The inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors. HMI evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues: standards and achievement in Key Stage 4, the quality of provision in Key Stage 4, and leadership and management. HMI gathered evidence from interviews with governors, staff and pupils, lesson observations, analysis of documentation and observations of the school during the working day. Other aspects of the school's work were not investigated in detail, but HMI found no evidence to suggest that the school's own assessments, as given in its self-evaluation, were not justified, and these have been included where appropriate in this report.
Description of the school
This Specialist Technology College draws pupils from mainly rural areas. The majority of pupils travel to school by bus. The proportions of pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds or learning English as an additional language are well below average. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is below average. Pupils attend the school from a mixture of different backgrounds; some are very favourable but others are areas with significant rural deprivation.
Overall effectiveness of the school
The Corbet is an outstanding school. Pupils really enjoy school because they achieve exceptionally well and they feel that staff support them magnificently. Pupils enter the school with standards slightly above average. In Key Stage 3, pupils consistently make excellent progress, amongst the best in the country, to gain exceptionally high tests results. Pupils attained exceedingly high standards at Key Stage 4 in 2005; in the following two years results fell slightly, but accurate school records show that attainment is back to this very high level. This shows excellent achievement whilst the pupils are at school. Last year three quarters of the pupils gained five or more higher passes at GCSE, with the vast majority of these including English and mathematics. Results in science, English and mathematics were particularly good. Results in French were high, demonstrating a significant improvement since the previous inspection and the increased significance of the subject within the school. Results in technology were good and the school met most of its challenging targets, including those for its specialist status. Last year very nearly all pupils gained suitable qualifications because the school's strong support ensured any who were in danger of gaining very few or no passes were able to complete their studies. Pupils with learning difficulties also made very good progress. This shows the school's strong emphasis on inclusion.
Pupils feel very safe in school because of the excellent pastoral support. Pupils say that incidents of bullying are rare and are dealt with very well when reported to staff. They say they like the clear guidelines for behaviour so that they know exactly what is expected. Incidents of poor behaviour are almost non-existent and behaviour around the school and in lessons is of the highest standard. This is indicative of pupils' very strong moral and social development. Pupils have a clear understanding of what is right and wrong, and act accordingly. They know how to keep healthy and many take part in a wide variety of sporting activities. They have also influenced the type of food prepared by the school canteen, which now includes healthy options. Pupils' excellent personal development is supported by their extremely good spiritual and cultural development. Pupils say they enjoy the debate on spiritual issues in religious education lessons and also in many other subjects. They also participate in a wide variety of visits, including to art galleries, Paris, Lille, the battlefields in Belgium and local places of interest, which greatly enhances their cultural awareness.
Achievement is so high because pupils enjoy a variety of very good lessons that challenge them to make excellent progress. Relationships between staff and pupils are very good because they respect each other and pupils feel they are treated like responsible adults, which in turn makes them more responsible. Teachers use questioning techniques successfully and plan very interesting lessons that engage pupils' enthusiasm and ensure that work is well matched to their different abilities. The school has made good use of its specialist status to provide teachers with suitable electronic whiteboards to help deliver highly effective lessons and engage learners. Effective training has been provided so that all staff are able to make appropriate use of their whiteboards, often using video clips or other audio-visual resources to enhance lessons. Subject leaders have been very successful in working with their departments to ensure the quality of teaching remains high. Very useful departmental reviews, including the views of pupils, are used well to moderate departmental self-evaluations. These then feed into the accurate whole-school self-evaluation.
Pupils are very well prepared for their next phase of education or the world of work. The very good curriculum, including an exciting and well-attended range of extra-curricular activities, meets pupils' needs very well. All pupils study a modern foreign language and technology in all years. Religious education is studied to GCSE level in Key Stage 4 and pupils say this is a highly interesting and challenging course. They particularly enjoy the way in which they have to argue their point of view and this, along with good English, mathematics and information and communication technology (ICT) skills, supports their excellent preparation for future employment, economic well-being and education. The curriculum is set to be further enhanced when the very good plans for the introduction of the diploma in ICT are implemented next September. Additionally, further diplomas are planned to be introduced over the next few years as part of the local consortium arrangements. The school works well with local providers to ensure a suitable curriculum for those learners who decide to follow specific courses, including work-based learning opportunities.
Pupils are keen to contribute to school life because they feel all staff really want them to succeed. Pupils know their targets and generally receive very good academic guidance. A change to the role of form tutors, so they have greater responsibility for the academic guidance of their tutor group, is in its early days and as yet is not consistent. Parents commented on how successful the school is in helping their children to settle in well when they arrive at the start of Year 7. Many pupils take a very active part in supporting the school community. They act as sports leaders or as 'peer supporters' and enjoy a wide variety of musical and drama events, including well-received productions each year. The school works well with local partner schools through its specialist status and also works with the local college to deliver courses to adults. The fact that so many pupils live a long way from the school and travel by bus makes it difficult for their contribution to the community to be better than good.
The leadership and management of the school are excellent and work well at all levels to ensure the school is constantly improving. The highly effective headteacher, supported by the extremely purposeful and efficient senior leadership team, gives a very strong lead and strategic direction to the work of the school. The governing body provide very good support and challenges when necessary. They rigorously ensure they fulfil their statutory duties, for example, by monitoring for racial equality, and ensure that appropriate procedures are in place for the safeguarding of all pupils. The school is not complacent and is always looking at how to get better. This demonstrates its excellent capacity to improve further.
What the school should do to improve further
- Ensure academic guidance is consistent with best practice, across all tutor groups.