Ofsted Report

Short inspection of The Urswick School – A Church of England Secondary School March 2017


Following my visit to the school on 1 March 2017 with Johanna Davey, Ofsted Inspector, I write on behalf of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills to report the inspection findings. The visit was the first short inspection carried out since the school was judged to be good in March 2013. The school had a no formal designation monitoring inspection in December 2015 which focused on behaviour.

This school continues to be good.

The leadership team has maintained the good quality of education in the school since the inspection in 2013. You have successfully addressed the areas identified. This is evident in the GCSE results in 2014 and also in 2015, when pupils’ overall progress in their ‘best 8’ subjects was significantly above the national average. In 2016, pupils’ progress in subjects such as science and modern foreign languages was above the national average, in languages significantly so. Pupils who have low prior attainment typically make progress above national averages, including in English and mathematics.

However, you were disappointed with the results in mathematics. You have taken the right actions to secure improvement. Your new leadership appointments in mathematics from September 2016 have much improved the quality of teaching.

Pupils come from primary school with prior attainment that is significantly below the national average. To improve outcomes in mathematics and ensure that pupils are confident in their use of numeracy, you decided that the curriculum at key stage 3 will include numeracy lessons for specific pupils. Pupils, during a numeracy lesson, told the inspector that they found their numeracy lessons helpful. Your assessment information, for example in Year 7, is showing that pupils are making at least good progress in mathematics.

There were 77 replies to the Ofsted staff survey. Staff are overwhelmingly proud to work at the school and 90% of staff strongly agreed or agreed that they feel well supported in working at the school. Staff who spoke to inspectors informally during the inspection also confirmed these views. Your school surveys show that the vast majority of parents are happy with the work of the school. For example, your survey of 88 parents and carers of Year 10 pupils at the beginning of this year showed that

91% of those parents strongly agreed or agreed that the school was well led and managed. However, there are a small number of parents, including some of the 10 who replied to Parent View, Ofsted’s online questionnaire, who are dissatisfied with some aspects of the school’s work.

Safeguarding is effective.

Leaders have a strong understanding of the risks facing pupils in the local area, including gang violence. Leaders can demonstrate the wide-ranging work that they undertake to ensure that pupils are safe, including training staff on recognising the signs that pupils may be at risk from gang exploitation or radicalisation. Staff know whom they should refer concerns to, and leaders follow up concerns quickly. All safeguarding arrangements are fit for purpose and records are detailed and of a high quality. Checks that adults are suitable to work with children meet statutory requirements. Leaders are aware of the need to ensure that the safeguarding policy fully reflects how pupils are kept safe in line with the latest statutory guidance, for example by detailing the school’s approach to sexting.

The pupils who spoke to inspectors, informally and formally, were all clear in their message that they felt safe at school. Some pupils stated that they felt safer inside school than outside of it. Areas around the school are well supervised and pupils stated that this was typical. The vast majority of parents strongly agreed or agreed that their child is safe and well cared for at the school.

Pupils get on well with each other. Differences are celebrated. Posters and activities relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender month were clearly visible around the school. In the words of one pupil: ‘This school prepares you for life, not just for school.’ Another commented that pupils are taught to have ‘compassion, tolerance and respect’. The personal, social, health and economic education programme ensures that pupils, including students in the sixth form, are taught a variety of age- appropriate ways to stay safe. For example, they are given information on being

healthy, sexting and drugs and alcohol misuse. Bullying is rare and, if it does occur, it is dealt with effectively. In the words of a pupil in Year 7: ‘Bullying is not tolerated.’

