Sunday, 24 October 2021

Technology is key, says head as school is rated excellent

SHIPLAKE College has been praised by inspectors.

SHIPLAKE College has been praised by inspectors.

The independent day and boarding school was rated “excellent” in all areas, including learning and personal development.

A team from the Independent Schools Inspectorate spent four days at the school at the end of April.

The inspectors interviewed pupils and examined samples of their work, reviewed exam results and held discussions with staff.

They also observed lessons and extra-curricular activities and assessed the school’s boarding facilities.

The inspectors’ report said: “The school is very successful in meeting its aims throughout all year groups, including the sixth form. The pupils’ achievements and learning are  excellent.

“Overall, pupils achieve good results in national examinations and make excellent progress.

“Pupils are successful in achieving high standards in a wide range of  co-curricular activities and their performance in rowing is very strong.

“The bespoke academic programmes reflect the school’s commitment to meeting the needs of individual pupils. Pupils are enthusiastic and committed in their learning, underpinned by excellent teaching and learning support, although not all of the more able pupils are subject to the sufficiently rigorous and demanding questioning of their ideas which is evident in some lessons.

“The pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is excellent. It is a hallmark of the school that pupils are engaging, are naturally polite and enjoy interacting with adults and each other.”

The report said there had been “significant progress” at the school since its last inspection in 2010, which was down to “excellent governance and leadership and management”.

However, while pupils benefited from an “excellent” curriculum, encouragement to read for pleasure was found to be “limited”.

The inspectors suggested developing a culture of reading for pleasure and increasing intellectual challenges for the more able pupils in all lessons in order for the school to improve still further. Headmaster Gregg Davies said: “I have been here 10 years and have been working towards this all that time. The schools inspector said we were okay and then good and now we are excellent.”

Mr Davies said he had been very “hands-on” in driving up standards.

“The pastoral care, the welfare, has always been the hallmark of Shiplake but when I arrived here it didn’t have that academic rigour,” he said.

“I don’t believe that the measure of a school is through raw results. It is about whether it takes its pupils forward and when I arrived at Shiplake I didn’t think that was good enough.

“I have spent a long time improving things so that pupils have high expectations and the teachers have high expectations. We haven’t always had the best teachers and an important role of mine is to recruit the best. I think we have a superb group of teachers at the moment.”

Mr Davies said former pupils were now studying at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and European universities, which wasn’t the case 10 years ago.

He said that introducing technology into the classroom as a tool to aid learning had paid off.

Mr Davies said: “When I started we didn’t really have a proper library. Now our virtual library has a huge number of books which students can use on devices such as Kindles.

“What I have done is to ensure that technology is used by the teacher in the correct way. It should be a tool, not the be-all and end-all.

“One of the best things that we do is a flipped classroom. It is where we get the pupils, for the last five minutes of the lesson, to get their phones or iPads and film the teacher.

“We need to teach resilience so the pupils can cope with the exams pressure and so we use what our pupils use day-to-day and bring it into the classroom in a relevant way.

“Over the last five years we have made a huge difference in the way that pupils are learning and we need to prepare pupils for the modern workplace. It used to be that pupils needed to write neatly but in 10 years’ time no one will care if they write neatly.”

Mr Davies added: “It is a huge privilege to have been here and this inspection report is the icing on the cake. It is the affirmation that what we have been doing is driving in the right direction but excellence is a continuum, not an absolute.”

The college has 422 pupils aged 11 to 18, of whom 33 are girls. The current number of boarders is 153.

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