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The Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe : Ofsted Report

Reporting Inspector: 
David Scott
Description of the school: 

The Royal Grammar School, a college with specialisms in language and in mathematics and computing, serves students from a wide locality. There is boarding provision on the school site for 70 students. The proportion of students eligible for a free school meal is low, as is the number of students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Slightly more students than is typical nationally are from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and the number of students who have a home language other than English is average. The majority of Year 11 students transfer into the sixth form. The headteacher is responsible for both care and education in the school.

Overall effectiveness and Average across all judgements

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Leadership, management and capacity for school improvement

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Overall achievement & academic performance

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Care, Guidance and Personal development

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Ofsted assessment

The Royal Grammar School is an outstandingly effective college with specialisms in language and in mathematics and computing. Staff are fiercely ambitious for their students. The overwhelming majority of parents strongly support the school's drive to give students an outstanding educational experience. Reflecting the views of many, a parent wrote, 'This is a truly excellent school.' Boarding provision also contributes well to the students' academic success. Most feel very privileged to have access to so many stimulating out-of-hours opportunities.

A lynchpin of the school's sustained success is its determination to ensure that students are 'excited and enthused by the challenge of learning'. Students of all ages show very high motivation to achieve as well as possible. As a result, standards in the main school are very high, and students make exceptional progress in all subjects except information and communication technology, where there is some underachievement. Sixth formers also make excellent overall progress, but here there is greater variation in students' performance across subjects. In recent years they have achieved least well in computing and in business studies. The school has taken robust action to raise standards. As a result, current students' progress has improved and the school's assessments show that the 2009 cohort are on course to achieve as well in these subjects as they do in others.

The Royal Grammar School is rightly proud of its international dimension. This is closely linked to its languages specialism, its boarding provision and its innovative curriculum. Many staff and students have practical experiences overseas through links with schools in Europe and Africa. Students, for example, undertake European work placements, participate in an extensive range of projects for needy communities, and also take part in sports challenges worldwide. Within the school week, students have opportunities to study seven languages, including Russian, Mandarin and Japanese. The school's online award-winning website has open access to allow not only its own students but also those from elsewhere in the United Kingdom and from overseas to benefit from its creative languages programme. As a high-performing school, the Royal Grammar School has recently taken up the second specialism of mathematics and computing. Mathematics makes a very valuable contribution to the students' life chances, as a very high proportion of the students study mathematics and science in the sixth form. A real favourite is the opportunity, on one afternoon each week, to select an activity outside of their main studies so that they can follow personal enthusiasms. High numbers of students are also involved in musical events. Many were eloquent in describing their involvement in the latest production, 'Guys and Dolls'.

Students' personal development is outstanding. All students, including boarders, enjoy school. This is reflected in their exemplary behaviour, their mature and willing shouldering of responsibilities, and in the harmonious relationships between staff and students, and between the students themselves. A very strong feature of personal development is the way that students are involved in decision making through, for example, the school council. They are committed to leading healthy life styles and to keeping fit, both mentally and physically. Within the school's international environment, students feel safe and secure and appreciate each other's cultural traditions. Boys make a difference to other peoples' lives through their contributions, both within the school and in the wider community. Above all, students are very well prepared for their future economic success through their very positive academic and social achievements. Students' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is outstanding.

Teaching and learning are outstanding. Maintaining this high-quality provision is at the heart of the school's staff development programme, which currently has a focus on checks on individual students' learning in lessons. Excellent knowledge and personal enthusiasm for subjects is a common strength of teaching at The Royal Grammar School. Skilful and challenging questioning develops and extends students' understanding through the variety of activities and learning styles used in the many highly successful lessons.

Carefully considered whole-school procedures regularly check and monitor students' progress. The care, guidance and support for students, both academic and personal, are exceptional so that all students, including boarders, thrive. The stable and secure school environment ensures that individuals are valued and helped as necessary. Partnerships with external agencies are well established and ensure that students' needs are dealt with swiftly.

Leadership and management are outstanding. The sustained improvements over many years owe much to the calm and reflective leadership of the headteacher and his very capable, committed senior team. All focus sharply on improving students' performance but at the same time ensuring their participation in an exceptional range of wider opportunities. Rigorous and honest self-evaluation pervades all areas of the school. The professional development of staff is given a high priority, with an emphasis on building leadership at all levels. As a result, all staff accept collective accountability for school improvement, and this is exemplified in the excellent teamwork between teachers. Governance is excellent. Led by an able Chair of the Governing Body, governors provide the school with creatively critical support that supplements its smooth day-to-day running. Clear direction and the determination to be even better characterises the school's planning. The school is aware, however, that there is still some variability in how middle leaders manage their responsibilities. In the past, this has had an impact on the students' performance in just a very few subjects.

Parents' views closely match the school's own evaluation of its excellent provision. The overwhelming majority agree that the school has made sustained progress on all fronts since the last very positive inspection. One parent commented, echoing the views of many, 'I could not have chosen a better school for my son.' The students' academic success has been sustained, teaching has developed further, and the outstanding practice within modern foreign languages has spread across many areas of the curriculum. The school has a very strong capacity to continue to improve.

What can be improved

  • The school should rapidly extend the capacity of those middle leaders whose monitoring and evaluation of their departments does not yet match that of the best in the school, so that students can achieve their very best in every subject.
  • The school must ensure that it meets the National Minimum Standards for Boarding Schools currently not met, as detailed below:

- ensure that consistent records of medication administration are maintained and that more formal assessment of self-medication arrangements for boarders is undertaken (NMS 15)

- ensure that fire risk assessments are kept up to date, available at all times and subject to regular review (NMS 26)

- ensure that recruitment procedures fully comply with the relevant National Minimum Standards and that supervision of staff appointed prior to completion of all checks is formalised (NMS 38)

- ensure that procedures for risk assessment are extended to cover the physical environment and working practices in the boarding house (NMS 47)

- review the levels of staffing cover provided in boarding during weekend periods. (NMS 31).

National Minimum Standards (NMS) to be met to improve social care

Any complaints about the inspection or the report should be made following the procedures set out in the guidance 'Complaining about inspections', which is available from Ofsted's website:

Progress of Special Needs learners, and equality of opportunity

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Behaviour & attendance of learners

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Curriculum and Teaching

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