Inspection findings

  •  We agreed to focus on what actions leaders are taking and what impact they are having in reducing fixed-term exclusions and improving attendance, particularly for pupils who have special educational support needs, and disadvantaged pupils. This is because exclusions in particular are well above the national average.
  • Leaders have taken a tough stance on behaviour. As headteacher, you reinforce high expectations and use fixed-term exclusions as a sanction for pupils breaking school rules. Pupils told inspectors that these high expectations helped them feel safe. In September 2016, in response to thefts of mobile phones in the local area as well as tensions between pupils through social media, you banned pupils from being able to bring mobile phones into school. As a result, pupils who breached this were excluded. This caused a rise in fixed-term exclusions.
  •  When leaders are worried about the well-being of any particular pupil, leaders use alternative provision rather than excluding the pupil from school. This is provision leaders know well and carefully monitor. You support pupils at risk of exclusion effectively through using ‘walkabout’ mentors, counselling and personalised support. Governors receive more detailed information on exclusions than they did previously. They are more aware of trends and patterns.
  •  Currently, overall exclusions are lower than in previous years, including for pupils who have additional needs, and who are disadvantaged. The staff who work to improve attendance are successful with their strategies. Attendance is higher than the national average. In the autumn term 2016, attendance for pupils who have special educational needs and/or disabilities improved to just over 95%.
  •  We also agreed to evaluate the impact of leaders’ actions to improve outcomes in mathematics. This was because, in 2016, progress in mathematics, particularly for middle-ability disadvantaged pupils, was lower than the national average.
  •  You have added new leadership in mathematics. This is leading to improved teaching and consistency. Observations in mathematics during the inspection showed that teachers are confident in their subject knowledge; they explain concepts well and use a range of strategies to improve pupils’ mental mathematics. Pupils believe that they can be successful in mathematics. Year 11 pupils have been given plenty of examination practice. Most-able pupils were working well together to successfully work out the answers to the hardest questions in the past papers. In other classes, all pupils were focused, working hard and responding well to their teacher.
  •  Leaders carefully monitor pupils and are quick to intervene when there is a risk of underachievement. Pupils appreciate the additional revision classes and support that they receive. Leaders work with an external provider to benchmark pupils’ performance in mock examinations. As a result of effective teaching and intervention, the information from mock examinations, which is compared to other schools, shows that pupils are making more rapid progress in mathematics from their starting points.
  •  At key stage 3, pupils are enjoying mathematics and their numeracy lessons. Some pupils told the inspector that they felt that they could be moved on quicker to more challenging activities. From our joint observations, you agreed that there is more scope for teachers to challenge pupils in their learning, including more regular use of problem-solving questions to allow pupils to apply their mathematical knowledge and skills. Overall, pupils’ progress in mathematics, from their different starting points, is rapidly improving.
  •  We also evaluated the school’s use of pupil premium funding. This was because, although the lower- and higher-ability disadvantaged pupils achieved above average overall in the 2016 GCSE examinations, the middle-ability disadvantaged pupils did not. There were also some variations between subjects.
  •  Teachers are aware of pupils’ needs and their different starting points. Observations showed a great deal of consistency in teaching practice. For example, in English, books of pupils in different year groups show pupils, including those who are disadvantaged middle-ability pupils, are writing confidently using technical language and responding well to teachers’ high expectations.
  •  Leaders have a plan for spending the pupil premium funding. This is broken down into a number of strategies. However, the pupil premium statement for this year does not show the specific amounts allocated to different activities. Leaders are aware of the broad impact of their strategies, for example in the use of the library, music tuition and intervention classes. Leaders acknowledge that they could be more precise in their evaluation of the funding for different strategies and its impact on pupils’ progress, particularly from their different starting points.

Next steps for the school

Leaders and those responsible for governance should ensure that they:

  • continue to improve outcomes in mathematics through all teachers consistently challenging pupils in their learning, including problem solving at key stage 3
  • evaluate more thoroughly the impact of pupil premium spending on pupils’ progress across the school, reflecting their different starting points.

I am copying this letter to the chair of the governing body, the director of education for the Diocese of London, the regional schools commissioner and the director of children’s services for Hackney. This letter will be published on the Ofsted website.

Yours sincerely

Sam Hainey

Her Majesty’s Inspector

Information about the inspection

Inspectors carried out the following activities during the inspection:

  • meetings with you and other senior leaders, middle leaders, representatives from the governing body and a representative from the local authority
  • visits to lessons with senior leaders, particularly in mathematics and English
  • listening to a small group of pupils reading
  • meeting groups of pupils, including students in the sixth form, to discuss the school’s approach to keeping pupils safe and ensuring equality of opportunity
  • evaluation of information provided by the school, including safeguarding records, exclusion records, attendance information, the school’s self-evaluation and information about pupils’ progress
  • talking to pupils and staff informally throughout the school day
  • taking into account the views of 10 responses to Parent View and 77 responses to the staff survey. There were no responses to the pupil survey.




Inspection dates 20–21 March 2013. 
Previous inspection: Satisfactory 3


Overall effectiveness this inspection: Good (2)

Achievement of pupils: Good (2)
Quality of teaching: Good (2)
Behaviour and safety of pupils: Outstanding (1)
Leadership and management: Outstanding (1)

Summary of key findings for parents and pupils

This is a good school.

