with a small number of inadequate sessions. The best lessons are very well planned and tasks are chosen which both challenge and confirm learning for all those present. Consequently, pupils want to learn and remain interested. In these lessons teachers provide constructive feedback for students and all learn effectively. In most lessons behaviour management is satisfactory or good, and is helped by positive relationships between staff and students. When teaching is inadequate, work is not matched to students' interests or understanding and the behaviour of bored students deteriorates. On these occasions the learning for the whole class is adversely affected by the poor behaviour of a minority of students. Teaching in the sixth form is good overall. Students remain focused and enjoy their work. The school accurately identifies strengths and weaknesses in teaching and learning, and it has a good understanding of the developmental priorities which are necessary to improve further, including the development of useful and rigorous assessment. The marking of students work in Years 7, 8 and 9 does not reliably identify what they are doing well and what they need to do to improve their work further. Work has begun on setting individual targets for learning but they are seldom subject-specific for individual students and therefore not as useful as they could be.

Grade: 3

Grade for sixth form: 2

Curriculum and other activities

The quality of the curriculum is satisfactory. It has greater flexibility than at the time of the last inspection, particularly for vocational and work-related learning. The range of courses offered to students aged 11 to 18 years is being extended progressively. The school is addressing the need to meet National Curriculum requirements for citizenship and to allocate more curriculum time to mathematics and English. Students in the sixth form have a good range of courses from which to choose. The school is developing good links with other institutions, employers and training providers, in order to increase students' economic understanding. The school's status as a technology college has improved both the range of technology courses offered and the participation of students. Work is underway to improve provision for gifted and talented students. Clear progression routes are developing for 14 to 19 year olds and the school has plans for further development of vocational courses. Careers guidance is good and work experience is well established. Students are taught to consider how best to utilise their interests and skills and make positive choices of work placements. The range of weekly clubs and activities is satisfactory.

Grade: 3

Grade for sixth form: 2

Care, guidance and support

The quality of care, support and guidance is satisfactory overall. Arrangements for safeguarding students are good and the school follows required procedures for the protection of children and health and safety. Procedures to identify students at risk of underachievement are relatively new and have triggered various initiatives to support selected students. These include small group work and regular meetings with a mentor or learning co-ordinator. It is too soon for the full impact of these initiatives to be evident in improved achievement but their success will be vital to eliminating the underachievement in English. Students benefit from the school's very good links with local primary schools. Provision for students with learning disabilities is satisfactory and improving. Learning support assistants make a valuable contribution to students' learning when they support them in class. The school provides good quality information which helps individuals to make accurate curriculum and career choices. Students benefit from links with employers and local businesses that provide good opportunities for them to develop future employment skills. Apart from those few occasions when behaviour in lessons is poor, students feel safe in school. They are confident about approaching an adult if they have a problem.

Grade: 3

Leadership and management

The school evaluates leadership and management as satisfactory across the main school and good in the sixth form, and inspectors agree. Governance and leadership are effective. Although achievement and standards are unsatisfactory there are signs of improvement. The headteacher has a clear vision for the direction of the school, and is well supported by other members of the senior leadership team. The headteacher and most senior leaders are relatively new in post following an unsettled period within the school. New procedures have been introduced to raise standards and achievement and to improve aspirations. Many of these are taking shape well, but significant variations in the effectiveness with which these are implemented across the school remain. The use of the lesson observation process to improve teaching and learning has developed rapidly. The school's self-evaluation is realistic and well researched. It accurately evaluates strengths and weaknesses. The school knows what needs to be done to improve. The improvement plan is subject to frequent checks on progress, and improved targets have been set. Some of these have already been met, but progress towards others is slowed by an inconsistent approach across the school, for example in assessment for learning and behaviour. Staff are suitably qualified. The school recognises the differences in the achievements of male and female students and has begun to introduce changes to address it. Classrooms are suitably resourced, however the book stock for the sixth form use is poor. Sound financial management has ensured that the school has remained within budget. Resources are effectively deployed. However, the school provides inadequate value for money because of the level of achievement of students at Key Stage 3, particularly in English. Inspectors judge that capacity to improve is good because of the accuracy of the self-evaluation, progress in the improvement and monitoring of teaching, the introduction of many processes designed to improve achievement, and recent improvements evident at Key Stage 4.

