Crown Woods is an effective humanities college that provides a satisfactory quality of education. Because of good leadership and management, particularly the inspirational drive of the headteacher, the school has laid a strong platform for further improvement.
Through unremitting efforts in recent years, and in very challenging circumstances, senior leaders have revitalised the school by recruiting a sufficient number of good teachers. They have established very effective procedures and opportunities to support students' personal and academic development. A highly mobile student population, including many with troubled histories from other institutions, and the non-attendance of a significant number have hampered efforts to improve. Although improving, attendance is below average at just over 90%. Nevertheless, the positive effects of leadership and management on students' progress are evident in the underlying upward trend in external examinations and in lessons, particularly for those attending regularly. Standards, although still below average have risen in three consecutive years. Younger students are achieving satisfactorily overall, though progress in science and mathematics is slower than in English, particularly for more able boys and middle-attaining girls of white heritage backgrounds. Those in older year groups who started in Year 7 and stay until Year 11 make good progress. Students with learning difficulties and disabilities achieve well. Achievement in the expanding sixth form has improved and is now good. This clear evidence shows good capacity to improve further.
The effectiveness of middle managers is satisfactory overall but improving rapidly as they are held to account by senior managers. The humanities specialism is well led and is beginning to have an impact on other subject areas through its pioneering support for literacy and good teamwork. A very few middle managers do not manage their areas effectively enough so that not all students make best progress. Governance is good. Governors are ready to challenge the school but also appreciative of the leadership's honesty over strengths and weaknesses. Regular reviews hold departments and year groups to account so that rigorous evaluation underpins the push to 'exceed expectations'.
Professional development programmes are a real strength of the school and have improved teaching so that it is now good, a marked improvement since the last inspection. Learning in lessons is also good for those who attend regularly. The school has benefited from new teachers, who although often inexperienced, are enthusiastic, committed and ambitious for their students. The curriculum has developed well with a wider range of vocational courses than previously. Personal development is good. Students who attend regularly enjoy school, feel secure despite its very large size and are well-informed about staying healthy. There is a calm ethos with the overwhelming majority readily engaged in learning. A good citizenship programme prepares students well for the future as do good care, guidance and support within year groups. Systems to check students' academic and personal development are robust, with exceptional examples of their use in Year 9. Students' and parents' views matter to the school although very few parents responded to the questionnaire.