Department for Education Monitoring Report

(Posted on 23/02/18)

As part of opening a school, the team undergoes a high level of scrutiny from the Department of Education, Ofsted and in our case, the IB. This thorough process is completely right in its approach as our students cannot afford for us not to deliver as a new school. We are determined that whilst we may be innovative and breaking new ground in education that our students are confident and secure in the success our school will bring them. 


Last July, Ofsted visited and drilled through our policies, procedures and approaches and gave us a clean sweep on all forty points on the checklist. This was fantastic as it ensured that we were compliant and our foundation for our incoming team was strong. 


We then presented to the Department for Education in a Readiness to Open Meeting. This again came back very positively and gave us confidence in the launch of our school in September.


Shortly afterwards, the IB arrived on August Bank holiday to begin a three day inspection visit. Their team from the Hague in the Netherlands scrutinised every Scheme of Work, spoke to each teacher individually and tested our knowledge, commitment and understanding on delivering the IB curriculum and we ended the week celebrating our status as becoming the first school in the world ( of 5,500 IB schools) to open with full accreditation in two programmes before opening our doors. 


These were important and defining moments in our school's journey but we knew the vital test for us as a team was in November when we would review the reality of our school and the impact we are having on our students. The Department of Education sent one of their advisors along following meetings with their finance team previously to conduct an inspection of our provision. 


I want to share the main findings on his report. It is set out in a similar way to Ofsted and very much follows the same rubric. This report also includes the findings from the Readiness to Open meeting. We are very pleased with the findings and were happy to take a moment to breathe and reflect on a very busy first term at school. We know there is much to do and continue to work together as a team to improve and deliver the educational experience our students want and deserve. 


Kate Ryan




Section 1: Strategic Planning - Governance, Leadership & Staff

Effectiveness of leadership and management 


The Senior Leadership team has been appointed and they have clear roles and responsibilities. The Principal Designate imbues confidence. She has used her knowledge and expertise of the IB to make a very positive and decisive impact on CIS' strategy and operational plans. The three-year development plan is completed and will be revised and redrafted using the expertise of the SLT. Employer engagement has been a clear priority and presently thirty-one companies  have  offered work placements. Plans are ongoing to develop placements and further curriculum links.


The leadership and management of the Principal and the two Vice Principals is a significant strength of the school. They are a strong team and have worked exceptionally hard in successfully setting up the studio school. 


The school has made a good start in the temporary accommodation. It has a very welcoming ethos and the relationships between the staff and students are excellent. There is a palpable energy and focus, which is being driven by the very capable Principal and her two impressive Vice Principals. Self-evaluation systems and systematic approaches to quality assurance are being embedded. There is an effective system in place to analyse and track student performance. The classroom environments are technologically ‘rich’ and the students are at ease, displaying great confidence in using the technology.   


There is an emerging culture of pursuing effective and responsive student welfare systems. The Principal is passionate about meeting the needs of all pupils. There are a number of vulnerable students who are being supported by the school and external agencies. The work of the school reflects inclusivity, which is one of the core values of the Trust. 


The preparations for the implementation of the International Baccalaureate (IB) has been exemplary. The IB report noted that members of the Trust, board of governors, senior leadership team and school staff demonstrate a strong understanding of the IB philosophy. It also recognised that the school is developing a governance and leadership structure that will support the implementation of the programmes.The school is compliant with all of the IB requirements.


The Trust has provided very effective support for the studio school in a number of areas. The CEO noted HR, reprographics, shared subject specialists, NPQH, admissions and timetabling. The Trust through the CEO and Chair are responsive to the needs of the new school. The Trust secured external validation of the work of the school. A new governing body is now in place and there will be two further appointments of a staff and parent governor. There will be link governors for safeguarding, health and safety, SEND and finance. Bespoke training will be provided for them and the CEO informed the Education Adviser that a governor self-evaluation ‘tool kit’ will be used by the governors to measure their effectiveness. It would be helpful on the next visit to determine the impact of the governing body in providing effective challenge and support to the Principal and Vice Principals.



Section 2:  Curriculum, Teaching & Learning


Quality of teaching, learning and assessment

The Principal Designate and her team have produced a detailed education plan and the curriculum planning is innovative, offering an engaging and rewarding enrichment programme. There are clear expectations of high-quality teaching and effective procedures for monitoring and improving it are an important element of the QA process. There are explicit plans to train staff on Prevent, safeguarding and the promotion of British Values. The IB staff are following a carefully planned training programme and plans are in place for post 16 English and Maths provision. The Trust should consider the external scrutiny of teaching and learning to validate the internal self-evaluations. 