Grade: 3

Grade for sixth form: 2

Annex A

Inspection judgements

Key to judgements: grade 1 is outstanding, grade 2 good, grade 3 satisfactory, and grade 4 inadequate School Overall 16-19
Overall effectiveness
How effective, efficient and inclusive is the provision of education, integrated care and any extended services in meeting the needs of learners? 4 3
How well does the school work in partnership with others to promote learners' well-being? 2 3
The quality and standards in foundation stage NA NA
The effectiveness of the school's self-evaluation 2 2
The capacity to make any necessary improvements Yes Yes
Effective steps have been taken to promote improvement since the last inspection Yes Yes
Achievement and standards
How well do learners achieve? 4 3
The standards1 reached by learners 4 3
How well learners make progress, taking account of any significant variations between groups of learners 4 3
How well learners with learning difficulties and disabilities make progress 3
1 Grade 1 - Exceptionally and consistently high; Grade 2 - Generally above average with none significantly below average; Grade 3 - Broadly average; Grade 4 - Exceptionally low.
Personal development and well-being
How good is the overall personal development and well-being of the learners? 3 2
The extent of learners' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development 3
The behaviour of learners 3
The attendance of learners 3
How well learners enjoy their education 3
The extent to which learners adopt safe practices 3
The extent to which learners adopt healthy lifestyles 3
The extent to which learners make a positive contribution to the community 3
How well learners develop workplace and other skills that will contribute to their future economic well-being 3
The quality of provision
How effective are teaching and learning in meeting the full range of the learners' needs? 3 2
How well do the curriculum and other activities meet the range of needs and interests of learners? 3 2
How well are learners cared for, guided and supported? 3 3
Leadership and management
How effective are leadership and management in raising achievement and supporting all learners? 3 2
How effectively leaders and managers at all levels set clear direction leading to improvement and promote high quality of care and education 3
How effectively performance is monitored, evaluated and improved to meet challenging targets, through quality assurance and self-review 3
How well equality of opportunity is promoted and discrimination tackled so that all learners achieve as well as they can 3
How effectively and efficiently resources are deployed to achieve value for money 4
The extent to which governors and other supervisory boards discharge their responsibilities 2
The adequacy and suitability of staff to ensure that learners are protected Yes Yes
The extent to which schools enable learners to be healthy
Learners are encouraged and enabled to eat and drink healthily Yes
Learners are encouraged and enabled to take regular exercise Yes
Learners are discouraged from smoking and substance abuse Yes
Learners are educated about sexual health Yes
The extent to which providers ensure that learners stay safe
Procedures for safeguarding learners meet current government requirements Yes
Risk assessment procedures and related staff training are in place Yes
Action is taken to reduce anti-social behaviour, such as bullying and racism Yes
Learners are taught about key risks and how to deal with them Yes
The extent to which learners make a positive contribution
Learners are helped to develop stable, positive relationships Yes
Learners, individually and collectively, participate in making decisions that affect them Yes
Learners are encouraged to initiate, participate in and manage activities in school and the wider community Yes
The extent to which schools enable learners to achieve economic well-being
There is provision to promote learners' basic skills Yes
Learners have opportunities to develop enterprise skills and work in teams Yes
Careers education and guidance is provided to all learners in key stage 3 and 4 and the sixth form Yes
Education for all learners aged 14-19 provides an understanding of employment and the economy Yes

Annex B

Text from letter to pupils explaining the findings of the inspection

You will probably remember that inspectors visited your school in the second week in March. We enjoyed meeting you, visiting your lessons, looking at your work and talking with many of the staff. Throughout this you were helpful, open and honest and I would like to thank you for that. We were also pleased that so many parents wrote to us to give their views about the school. One of the things you told us was that you feel well supported by the teachers, and that most of your classes were interesting and enjoyable. We were pleased to meet many courteous and helpful students. However in a few classes the disruptive behaviour of a small minority of students distracts the others and makes learning difficult. Some of your parents are worried about this as well. The headteacher and other teachers are taking steps to deal with it, but you can help as well as it is in your interests to learn and succeed. Another thing you told us was that the amount of bullying has been reduced. You appreciate the work the school has done on this. You can help to continue this improvement by treating those around you with respect, and by talking with either your teacher or parents if you are affected. The headteacher, and other staff, are quite new to the school and they have made a good start in making improvements. They agree with our main concern that too many of you do not make enough progress at Key Stage 3, particularly in English. They have made some changes to improve this, and we think they will be successful. Last year, GCSE results improved and inspectors will call again next year to see how well you are doing. I would like to thank you again, and I wish you well.

Any complaints about the inspection or the report should be made following the procedures set out in the guidance 'Complaints about school inspections', which is available from Ofsted's website: