John Willmott’s headteacher has described their first-ever Good Ofsted report as a ‘pivotal moment’ on its journey to becoming Sutton Coldfield’s school of choice.
Over the last year the Sutton Coldfield school, which is part of the respected Arthur Terry Learning Partnership (ATLP), has embarked on a series of improvements designed to reinvent John Willmott, from a new, rewritten curriculum and readopted motto to a redesigned uniform and even a name change later this year – to the Royal Sutton School.
And last week Ofsted inspectors revealed the school its first ever ‘Good’ rating, after visiting in December.
Headteacher Nicola Gould said: “I was delighted by this report, and very proud of our children, who really demonstrated excellence throughout and shared the journey they have been on and the pride they have in their school. The parents were overwhelmingly positive in their interactions with Ofsted too.
“So, I was really proud of our whole school community pulling together to help produce this result, which I think is at a pivotal moment for the school.
“This is the first time that this school has received a Good rating, since Ofsted began operating. Now we can, as a school community, move together to the next stage quickly.”
The inspectors were impressed by the new curriculum, and how teachers at John Willmott were using it to enthuse students and drive standards up.
The report said: “Pupils benefit from a broad and balanced curriculum with personal development running through its heart. ‘Turning potential into reality’ is the motto that staff live by.
“Leaders at all levels ensure that curriculum planning is ambitious for all pupils. The school benefits from the work of the trust. Pupils’ learning is carefully sequenced.
“Teachers have a strong understanding of their subject and the important knowledge that they want pupils to learn. Pupils experience an effectively delivered curriculum that helps them to know and remember more.”
Mrs Gould said: “The report praises our teachers’ subject knowledge, which is important as it enables pupils to make clear links between a range of subjects, allowing them to move on in their learning.
“That links to the work we have done rewriting the whole curriculum at the school – so teachers have a really comprehensive understanding of what’s being taught, the students’ journey and the component parts.”
The culture of the school was also praised, including the set of innovative ‘Moral Virtues’ that have helped transform pupil aspirations and instil pride.
The report said: “The school has a set of well-established routines, including a strong focus on making pupils feel welcome when they arrive. Lessons are purposeful and clearly structured. Pupils know what to expect and generally behave well.
“They show positive attitudes to their learning. Pupils are respectful and courteous in discussion. There is a sense of pride among pupils. They can see that the school has improved rapidly in recent years.
“Pupils enjoy a wide range of opportunities for personal development. Character lessons, assemblies and form times are designed to help them understand the school’s ‘moral virtues’.
“Pupils talk positively about these and how they are praised. There are numerous clubs for pupils to be involved in, for example chess and drama, and a range of sports take place throughout the school day.
“Pupils are specifically taught the eight ‘moral virtues’. These are included in the work of the school. The personal development curriculum is responsive to the need of the pupils. It takes account of the issues they may face in their day-to-day lives.
“Pupils learn about topics in an age-appropriate way in their weekly lessons and during form time. For example, they discuss consent, fundamental British values and mental health in ways which help them beyond school.”
Mrs Gould said the school was planning to develop this pastoral side of school life further.
“Now that the foundations are in place, in terms of the curriculum and the culture of the school, it means we can now really stride forward to move towards being that beacon of excellence.
“We’re going to be introducing four Intellectual Virtues in September, which will signify our standing and ambition for our children.”
The school is also setting up a Parent Teacher Association, with its first meeting at the end of January, so parents can take an active role in the education of their children.
The report also recognised the advantages of John Willmott being part of the broader ATLP family, saying: ‘The school benefits from the work of the trust’.
The school’s approach to careers was also praised.
The report said: “Careers education is well planned and sequenced carefully for pupils. The school understands their needs and when they will need support to make informed decisions.
“Leaders have a strong understanding of destinations data and make use of this. As a result, pupils get appropriate information about the range of options they have when they finish Year 11. Pupils are prepared well for their next steps.”
ATLP CEO Richard Gill CBE said: “I want to congratulate everyone connected to John Willmott School after receiving this Ofsted report, which highlights the transformation that is going on at the school.
“It reflects how the teachers and staff are motivated and clearly understand the path the school is on, and importantly captures how the children recognise the change in their school too, and are responding to the excellent work that is being done.”
“There is so much for John Willmott to still look forward to, but this Ofsted report provides a very clear indication of the positive journey the school is on.”
Headteacher Nicola Gould with John Willmott students.