WHEN Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School was last inspected by Ofsted it was far from a happy outcome.
News that the Green Road school, which had long enjoyed an excellent reputation and a comfortable position at the high end of the national league tables, had slipped close to requiring special measures sent shockwaves through Ashbourne.
That might have been just 11 months ago, but last week a Government inspector visited the school ahead of a full inspection later this year and congratulated head teacher Anne Martin and her team on clawing it back from the brink and applauded its “rapid transformation”.
In a letter to Mrs Martin, inspector Trevor Riddiough agreed with the school’s recent self-evaluation that it is back up to a standard where it could now be awarded “good” grades across the board.
From an official evaluation identifying the school as “not yet good” to an unofficial evaluation of “good” grades in less than a year is little shy of miraculous.
According to Mrs Martin “getting to good”, as she quite simply describes her complex maxim, has taken a lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated staff.
“Everyone has worked really, really hard” she said, “and they absolutely deserve this judgement. It is absolutely deserved in all areas.
“What we can’t do is become complacent. We’ve got to keep our foot on the gas. The checking and the monitoring has to keep carrying on and, ultimately, students only get one chance at an education and we have to make sure it’s the best possible chance they can have.
“That’s why we’re all in this together.”
In his letter, Mr Riddiough summed up what he had done on the day he spent at QEGS, monitoring classes, checking its systems, poring over documents and scrutinising the school’s own evaluation document.
Mrs Martin and her team judged each area that falls under the auspices of Ofsted inspectors and judged each section as now being “good” – where each had previously been deemed in need of improvement.
They concluded the school warranted an overall rating of good, which in a brief but important bullet point halfway through his letter to Mrs Martin, Mr Riddiough confirmed “school self-evaluation is therefore considered accurate”.
Last year’s shock report was the catalyst for a radical transformation that has perhaps seen more change at QEGS than in any other period in its history.
Mrs Martin’s feet were barely under the table in the head’s office when she started her own evaluation of the school and there was nothing to hide the damning public report that confirmed her fears.
But, through a well-planned strategy that has seen an overhaul of nearly every aspect of school life, exam grades last year showed a significant improvement and, should the students this year pull off the same success with their GCSE and A-level results, QEGS could be well on its way to posting a set of outstanding grades in the not-too-distant future.
Last summer, 67% of pupils achieved the required standard, a good result which brought a sense of relief to the staff but, this year, despite constantly moving goalposts, the aim is to improve on these statistics by at least another 10%.
The school will have its next scheduled inspection in the autumn. If standards can be maintained, it should a return to at the very least a “good” grade in the eyes of Ofsted.