The final week of half term proved to be a very successful one for Windermere School. In a busy few days, which included the Elleray Production, the pupils and staff came under the close scrutiny of the Independent School Inspectors, with extremely positive results.
On Tuesday 6 February, a team of seven inspectors from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) arrived at the school to carry out a focused compliance inspection, which would be combined with an inspection of educational quality.
The ISI is the body approved by the Department for Education for the purpose of inspecting schools belonging to Independent Schools Council (ISC) Associations and reporting on compliance with independent school regulations. ISI inspections are also carried out under arrangements of the ISC Associations for the maintenance and improvement of the quality of their membership.
The first half of the report found the school to be fully compliant with all statutory regulations, including the boarding provision and the Early Years Foundation Stage, and that no further action is required as a result of this inspection.
The second half of the report, addressing the quality of the education provided, focuses on the achievement of the pupils, including their academic development and their personal development. In this section the headline judgements must include one of the ISI descriptors ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sound’ or ‘Unsatisfactory’. In both categories, Windermere School was awarded the highest possible grade – ‘Excellent’.
When reporting on the quality of the pupils’ academic and other achievements, the inspectors found that pupils of all abilities achieve highly across the school; achievements in outdoor pursuits are exceptional; and the pupils demonstrate excellent attitudes and respond enthusiastically to the academic and adventure programmes.
Addressing the pupils’ personal development, the inspectors stated that “the pupils’ outstanding personal development leads to success in working together in challenging situations and in having a strong global perspective”, and that the “personal development of the boarders is excellent, which in turn strengthens the whole school community.”
Every area of the school was placed under the inspection microscope for the four days leading into half term, from the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) right up to the Sixth Form.
In the EYFS, the youngest children demonstrate excellent skills in numeracy, language and understand the environment. In the junior section of the school, pupils were found to progress rapidly, a curriculum which is built on very effectively for the IGCSE programme, where the independent study skills and self-motivation pupils need to succeed are rapidly developed.
The recent upward trend in the school’s examination results was also praised. The International Baccalaureate (IB) results are well above the worldwide average, which represents a significant achievement given the school’s non-selective entry policy.
The report went on to praise the pupils’ skills in outdoor pursuits, citing them as “exceptionally well-developed”, and highlighting that the school “draws well on its lakeside location”. Achievements in other fields, such as the arts, are also recognised, with the report making mention of the fact that Windermere School was the top-performing junior school nationally for speech and drama examinations in 2017.
Ian Lavender, Headmaster of Windermere School, is understandably delighted with the report, saying; “There is no doubt that this has been an extremely good year for the school. We began with high rankings in the Times (19th) and the Telegraph (37th) for our Sixth Form results, and the award from the Sunday Times as the IB School of the Year followed some weeks later. Now we have the ISI report, which could not be better. I would like to thank everyone for their support and for helping us to achieve this position, in particular all members of staff, who have enabled us to achieve further recognition.”
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.