ISI Inspection Report

St Mary’s School for Girls, Colchester offers ‘a rich educational experience and a very happy working environment’, according to independent school inspectors, who visited the school, for girls aged three to eleven and boys aged three to four, in October 2014. Pupils are ‘well educated’ they concluded.

‘The school is successful in meeting its aims to develop pupils who are self-confident, articulate, balanced and civilised, and who enjoy acquiring knowledge and skills’, accorded to the Integrated Inspection Report by The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), 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.

The high-quality, all-round education offered at St Mary’s made a significant impression on the inspectors. This begins in the Kindergarten and Preparatory (Reception) class, for which the inspectors were full of praise: ‘The outcomes for children in the Early Years Foundation Stage are excellent,’ they write. This standard continues throughout the school and inspectors noted: ‘In Year 1 to 11, pupils are well educated… Throughout the school, pupils are enthusiastic learners, able to reason and apply their understanding to a range of situations.’

This is wholly due to the professionalism and dedication of St Mary’s teaching staff, as identified by the inspectors: ‘Teaching invariably fosters pupils’ interest and lessons are lively and stimulating… (and is) based on teachers’ excellent knowledge of their pupils.’

The St Mary’s education goes beyond the classroom and the inspectors were impressed with pupils’ enthusiasm to make the most of the many opportunities on offer to them: ‘Extra-curricular provision is of a high standard. Throughout the school, a very wide range of activities covers all aspects of learning, especially in creative, dramatic and musical pursuits. Participation levels are exceptionally high.’

They also noted that St Mary’s girls are always keen to involve themselves in the world around them: ‘Pupils respond eagerly to the opportunities provided by the many school visits and by foreign travel and exchange trips, from all of which they derive a rich diversity of cultural experience… The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the pupils is excellent… Older pupils are exceptional role models for younger pupils; they act as “listeners” and they are exemplary ambassadors for the school.’

Overall, the inspectors accurately characterised the school, staff and pupils and identified the essence of St Mary’s as a happy, high achieving school: ‘The senior leadership team provides successful leadership and management, and promotes effective educational direction, as reflected in the pupils’ significant achievement at the end of Year 6 and examination performance in Year 11, the outstanding care of pupils and the fulfilment of the school’s aims and ethos. The school is led with clear vision and sense of purpose. A wide variety of academic opportunities is planned, and the extensive range of curricular and extra-curricular activities makes for a rich educational experience and a very happy working environment.’

An inspection report is always an opportunity to reflect and move forward and the recommendations given in the report are areas that the school’s Senior Leadership team identified in the 2014/15 School development plan. Teaching staff are being encouraged to share their individual expertise, ideas and knowledge for the benefit of the staff and pupils, to build on the school’s successful methods of extending and challenging the most able pupils and to reinforce the lines of communication within the management structure.

St Mary’s is a non-selective school, where pupils of all abilities receive the individual attention they need to achieve their academic potential and to develop their interests and talents. St Mary’s girls’ performance in SATs tests has placed the school in the Sunday Times’ list of the Top 100 preparatory Schools in the UK, while performance at GCSE consistently ranks St Mary’s as the highest achieving independent school in North Essex and one of the most successful in the county. St Mary’s pupils go on to enjoy a wide range of fulfilling careers and to make a real difference in the world.

Please do read the full reports, available to download here;

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