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‘Significant strength’ highlighted as Westminster School Inspection Report is published
26 April 2024

The Independent Schools Inspectorate report labels Westminster fully compliant in all areas of school life

Following the two-and-a-half-day inspection by a nine-strong team of inspectors in February 2024, it has been found, very importantly, that Westminster School is fully compliant in all areas of school life. Moreover, the inspectors have clearly recognised what we are privileged to see and to be part of every single day: a truly outstanding school with a breadth of pupil excellence that demonstrates significant strength.


Significant strength – pupil initiative, personal development and contribution to society

Westminster was inspected using the ISI’s new Framework 23, which is much changed from previous formats. There are no longer overall judgements or grades, and instead more nuanced evaluations, with findings given using supporting evidence in five key areas: leadership, management and governance; quality of education, training and recreation; physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing; social and economic education and contribution to society; safeguarding.

Although single-word judgments (excellent, good, satisfactory etc.) are no longer used, inspectors are able to pinpoint what they deem ‘significant strengths’ if they find evidence at a school of deep and genuine aspiration for pupils’ development, knowledge and skill of leaders and staff, and clear benefits for pupils.

I am pleased to report that Westminster is indeed one of only a handful of schools which has so far been found to have one of these ‘significant strengths’.

The inspectors report: “The intellectual challenge of lessons provokes high levels of interest in pupils and consequently they organise a wide spectrum of initiatives organised by pupils. Pupils produce publications representing most academic subject areas; they present academic papers to their peers, and speak to other pupils and staff about their personal experiences and views. Over a third of pupils are involved in pupil-led volunteer work. Leaders successfully encourage pupils to show initiative and to contribute to society. This is reflected in the width, quality and typicality of these activities. This is a significant strength of the school.”

Pupil voice and wellbeing

The new reporting framework is less focused on teaching, learning and results than previously, instead concentrating more on school culture, promotion of wellbeing and pupil voice, planning and delivery of RSHE, and consideration given to the challenges pupils face in today’s world.

In this context, and noting our responses to the 2022 external reviews of pupils’ attitudes and behaviour related to gender and race, the inspectors recognise recent institutional efforts and offer further encouragement:

“Leaders have used the recommendations and findings to rejuvenate the content and teaching of the school’s personal development, relationships and sex education programme.” And: “Teachers are trained to deliver the RSE curriculum through the sharing of ideas and to allow pupils to raise matters for discussions. Teachers often start lessons with philosophical concepts before leading to practical application. The content and approach are ambitious.” Furthermore: “Relationships across the school are now characterised by sophisticated respect and tolerance.”

Holistic care and excellence

During the inspection, the ISI team took a detailed look at our day-to-day operations, hearing from pupils, governors, management, teachers, and administrative and support staff, touring the site including boarding facilities, assessing lessons, surveying pupils, parents and staff, scrutinising and discussing samples of pupils’ work, and examining school records. The results of their work can be read in the full report, but I’m very happy to highlight the below.

On academic matters: “Governors, leaders and teachers share a passion for a style of education that attempts, successfully, to stimulate pupils’ intellect and support rather than lead pupils’ initiatives.” And: “Teachers have a deep understanding of and passion for their subjects, and a mastery of pedagogical techniques. Teachers are intellectually nimble in their response to pupils’ questions and encourage the exploration of pupils’ ideas. Lessons are characterised by the collaboration of both teachers and pupils in academic discovery.”

On co-curricular provision: “Pupils further their abilities and interests in a plethora of societies, assemblies, and forums. Many of them take part in national sporting events, essay prizes and debating competitions. Opportunities in, for example, music or drama are equally accessible to day and boarding pupils.”

On safety, safeguarding and wellbeing: “The coherent approach to safeguarding issues ensures that pupils’ wellbeing is promoted.” And: “Teachers use the curriculum to engender and underpin an atmosphere of mutual trust and regard for reasoned opinion. They, and hence pupils, use affirmative language in discussion, acknowledging and valuing others’ points before challenging them with their own. Consequently, pupils’ self-esteem grows, and they become highly reflective.” And: “Pupils say they feel safe. They receive regular teaching and guidance on staying safe in a range of contexts, including online. There are adults they can go to if they are concerned.”

On boarding: “School and boarding leaders ensure that the physical needs of boarders are met by providing high quality accommodation, opportunities to exercise and relax, and a varied choice of food in the dining halls and boarding houses.” And: “Boarding staff are specifically trained to identify potential concerns. Pupils access a team of well-trained professionals on a day-to-day basis including housemasters, house matrons, senior staff and school counsellors.”

On preparation for life after school: “Pupils receive informed, up-to-date advice on university entry, and many receive offers from leading universities.” And: “From Year 9, pupils are given opportunities to explore post-school and post-university opportunities, and some organise their own work experience. Staff responsible provide well-honed, informed and individual advice.”

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