The inspection was carried out by five Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
Beths Grammar School is a larger than average selective boys' school which admits girls into the sixth form. The proportion of students from ethnic minorities is above average. The school has specialist status as a Technology and Languages College.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Beths Grammar provides an outstanding quality of education. Standards are well above average. Achievement is outstanding. Students achieve outstandingly by the age of 14. Although progress is very good between the ages of 14 and 16, a few students do not quite meet their challenging targets. Progress and achievement are again outstanding by the time students leave the sixth form, which includes a substantial number of girls, all of whom are well integrated into the school. Students throughout the school benefit from a combination of good teaching, an ethos that promotes outstanding personal development, outstanding care and guidance, and the very positive attitudes which students themselves bring to lessons and school life generally. Students and parents are very appreciative of the quality of what the school offers, both in terms of high standards and the richness of the curriculum. As one parent commented, 'Beths provides an environment where our son can fulfil his potential and provides an educational platform to go on to greater things.'
Particularly impressive is the way in which an outstanding leadership team, supported by very knowledgeable and constructively supportive governors, builds on existing successes by targeting areas for improvement. The school's self-evaluation, which follows on from careful monitoring, is very accurate: the few areas of relative underperformance are targeted, appropriate support is then put in place, and the resulting improvements are evident in excellent standards. The good progress made since the previous inspection and the commitment and targeted support already in place indicate that the school has an outstanding capacity to improve. It has correctly focused on improving teaching and achievement still further. Teaching and learning are good, mainly because most lessons are appropriately challenging. However, occasionally teachers are too controlling and miss opportunities to extend able students more directly.
The school provides a challenging and innovative curriculum. 'Fast tracking' Year 11 students into post-16 courses, sometimes alongside sixth formers, is highly motivating and promotes strong progress. Even in Year 7 the challenge is evident, for example in the provision of Mandarin: a lesson in this was seen during the inspection, with the students fully engaged and making impressive progress in developing language skills and understanding. The school's specialist status in technology and languages has a very positive impact on the breadth of the curriculum and students' motivation. For example, the application of information and communications technology (ICT) has improved considerably in recent years; and students also have opportunities to study a range of languages. The school reaches out into the community, for example with language courses offered to parents and local employers. There are excellent links with outside agencies and other institutions such as a special school, which give the students further opportunities to develop personal and social skills.
The school is very successful in promoting personal development. Students are articulate, involved and constructively critical of the school. They certainly enjoy school life, although some would like a more exciting approach in some lessons. One parent summed up the school's strength as 'developing the students as critical thinkers.' Students are a credit to the school in their behaviour, attendance and maturity.
Effectiveness of the sixth form
The high performing, mixed, sixth form is very successful and is heavily oversubscribed, with an excellent retention rate. Students comment on the high quality of their induction and the 'strong sense of family' within the sixth form. Students make outstanding progress, during Year 13 in particular. High aspirations and motivation lead to outstanding achievement. By the end of Year 13, standards are exceptionally high. The curriculum has a wide range of options, successfully meeting the needs of all students. Enrichment options add breadth, for example enabling students to work as volunteers in the local community. Prefects are excellent role models for the rest of the school and some sixth formers are trained to act as peer mentors. Students receive excellent support and guidance, equipping them securely to go on to higher education.
What the school should do to improve further
- Enable more students between the ages of 14 and 16 to reach the highest levels by ensuring a more consistent level of challenge in the teaching.
Achievement and standards
Grade for sixth form: 1
Standards are well above average and achievement is outstanding overall. Students make outstanding progress by the age of fourteen, because of good teaching and their own very positive attitudes towards learning and keenness to contribute to lessons. Progress and achievement are reflected in recent test results, with a very creditable proportion of students gaining the highest levels in the core subjects, particularly mathematics. Achievement of students between the ages of fourteen and sixteen is very good overall, and many achieve excellently. However, there are still pockets of underachievement, due principally to some inconsistencies in the overall quality of teaching, and there have been staffing difficulties in some subjects. Performance in GCSE examinations has improved in recent years. The school has targeted the highest GCSE grades as an area for improvement, since a small minority of students do not meet the appropriately challenging targets, as was evident in recent GCSE results. Particularly effective in helping many able students to achieve well is the school's strategy of early entry at GCSE and teaching more advanced courses in Year 11. There is no significant difference in the standards of students from ethnic minorities, whilst the minority of students with learning difficulties make excellent progress due to well-targeted support.
