Ofsted's subject inspections indicate that most schools surveyed are judged to make good provision for English. However, teachers frequently ask us what makes a school outstanding in English. We have now tried to answer that question by publishing 'Excellence in English' (1), a report which includes 12 case studies of schools in challenging circumstances that were judged to do particularly well in English.
We hope that the report will help all schools to improve practice in English. There are, of course, many routes to excellence. No two schools are the same and there is no simple formula that will make a school outstanding in English. These 12 schools all helped their pupils to make outstanding progress in English and were able to demonstrate excellence in areas of teaching, curriculum, and leadership and management. To maximise the impact and value of the report, each case study focuses on one innovative aspect of provision in each school.
In the rest of this article, I would like to describe three of the schools we visited.
Reading in Warwickshire
Let me start with Round Oak Special School in Warwickshire. The school is a purpose-built special school that caters for students of secondary age with a wide range of special educational needs and/or disabilities. Students work at all levels from the P scales (2) to GCSE, and the curriculum and teaching are planned explicitly to meet these widely different needs. The school has high expectations and believes that every student is entitled to the range of experiences that the National Curriculum offers. Consequently, all students study a full range of literature including Shakespeare plays and pre-20th century fiction and poetry. In order to meet the very diverse range of needs and capabilities of students, units of work are constructed around differentiated objectives from the P levels up to National Curriculum Level 5. This helps all students to engage with texts that might be considered beyond their reading capacity.
Two lessons demonstrate this. A Year 7 class, working at higher P levels and lower National Curriculum levels, was following a scheme of work based on horror stories, using an abridged version of Frankenstein. In the first part of the lesson, students worked together on descriptive language. When the class split into groups, there were …