  • The school’s motto, ‘believe and achieve’, fuels the headteacher’s powerful drive to improve the school, which is shared by all school leaders. The headteacher has established a vision of excellence, shared by all members of the school community, which has the students’ success firmly at its heart.
  • Standards have risen steeply since the last inspection and all groups of students now achieve well from their starting points.
  • Students’ enthusiasm for learning and their hard work ensure that at all times their behaviour is excellent. They are polite and welcoming to guests to their school, of which they are very proud indeed.
  • Students routinely experience good and sometimes outstanding teaching. As a result of the school’s skilful training, teachers plan interesting and challenging lessons to which students respond enthusiastically.
  • The sixth form is good. Students speak highly of their experience of sixth form life and learning because they study courses that match their abilities and interests and are well taught.

It is not yet an outstanding school because:

  • A minority of teaching is not yet entirely successful because the school’s marking policy is not consistently applied to ensure students know exactly what to do to improve their work.
  • When teachers ask more complex questions, they do not always develop students’ ability to think in a way that will ensure they achieve the highest grades in their examinations.

Information about this inspection

  • Inspectors observed 36 part lessons, 12 of them with members of the senior leadership team.
  • Inspectors met with students, senior and middle leaders, the Chair of the Governing Body and vice chair and with a representative of the local authority.
  • Inspectors took account of the school’s records of parents and carers who had responded to the questionnaire that the school regularly uses. No parents or carers had used the online survey (Parent View) before or during the inspection.
  • Inspectors observed the school at work, looked at information about students, including about vulnerable and disabled students and those with special educational needs, and examined records of students’ attendance.
  • Inspectors examined school documents including the school’s evaluation of its own performance, the school’s improvement plan; minutes of the meetings of the governing body; records of lesson observations; records of staff training; minutes of performance management and appraisal meetings; progress data related to the use of the pupil premium grant; and reports from the school’s local authority adviser.
  • Inspectors scrutinised 51 responses to the staff questionnaire.

Inspection team
Patricia Barford, Lead inspector Additional inspector
Roger Garrett, Additional inspector
Babrul Matin, Additional inspector
Caroline Pardy, Additional inspector

Information about this school

  • The Urswick School is smaller than the average-sized secondary school.
  • A new sixth form was set up in September 2012 and has 39 students enrolled this year.
  • The proportion of students who are entitled to free school meals is much higher than the national average.
  • Seven out of 10 students are supported by the pupil premium grant, which is provided by the government to schools to give extra help to students known to be eligible for free schools meals, those who are in the care of the local authority and those who are children of service families. No students currently on the school’s roll are from service families.
  • About a quarter of Year 7 students are eligible for the catch-up premium that the government gives to schools to help students who need extra help with reading, writing and mathematics as they start secondary school.
  • Nine out of 10 students are from minority ethnic communities. This proportion is much higher than average. Over half of the students speak English as an additional language.
  • The proportions of disabled students and those with special educational needs are broadly average at the level of school action but in the case of students at school action plus or with statements the proportions are much higher than the national average.
  • A much higher proportion of students join or leave the school outside the normal times than is the case nationally.
  • The school has a formal partnership with The Boxing Academy that provides alternative courses for students from the ages of 13 to 16 who are at risk of exclusion. Nine pupils are currently at the academy.
  • The school meets the government’s floor standards, which set the minimum expectations for students’ attainment and  progress.

What does the school need to do to improve further?

Increase the proportion of outstanding teaching so that standards rise even more quickly by ensuring that:

- when teachers mark students’ work, they always give them precise guidance about how to improve it,
- teachers encourage students to read carefully the advice given and, if necessary, discuss it with them to be sure students have understood and can apply what they have been told,
- students are given enough time to think in depth about their responses to complex questions and making sure that all of the class understand and can contribute to the answers.

