The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) is the Government approved inspectorate responsible for the inspection of schools belonging to the Independent Schools Council Associations. ISI inspections are carried out at short notice and are led by professional reporting inspectors with many years’ experience.
During the course of the inspection, which took place from 4 – 5 February, the inspectors observed lessons, conducted informal discussions with the children and examined examples of their work. On top of this they also attended assemblies and held discussions with members of staff, as well as parents, all of whom had been invited to fill in a pre-inspection questionnaire about their views of the Early Years Provision at WPS.
The inspectors focus on four key areas relating to the Early Years Foundation Stage: how well the early years’ provision meets the needs of the range of children who attend; the contribution of the early years provision to the children’s wellbeing; the leadership and management of the early years’ provision; the overall quality and standards of the early years’ provision. In each area the school was judged to be outstanding.
The Early Years’ Foundation Stage (EYFS) at Windermere Preparatory School comprises forty children, of whom eleven are under the age of three. The children have access to enclosed gardens, an adventure playground and extensive fields and wooded areas in which to play and explore. The Report highlights the fact that “outdoor learning is a significant strength of the school”, going on to add that “strong links between indoor and outdoor experiences consolidate learning further.”
Jenny Davies, Early Years Leader at the school, says: “As an accredited Adventure Learning School, we do make great use of our fantastic setting wherever possible, to ensure that we can provide an exciting and challenging curriculum for the children.”
This is echoed by the inspectors who praise the staff for providing “stimulating activities that excite and motivate the children”, adding that “the strong focus on outdoor learning ensures that children understand the need for physical exercise.”
As well as citing both the setting and the provision for children’s wellbeing as outstanding, the Report also praises the leadership and management of the EYFS, again rating them outstanding. The Report reads, “The dedicated staff work effectively together as a strong team, and the high staff to child ratio ensures that children receive much individual attention.” It goes on to say that the “staff are excellent role models who calmly reinforce expectations for behaviour, kindness and courtesy. The gentle reminders and promotion of sharing and turn-taking ensure that children co-operate well together.”
Ben Freeman, Headmaster at Windermere Preparatory School, says: “Obviously we are thrilled with the results of the inspection. It has highlighted the commitment of the staff to ensuring that all children attending Windermere Preparatory School receive the very best education. We are justifiably proud of the staff involved and, of course, the children. Our Early Years Foundation Stage offers a fantastic start to school life for the children and, as the Report says, prepares them well for the next stage in their education”.
The final aspect of the Report sums up the overall quality and standards of the early years’ provision. It highlights the excellent progress the children make in their own personal development, as well as various outcomes in The Prime areas of learning.
The Report reads, “All children… make good and sometimes outstanding progress relative to their starting points”. Other key points include: children under three understand simple numbers and speak with increasing confidence; older nursery children count competently; Reception children use their phonic knowledge to read simple and complex words, while some are writing sentences independently. The Report concludes by saying that “the setting shows strong capacity to build on its current high standards.”
Adds Mr Freeman, “We are continuously looking at ways we can improve what we offer and while we are understandably delighted with the findings of the ISI Report, we won’t be resting on our laurels. We’ve got a great team in place to make the school even better than it is already and fulfil our ambition of becoming the best small school in Britain!”
The first time my daughter and I visited the school she said to me “that is a happy school no question.” The scholastic achievements of the school are evident and an easy measure for a school to demonstrate. What is hard to quantify is the holistic development of a pupil at which, in my experience, Windermere School excels.
Windermere School is such a unique community to be a part of. Not only is it based in a truly beautiful and inspiring national park, but the environment created by staff and students alike makes for an incredibly supportive, proactive, exciting and international place of learning in which everyone can thrive and be the best they can be.