Personal development and well-being
Grade for sixth form: 1
Students develop as confident, mature, articulate individuals. Excellent moral and social development is reflected in courteous behaviour, excellent working relationships and very good learning. Students have an excellent understanding of a range of cultures. They show outstanding awareness of healthy life styles and report favourably on the positive influence of assemblies and their lessons in reducing risk- taking behaviour such as smoking. The school maintains very high expectations of behaviour, and students report an effective response to the few reported incidents of bullying. Very positive attitudes to learning reflect well above average attendance, and students enjoy the wide range of enrichment opportunities such as sports clubs. Students thrive on responsibility. They greatly appreciate the school's provision, although they would like more active involvement and excitement in some lessons. The school council is very influential in effecting change, for example in influencing the character of registration time and being involved in the appointment of teaching staff. Students in Year 9 and above take turns in refereeing games and coaching in a range of sports. High standards of basic skills such as ICT, along with excellent personal development, ensure that students are fully prepared for the next stage of work or education.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Grade for sixth form: 2
Inspectors agree with the school's own judgement of good teaching and learning. A strong drive to succeed permeates students' approach to learning. All learners make at least good progress, regardless of their background. This results from good teaching, effective use of resources like ICT and the strong learning ethos in lessons. Characteristics of the good and better teaching are quick pace, high expectations and the active involvement of students. Progress is less rapid in a very small minority of lessons in which the teacher is too controlling, thus hampering students' development of independence in their learning.
Curriculum and other activities
Grade for sixth form: 1
The curriculum is excellently matched to the varying needs of students and the expectations of parents. The recent introduction of Mandarin Chinese is typical of the school's willingness to continually review and innovate, thereby maximising learning opportunities. High attaining students are encouraged to achieve to the best of their ability by early entry into GCSE examinations, for example in mathematics, design technology and religious studies, and then studying Advanced Supplementary courses alongside sixth formers. Study support sessions and off-site provision in local colleges are very effective in helping other students to achieve very well. The range of curriculum extension and enrichment activities is outstanding and these have a high take-up. The school is developing work-related learning and enterprise activities well.
Care, guidance and support
Grade for sixth form: 1
Students rightly believe that the school provides them with an outstanding level of personal guidance and support, which contributes to their security and good learning. The staff with a particular responsibility for learning needs give excellent support not only to students with identified learning difficulties but also any student who approaches them with a specific problem. Consequently, students with learning difficulties frequently make outstanding progress. Child protection procedures are secure and well understood. Support for students' academic progress is well established, with considerable effort going into identifying weaknesses in areas of learning, and involving parents and students in setting targets for every student. This support is leading to an improvement in the quality of academic support. Therefore, the school is gradually but increasingly eroding inconsistencies in the way in which the resulting targets are translated into effective teaching strategies, enabling most students to achieve to the highest level in all subjects.
Leadership and management
Grade for sixth form: 1
The headteacher's clear vision and very able leadership have led to steadily improving achievement and have boosted the school's image within the local community. The senior leadership team fully supports the headteacher's drive for further success, a drive that is reflected in the well developed strategic planning. Thorough and accurate self-evaluation procedures have resulted in improved achievement in a number of subjects including design and technology and ICT. Subject management is at least good, although the senior leadership recognises some inconsistencies which result in not all students achieving their very best work in the classroom. Strategies to address this are having an increasingly successful impact on extending the range of teaching styles and providing more varied learning opportunities. Governors are strongly committed, have an effective committee structure and are well informed. Financial management and control are excellent.