The Principal and the Trust have ensured that there has been external validation of teaching and learning. A very effective Vice Principal leads this area. There is a Professional Development schedule in place along with a Staff Handbook. A performance management framework is also in place.


All students in the sixth form are taking the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme or Certificate Programme. Students study six options on the Diploma Programme (IBDP). They will study three or four subjects at Higher Level and 2 or 3 subjects at Standard Level. The Career Programme (IBCP) supports students who wish to engage in career-related learning while gaining transferable and lifelong skills.The Principal and her team have developed a wide course offering. The preparation and planning has been exemplary and all staff have undertaken IB training and a skills audit. 


A staff and student-learning platform is in place. The school actively uses the online platform (Canvas) to communicate feedback on student progress; this information is available to both students and parents. During the visit, a very capable and confident student demonstrated the full repertoire of the impressive learning platform.


I part observed four IB lessons. The teacher pupil ratio was 1 to 5. The Year 10 Maths lesson had 16 students. 


Key characteristics of the IB teaching observed ;



The curriculum is enriched with a variety of activities and opportunities that aim to inspire and motivate the students. Students are provided with the opportunities to develop interests and extend learning in a wide range of academic and non-academic areas. Students choose three enrichment electives each term. Enrichment elective sessions take place within the school day.



Section 3: Student Care, Support & Safeguarding


Personal development, behaviour and welfare

(including whether all safeguarding arrangements are effective)


All safeguarding policies and measures are in place, including staff training. All senior teaching staff will complete level 3 safeguarding training before opening and a designated teacher with responsibility for the ‘Prevent Duty’ has been identified. Curriculum plans and education policies indicate a clear commitment to the spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development of the students. SMSC will be delivered through assemblies, a comprehensive PSHE programme, global links and the use of the IB Learner Profile. The needs of all students will be met and the school will use the SENDCo expertise from the Trust. A trained counsellor is also available for students, as required. The work of the Learning Coaches will be regularly evaluated with a clear focus on the impact of their work.


The behaviour and conduct of the students throughout the visit was exemplary both inside and outside of formal lesson time.


All staff received safeguarding training as part of the initial induction process and this is to be provided for all new staff annually and refreshed for all existing staff. All appointments have been made with safer recruitment trained staff on the panel. The school benefits from an experienced human resources division at the sponsoring multi-academy trust.


The Principal is committed to providing a quality personal development programme for all students. The school’s policy for spiritual, moral, social and cultural education (SMSC) places emphasis on pupils developing self-esteem and self-confidence. A British Values Professional Development Day was held in August, which included Prevent training and collaborative joint curriculum planning. All Year 12 students will visit the University of Cumbria. The intention is to enable all sixth form students to secure a university place although some may seek other options.


The school has formed strong links with a range of local organisations ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises to large multinationals to support the Work Placement Programme. The school has made a good start in this area.



A qualified experienced SENDCo supports the school on a part time basis. As noted earlier it is an inclusive school and the Principal is determined that the vulnerable students receive effective support. A number of the students are supported by CAMHS. Use is made of external agencies and the school has a Counsellor who meets with four students every week over a six week period. Each student has a designated coach and has an individual 20-30 minutes session per week. The coaches also provide additional support at lunchtime for individuals and groups of students. Early analysis is showing that at the coaching sessions are proving more successful with Year 10 students.


An Education Welfare Officer will be working with the trust schools and will support the school. Attendance is analysed and the Vice Principal understands the imperative of improving attendance and reducing Persistent Absence.



Section 4: Education Planning, Standards and Progress Tracking


Outcomes for children and other learners

(include achievement of groups – SEN, EAL PP, More-able )


The Management Information System and a comprehensive staff-training programme are in place. Rigorous baseline testing has been planned for Key Stage 4 and 5 students. The Principal Designate understands the significance of the implementation of effective and robust intervention programmes. She has astutely been collaborating with a nearby secondary free school to further develop the school’s approach to assessment and moderation. A cycle for monitoring progress is included in the school’s Quality Assurance (QA) documentation along with a detailed IB assessment calendar.


The Vice Principal for this area has a clear grasp of the data and is able to accurately identify underperformance. Students have taken baseline assessments across the curriculum at the start of the academic year in order to provide accurate starting points. Every six weeks, teachers enter data for students’ current level and this is analysed and monitored. 


The Principal and SLT have set high aspirational targets for the students. They are well aware that high academic expectations will only be achieved through quality teaching and learning. During the visit there was a confidence they were achievable and a ’can do’ culture was evident. 



Student Targets 

Year 10 

Year 12 


Current progress of groups of students

95% students are on track to pass English GCSE (9-4).

93% students are on track to pass Maths GCSE (9-4).