In the first inspection carried out since Prince William School (PWS) became an academy, Ofsted inspectors graded the school ‘Requires improvement’ after its visit in November 2017.
Although this would have been disappointing for teachers and for the EMLC Academy Trust, there is plenty of reason to believe that the school is currently undergoing the required improvement.
In the Ofsted report, a recurring phrase outlining the school’s issues was ‘until recently’, implying that prior to this inspection, there had been significant improvements to the overall performance of the school.
Prince William School became an academy with high expectations under the auspices of the EMLC Academy Trust in 2016, and it is to be anticipated that it would take time to fully implement the improvements that would come with the new academy structure. So the argument could be made that it was too early into this transition phase to give the school a thorough inspection while the school is still trying to reach specific targets.
However, the report did pick up on several areas which as of yet have not been – and ought to be – addressed. Support for educationally disadvantaged pupils was judged not satisfactory, many pupils do not have confidence that the school deals with bullying effectively, teachers give inconsistent feedback and do not do enough to prevent low level classroom disruption.
Many of these assessments are identical to those from Ofsted’s previous report on PWS from November 2014, and it is a concern that under the previous management these issues went unaddressed.
In the 2017 report, there was far greater emphasis on recent improvements, which illustrates that under academy status, these issues are finally being tackled. This is evident among the year 11 of 2017, whose academic progress was well above the national average, especially in English.
Another element which will contribute to further improvements at the school is the new principal, Elizabeth Dormor. She is described in the report as having ‘an accurate view of the school’s strengths and weaknesses’, and she is credited with having ‘taken action in order to raise expectations and establish more rigorous systems of monitoring’.
The report also accepts the fact that many leaders who are ‘newly in post’ has contributed to the school’s disappointing overall score, further suggesting that it was too early for this inspection.
Ofsted recognises that the school has ‘undergone a period of uncertainty and instability’, with fundamental reform in structure and personnel over the last two years. However, now that this new status quo has been firmly established, the school must start to improve; there are still issues to be addressed.
With an improved relationship between the trust and the school, an ambitious new principal, and recent academic improvement recognised by Ofsted, there are grounds to believe that with the necessary hard work, the future is bright for Prince William School.