Opinions Count!

The Inspectors have now left to prepare their report. Their opinions will be based upon their observations, readings, assessments and interviews, including meetings with pupils, parents and staff. The Inspection Team consisted of some very experienced former Headmasters and HMI Inspectors and their findings will serve to inform us about the reality of our current educational provision and to guide the future development of the school. The Inspection Report will be released to parents as soon as published in approximately eight weeks time.

With limited notice, it was impossible for the school to anticipate the timing of our inspection and we have already gathered the opinions of pupils and parents in our own annual surveys. Perhaps this will provide an insight into what the inspectors saw and heard.

The fact that the inspectors talked with pupils of all ages emphasises that their opinions count at the school. The recent annual pupil survey will perhaps provide an indication of the messages offered up to the inspectors.

In the annual pupil survey of October 2013:

141 out of 143 Senior School pupils believe that teaching is good. 83 out of 89 Prep School pupils believe that teaching is good.

138 out of 140 Senior School pupils think that teachers set high expectations of academic achievement. 82 out of 84 Prep School pupils believe that teachers set high expectations of academic achievement.

138 out of 144 Senior School pupils thing HGS is a great place to learn. 82 out of 84 Prep School pupils think HGS is a great place to learn.

The Year 11 Speed Interview Evening provided many parents with the opportunity to meet with our older students first-hand. One parent provided a typical response to the evening:

“I just wanted to say that all of the students tonight were outstanding! I was amazed at the confidence, passion and experiences that they all portrayed. Each student was individual, they all had different ideas and aspirations for the future but yet each one spoke clearly and with confidence giving a really clear knowledge of their future plans. They were all experts in their own chosen future paths. They all presented brilliant interview skills and I did give them very positive feedback. I hope that my own children turn out as well rounded in their time at Huddersfield Grammar School.”

Parental opinions are clearly very important.

Comments received from end of year Kindergarten Survey (July 2013):

The Kindergarten year has been excellent. My child has been able to enjoy lots of new experiences in the comfort of a very safe environment. I’m thrilled that has had the opportunity to start learning the violin, doing tap dance and ballet – all the things she loves.

It was my husband who wanted our child to come here, I thought I’d prefer a little village primary school but I have been totally won over by my child’s experience here. Many thanks to you all.

You have exceeded our expectations and are far and away the most organised and professional kindergarten that any of our children have attended.

We have been very impressed with the kindergarten since my child started in January. All the sessions appear very well structured and fun (as learning should be). It has been great to be able to attend the stay and play sessions and I think there is a great relationship between staff and parents at the school and my child has benefitted from the warm and caring environment in the Kindergarten. Well done to all the staff, you do a fantastic job.

The most recent Parents Survey conducted by Mtm Consulting also provides an insight into the messages offered to our inspection team. The consultants provided Cognita with the following summaries based upon the responses received:

Respondents were most satisfied that the school achieves excellent academic results and all factors in this section are rated highly.

Respondents were most satisfied with the opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities and all factors in this section are highly rated and substantially exceed scores from previous years and Cognita benchmark figures

Respondents were in agreement that the school sets appropriate homework for their child and that it is marked promptly. Scores once again exceeded previous years and the Cognita benchmarks in this area.

Respondents strongly agreed that the arrangements for their children to settle in were good, and that the school sets high standards of behaviour and appearance.

Respondents were most satisfied with the safe and secure environment the school provides, followed by the positive ethos offered at the school. All areas were rated positively, equivalent or higher than the previous years and the benchmarks.

Respondents were in strong agreement that the Head and senior leadership team is available and accessible, and that the school is well-led and managed.

Overall, parents were extremely happy with the education and care their child receives. They believe that the school represents good value for money and that the school has improved over the last 12 months.

The picture presented by the opinions that perhaps matter most, those of the pupils and parents, are clearly encouraging and I would hope that these will be reflected in the final Inspection Report.

We are aware that there is much work to be done and our School Development Plans contain some ambitious plans for future development. The Parents Survey Report noted that “the new leadership is not universally popular, and several parents criticised the impact on the ethos of the school”. I have discovered that Yorkshire folk tell it as they see it. The Lead Inspector did spend a considerable amount of time reviewing and assessing the comments from those parents and pupils who do not share the opinions of the vast majority. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with those parents that anonymously expressed such views to explore how we can understand and address their concerns.

The findings of the consultants were that the key priority areas for improvement are as follows: 57% considered the facilities at the school to be the priority for improvement, followed by the quality of teaching (34%) and the communication with parents (22%). The new developments will address the primary concern and I await with interest the findings of the Inspection Team with regards Teaching and Learning.

Michael Gove has recently expressed some strong opinions on the differences between state and independent schools. I am delighted that at Huddersfield Grammar School we enjoy excellent relationships with both independent and state schools. Whilst our membership of the Pennine Sports Partnership offers excellent opportunities for sharing in sporting activities, the relationship that we enjoy with Royds Hall School is developing and proving beneficial to both schools. Last week we welcomed their debating team for our first joint Debating Club event; we used their excellent new cricket nets in their Sports Hall; I visited Royds Hall last week to observe Miss Haigh teaching a Year 8 Drama class; and this week we will welcome a group of students to our own Business Lunch on Dentistry, kindly provided by Mr Pearson. My own opinion is that we need to work together where possible with each looking to address our own particular needs for the benefit of our students.

The teachers and pupils should certainly be congratulated on their continuing efforts and the Inspection Team expressed their desire for me to offer their appreciation to all that had made them feel so welcome at the school. I would personally like to thank everyone that has been involved in presenting their opinions in recent weeks. Your opinions really do count.

Best wishes,

Tim Hoyle

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