The Inspectors Call
In 2015, Brockwood Park School and Inwoods Small School joined the Independent Schools Association, which provides professional support for its 370+ member schools and heads. This membership meant a new inspection regime and so in March, with one weeks’ notice, a team of five inspectors from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) descended on Brockwood and Inwoods for four days. They observed lessons, conducted formal interviews with pupils, examined classwork, held discussions with senior staff and governors, attended school assemblies, inspected boarding houses, examined regulatory school documentation, and analysed questionnaires completed by parents and students. The subsequent inspection report has now been released and can be read in full on the Brockwood website.
The pupils of Inwoods Small School were described by the inspectors as being ‘articulate and motivated in their independent thinking and work’. The inspection highlighted that as a small school Inwoods was able to ensure that teachers knew their pupils well, planned effectively for learning and developed strong relationships with pupils in the small mixed-age classes. Inspectors went on to say that the Inwoods pupils ‘…benefit from the opportunities to engage in self-selected activities and explore the world around them. They develop a spirit of enquiry and show good powers of concentration and well-developed problem-solving skills when completing their chosen task.’
The inspectors recognised that the individual programmes of study within Brockwood Park School encouraged the pupils to ‘…take responsibility for their own learning, excel in their academic studies, explore their freedoms and responsibilities in society and appreciate the natural world in which they live.’ Given the School’s unusual approach to curriculum the parents of students sometimes have concerns around the issue of examinations and so it was satisfying that the inspection highlighted the fact that Brockwood’s A Level exam results were in line with the national average (based on national data for 2012 to 14) while in 2014 pupils achieved above average results, recording 84% A to C grades at A level.
For both Inwoods and Brockwood, the inspectors concluded that ‘The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the pupils is excellent’ and that the Schools ‘…successfully provide friendly, safe and nurturing environments where every pupil feels valued and involved in school life.’ In Inwoods they observed, the pupils are ‘…encouraged to understand the need for empathy and to behave well from conviction rather than because of sanctions or consequences.’ While at Brockwood ‘…pupils have an appreciation for non-material aspects of life and are emotionally mature for their age’. Furthermore, the international character of the school helped ensure that pupils were able to establish ‘…harmonious relations with those from different cultures…’ and when they finally leave, they have ‘…enquiring minds and relate well to adults.’ Both schools were found to meet all the requirements of the Education Regulations (2014) and Brockwood met all the National Minimum Standards for Boarding Schools (2015). The Trustees of the Schools were commended for having embraced the comprehensive review of the School that took place last year and for having made new appointments in key areas as a result, thus raising expectations and standards. The inspectors observed that ‘The quality of governance was excellent.’