Inspection judgements

The achievement of pupils is good

  • Students join the school at the start of Key Stage 3 with levels of attainment much lower than the national average.
  • Since the last inspection, standards, including in English and mathematics, have risen strongly and the school’s very thorough information about the students now in the school shows that this improvement is set to continue. Standards at the end of Key Stage 4 are now broadly average.
  • Students make good progress in their lessons, producing a great deal of work that they are proud to show to, and discuss with, visitors. Parents and carers are confident that their children are achieving well.
  • Little use is made of early entry for GCSE examinations with only religious education being taken by students in Year 9.
  • Students, regardless of their ethnic background, and students for whom English is an additional language make at least good and sometimes better progress to reach standards that are broadly average. Students in the sixth form are, in these very early days, doing well in their chosen subjects.
  • Students eligible for the pupil premium do better in their GCSE examinations than do other students in the school and better than their comparable students nationally. They make at least expected progress and, as a result of the support they receive, frequently make far more than expected progress, as the school’s information, supported by case studies, shows. In 2012, Year 11 students in English, scored one quarter of a grade better than other students in the school and in other schools nationally. In mathematics, there was no gap between the standards they reached and the standards attained by other students.
  • The school’s own reliable data show that those students who are eligible for the Year 7 catch-up premium are progressing quickly to reach the same standards as other students of the same age. Students that join the school other than at the normal time of transfer also achieve well.
  • Disabled students and those with special educational needs gain higher grades in their GCSE examinations than their peers nationally and make very strong progress from their starting points. Very few students are in public care but case studies show that they do well in school and progress to college or to employment.
  • All of the students who attend The Boxing Academy achieve five or more GCSE examination passes below the level of a grade C. This represents good achievement from their starting points.
  • Almost all students continue in their learning post-16 in a college or sixth form including those who win scholarships to attend independent boarding schools with which the school has strong partnerships.
  • Reading is vigorously promoted throughout the school. The library is busy from early morning until late afternoon, with a high level of loans from the stock of expertly selected books to engage students’ interest and to support their studies. Students read aloud confidently in lessons. Extensive support is provided for students whose reading is less secure, through individual and group work, with the results of regular tests of all students’ reading ages used effectively to ensure that those who need it most are receive extra help.


The quality of teaching is good

  • Teaching has improved a great deal since the previous inspection and in most lessons teaching is now consistently good, and in a significant proportion it is outstanding. Parents and carers believe their children are well taught. Students’ desire to learn makes a strong contribution to the quality of teaching because their speed of response and their discipline in following instructions enable lessons to proceed at a good pace and without interruption.
  • Teachers plan well. They have high expectations of what students can achieve, and provide challenging, interesting opportunities so that students are engaged and enthusiastic.
  • Students approve of the homework they receive and understand its importance.
  • Students’ ability to read and write is promoted at every chance with a focus on key words and on acquiring a wider active vocabulary.
  • Teaching assistants provide very effective support to students for whom English is an additional language. Disabled students and those with special educational needs receive high-quality support from teaching assistants in class and in specially created smaller groups where they are given intensive help. The school’s data show that their reading and writing skills are improving as a result of this.
  • Teachers use carefully designed seating plans, using the very detailed data provided about each pupil to make sure that pair and group work will be successful. Students work well in groups and pairs. They organise themselves and listen hard to their peers, and make considered and confident contributions.
  • Despite many examples of exemplary practice, the quality of teachers’ marking is inconsistent, because teachers do not always give students sufficiently detailed comments to enable them to improve the quality of their work. Moreover, teachers do not give students enough explicit encouragement to read the advice given, discuss it with them if needed and act upon it in future work.
  • Similarly, although the use of questioning is an undoubted strength for many teachers, not all consistently use challenging questions to promote students’ ability to think about and to understand in depth the topics they are studying.

The behaviour and safety of pupils are outstanding

  • Relationships in this very diverse school are extremely positive and equality of opportunity is successfully promoted at all times. The school’s ethos is rooted in values of self-worth, respect for others and forgiveness, and students display these values in their everyday conduct. Their behaviour is exemplary, with the result that learning can take place unimpeded. Students present their work in the classroom knowing that they will be applauded, literally, for their efforts.
  • All the staff who responded to the questionnaire agreed that behaviour is a key strength. 
  • Students are very positive about behaviour in the school.
  • Students hold a range of leadership positions in the school and do their work with pride.
  • Students are very well informed about different kinds of bullying. Students report there is little if any bullying and that any signs of it are dealt with quickly. They feel very safe at school and know how to keep themselves safe. Parents and carers agree that their children are safe in school and that behaviour is good.
  • Students are on time for their lessons and for the start of school. Attendance continues to improve and students attend regularly. Rates of persistent absence have fallen sharply as a result of the extensive and very high-quality support and challenge the school gives to families.
  • Rates of fixed-term exclusion have also declined sharply because the school has effective arrangements in place to avoid the use of this sanction. Permanent exclusion is very seldom used and there are very good alternative arrangements in place to avoid it. Students whose behaviour has caused problems in the past speak very positively about the help that specialist staff give them.
  • The quality of students’ experience at The Boxing Academy is just as good as it is at the school because the headteacher ensures that this is the case. These students attend well and their behaviour is excellent.
  • Older students describe the improvements that they have seen over time in behaviour and are full of praise for how the school is now.

