The Headmaster’s Blog

Dear HGS Parents,

Shortly after I took to my desk on Monday morning, a note was passed to me to call the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) as soon as possible. This could mean only one thing: the school was 48 hours away from it long-awaited Regulatory Compliance Inspection, and – after a quick cup of coffee to compose my thoughts – I called back and, in a second, the process was underway!

Whilst no school is permitted by an inspectorate to make any official comment upon judgements reached until the publication of an inspection report, I can report that I am hopeful of sharing very positive news with you all in four weeks or so. The collective teamwork of both students and colleagues in showing the school at its very best was really rather moving and brought home just what a wonderful school community we are.

This was the first ever inspection of Huddersfield Grammar School by the ISI, which is widely regarded as offering the gold standard in inspection to leading independent schools. Indeed, our experiences in school this week stood in stark contrast to the depressing picture that has emerged from the publication of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s new report last week on the serious issues facing many state schools and students in the North of England, which demonstrated that disadvantaged children in the North received significantly worse GCSE grades than their counterparts in London and other parts of the UK last summer. According to the findings, northern 16-year-olds receiving free school meals achieved an average 6.5 points below their equivalents in London and 1.3 points below those in England as a whole.

We are proud to offer an inclusive yet stretching education at HGS: one which adds significant value to the educational outcomes of all children, from whichever rung on the academic ladder that they find us when they arrive in school. As Headmaster, I am ever-conscious that too many schools allow themselves pigeon-hole students, in both the maintained and selective sectors, fixing them into a category of attainment and more or less expecting their work to reinforce that pre-determined view, rather than challenging pupils when they hand in mediocre work and saying “no – you can do much better than that – now show me what more you can do”.

It is incumbent upon schools such as ours to constantly revise our expectations of what our pupils are capable of, rather than placing a ceiling on what we expect the children to achieve and – once they have met these targets – considering our task complete. Given our small class sizes, we have every advantage in ensuring that no child gets lost in the system, and changes to our assessment procedures this year are now leading to more comprehensive target-setting across all phases of the school.

As a school leader, I often draw inspiration from the story of ‘Austin’s Butterfly’, which – in just a few minutes – underlines how dramatically children can progress in school when they benefit from high quality, timely and specific feedback on the quality of their work, rather than having a ceiling placed on what they are expected to attain.

Austin, a first grader in the United States, was tasked with creating an accurate, coloured illustration of a butterfly, but – given his age – lacked sophisticated art and fine motor skills. With the help of a critique group of his teacher and young peers, he transformed his work, piece-by-piece, into a beautiful piece.

You can view the video of this journey of improvement here.

With best wishes for a relaxing family weekend,

Mr M Seaton