The quality of pupils' achievements and their learning, attitudes and basic skills
- The quality of the pupils' achievements is excellent and fully in line with the school's aims. The pupils display excellent knowledge, understanding and skills, are highly articulate, reason well and apply previous knowledge effectively, including their knowledge of mathematics. The most able pupils achieve levels which are, at times, equivalent to the standard of university work. The pupils' writing skills and technical accuracy reach a high standard, including for those pupils with LDD and EAL who make excellent progress and achieve at a high level. The pupils listen attentively, answer questions willingly and seek clarification when necessary. They respond quickly and accurately to instructions and perform experiments and tasks in a responsible and thoughtful manner. They are efficient and well-motivated learners, collaborating positively with teachers and their peers, and most develop highly effective independent learning habits and skills. They make good use of information and communication technology (ICT) and of the library.
- Pupils are highly creative, as shown by their work in drama and music, in which they achieve high standards. Pupils regularly play with national performing ensembles. Amongst many other outstanding achievements, pupils have been national water polo champions at under-16 level or under-18 level for the last three years. This year, pupils won the national Schools Challenge and came second in the national Mace debating competition. Sixteen Arkwright Scholarships have been awarded in the last four years. Most pupils go on to their first choice university, many gaining places on the most competitive courses.
- The following analysis uses the national data for the years 2007 to 2009, which are the most recent years for which comparative statistics are currently available. Results at GCSE and at A level are excellent in relation to the national average for maintained schools, and above the national average for maintained selective schools. Results at IGCSE are higher than worldwide and UK norms. These results indicate that the pupils' progress is above the average for pupils of similar abilities.
- The contribution of curricular and extra-curricular provision is excellent. The curriculum is broad and well-balanced, allowing pupils to have a good choice of options at GCSE and IGCSE. The recent introduction of the International Baccalaureate (IB) in the sixth form, which replaces A levels, offers each pupil challenge across a range of subjects and activities, and provides increased opportunities for pupils to develop their thinking skills and their extended writing skills, in line with the school's aims. The extra-curricular programme provided is exceptional, remarkable in its quality and in the extensive choice of activities on offer, ranging from a historical re-enactment society to scuba diving to caving.
- The pupils' achievements are well-supported by the teaching, which is excellent. The teachers know the pupils well. They establish a good rapport, with most discipline being handled with a light touch. They have excellent subject knowledge and use a good variety of teaching styles and strategies to engage pupils. Teaching is well-planned, making good use of resources, often including effective use of ICT. It offers a high level of challenge: all pupils, including those with LDD and EAL, are well supported. The best teaching stimulates thinking and animates pupils, questioning them effectively to draw out knowledge and understanding and encourage reasoning and critical thinking. The best marking is regular and includes comments to aid improvement, but some marking is more limited in scope. In the pre-inspection questionnaire, almost all pupils said that teachers help them to learn.