The leadership and management are outstanding

  • Visionary and decisive leadership has transformed the school since the last inspection. All leaders share the same ambition for the school’s success and have the same understanding of how it can continue to improve. All the staff who responded to the questionnaire say they are proud to work at the school and that they receive very good help to improve their practice. Morale is high. Staff are wholeheartedly committed to the school.
  • Results of the parent questionnaires show that parents and carers have a great deal of confidence in the school.
  • The school is very well managed, with an attention to detail that ensures that it runs efficiently.
  • Leaders make their high expectations very clear to staff in policy documents and handbooks, and ensure that procedures are routinely followed.
  • Strong leadership means that teaching has improved a great deal and continues to improve, as a result of the emphasis placed on developing the skills of the staff through personalised training. The team of advanced skills teachers that the school has created is a key element of the school’s capacity to improve even further.
  • Performance management arrangements are most effective in ensuring there is a very high level of accountability in the school where excellence in teaching is prized and rewarded, and underperformance is robustly challenged. Feedback to teachers is direct and unflinching and based on a secure understanding by leaders of what constitutes excellent teaching.
  • Those staff who are responsible for students’ welfare have an impressive grasp of the needs of every student, and make sure that all students are very well looked after indeed and every effort is made to reach every single family.
  • The curriculum, in and beyond the school day and in all key stages, is broad and balanced and designed astutely to ensure that all pupils progress well while they are at and after they leave the school.
  • Students, including those in the sixth form, can and do take part in a very wide range of extracurricular activities, related to the subjects they study, and to theatre, dance, music and sport. As a result, students’ development, as in the rest of the school, is very strong in social and cultural aspects, with the school’s ethos providing extensive opportunities for spiritual and moral development.
  • Arrangements for safeguarding students meet statutory requirements.
  • The local authority adviser provides good support and challenge to the school through regular visits in order to support the school’s process of self-evaluation.
  • The governance of the school:
    - Governors are very well informed about all aspects of the school. They receive clear, detailed and frank reports from the headteacher and from the local authority adviser. They make regular, focused visits to see the school in action. They emphasise the need to know what parents and carers are thinking about the school and they ensure they receive an analysis of the regular parent surveys. In particular, they share the priority the school has made of the development of teaching and raising students’ achievement, and know where there are strengths and where there is more to do.

    - They demand that performance management and the management of pay progression are rigorous, and are related directly to teaching quality and to students’ achievement. They hold the headteacher strongly to account in his performance management, ensuring the school’s strategic priorities are at the heart of the process.

    - Financial management is very efficient and governors know how the use of the pupil premium is contributing to the enhanced performance of the students who benefit from it.

    - Governors share the school’s ambition. They communicate strongly the Urswick values and the importance of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the students alongside their academic achievement.

What inspection judgements mean

School Grade  



Grade 1


An outstanding school is highly effective in delivering outcomes that provide exceptionally well for all its pupils’ needs. This ensures that pupils are very well equipped for the next stage of their education, training or employment.

Grade 2


A good school is effective in delivering outcomes that provide well for all its pupils’ needs. Pupils are well prepared for the next stage of their education, training or employment.

Grade 3

Requires improvement

A school that requires improvement is not yet a good school, but it is not inadequate. This school will receive a full inspection within 24 months from the date of this inspection. A school that has serious weaknesses is inadequate overall and requires significant improvement but leadership and management are judged to be Grade 3 or better. This school will receive regular monitoring by Ofsted inspectors.

Grade 4


A school that requires special measures is one where the school is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the school’s leaders, managers or governors have not demonstrated that they have the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school. This school will receive regular monitoring by Ofsted inspectors


School details

Unique reference number: 100284
Local authority: Hackney
Inspection number: 400404
This inspection of the school was carried out under section 5 of the Education Act 2005.

Type of school: Comprehensive
School category: Voluntary aided
Age range of pupils: 11–19
Gender of pupils: Mixed
Gender of pupils in the sixth form: Mixed
Number of pupils on the school roll: 800
Of which, number on roll in sixth form: 39

Appropriate authority: The governing body
Chair: Roger Pryce
Headteacher: Richard Brown

Date of previous school inspection: 23–24 September 2009

Telephone number: 020 8985 2430
Fax number: 020 8553 5441

View this report and previous reports on the Ofsted website