DFE number: 318/6008
Headteacher: Sr Paula Thomas
Chair of Governors: Mr Edward Sparrow
Canonical Inspection under Canon 806 on behalf of the Archbishop of Westminster
Date of inspection: 27th April 2011
Date of previous inspection: 4th October 2006
Reporting Inspector: Deacon Anthony Clark
Description of School
St Catherine’s School, founded in 1914 by The Sisters of Mercy, is located in Twickenham in south west London. It is an independent school for girls aged 3-18 and is a Catholic Educational Trust. Pupils come from both local state and preparatory schools and, particularly in the younger classes, from the immediate locality. There are 28.4 f.t.e. (full time equivalent) teachers of which 52% are Catholic. Four teachers have the CCRS (Catholic Certificate of Religious Studies) or other Catholic qualifications. There are 378 pupils on roll of whom 132 are baptised Catholics, 131 belong to other Christian denominations and 115 belong to other faiths. 1 child has been identified as having a Statement of Special Educational Needs and no pupils were excluded in the last year.
Guide for inspection grades
Grade 1: Outstanding
Grade 2: Good
Grade 3: Satisfactory
Grade 4: Inadequate
Overall effectiveness of this Catholic school
St Catherine’s is an outstanding Catholic school. Faith and practice are central to the life of the school. The pupils are taught to have a spirit of tolerance and to treat each other with respect. There is a strong sense of being one school community without divisions. There is very real respect both for the Catholic ethos of the school and the faith of each individual pupil. All pupils are very much at home in the school and there is a strong sense of being one family. The headmistress is an outstanding leader and the staff are committed to their roles and service in the school. The education and development of the pupil as a whole person is a commitment of the school. The motto of the school is ‘Not words, but deeds’ and its vision statement is ‘To be a school that lives the Gospel values, promotes the dignity of every pupil and is committed to excellence’. A new headmistress and a new Chair of Governors have been appointed since the last inspection. The headmistress is a Sister of Mercy and particularly capable to help the special charism of the school foundation to be adapted and taken forward for today’s young girls in today’s world.
Improvement since the last inspection
All the requirements of previous inspection have been met and completed. The two main points were that a) the school should continue to integrate further the curriculum links between the preparatory department and the senior school, where appropriate, and b) to ensure that effective marking and assessment procedures in Religious Education are consistent across the whole school. The coordinator of Religious Education in the preparatory department and the Head of Religious Education in the senior school work closely together on both curriculum links and on marking and assessment procedures. Senior pupils were able to describe their story of learning in religious education over the years and thus confirm these areas of improvement.
The capacity of the school community to improve and develop
There is a healthy spirit of self critical reflection among the governors and staff and there is no sense of fear in saying something needs to improve. There is robust and rigorous self evaluation based on feedback from parents, staff and pupils which, in turn, influences the comprehensive and specific school development plan. There is great confidence in the headmistress which enables her to initiate change effectively. The systems and policies in the school are constantly kept under review with a well established system of review dates built into the process.
What the school should do to improve further
Develop further strategies of differentiation in the teaching of Religious Education, especially in regard to stretching pupils who are gifted and talented.
- Take forward, as far as possible, the inclusion of the construction of the prayer room/spiritual centre in respect of the present school building plans
- Increase the amount of curriculum time given to the teaching of Religious Education in order to reach the Bishop’s requirement of 10%.
The Catholic Life of the School
Leadership and Management
There is very good governance in the school with a devoted and experienced governing body. There is excellent shared vision and direction for the school as a community of faith. The headmistress enjoys their confidence in her leadership of the school and herself displays courage and confidence in leading the school. Her leadership of the school is outstanding. There is a sense of direction and purpose in the life of the school. There is a good sense of constructive leadership in the delegated roles of leading the preparatory school as distinct but part of the whole school. The senior management team works effectively and the role of the head of the preparatory department works well within it. There is a good sense of leadership by the chaplains in their particular roles. The school ensures there is in place a new staff induction programme which includes a session ‘Working in a Catholic school’. Continuing whole staff INSET is in place with the same focus. The school is successful in promoting the personal development of pupils, helping them to fulfil their potential and be ready and willing to serve the common good as adults.
The Prayer Life of the School
The prayer life of the school is deeply spiritual and part of the ethos that is accepted and prized by all. The pupils feel at home in the prayerful atmosphere. There is a shared act of worship every day. Good opportunities for prayer and reflection are provided by the chaplains. All teachers and pupils attend Masses and other services. Pupils of other faiths speak of their appreciation for the space and respect they experience as well as appropriate inclusion and welcome. A well planned system of retreats is in place in the senior school. The local parish priest is a regular visitor to the school. The two priest governors also provide support as appropriate to the school, helping with the school masses and on other liturgical occasions. All pupils have been prepared to participate more fully with responses during Mass, and this was evident at the whole school Mass on St Catherine’s feast day, which took place during the inspection. The prayer life flows into action in that the school, at all levels, is very involved in seasonal collections for various charities. The school choirs reach out locally and sing for various groups and voluntary organisations. There are joint parish/school masses help in the school and carol services are organised at St Mary’s University College. A school prayer book is available to all and a St Catherine’s hymn book is in the making. The school makes the best use it can of its outdoor space by having occasional outdoor masses and maintaining a prayer garden in the school grounds.
How effectively does the school promote community cohesion?
The school promotes community cohesion very effectively by living out a cohesive community experience on a day to day basis in the life of the school. The profile of the pupils attending the school is very diverse and international, and the sense of being one family is evident and strong. There is good contact made with other schools. A buddy system has been established ensuring that new pupils in September, and in the course of the year, are effectively welcomed and incorporated into the family of the school. The school has taken proactive steps to see how it could benefit the wider community, whether by making its facilities more available locally or engaging in local events and initiatives. Particular links have been built up with St Mary’s University College which is local to the school – these were particularly in evidence during the Pope’s visit to the college for the Big Assembly during his visit in September 2010. School trips are organised to other parts of the world and to outside events and visits, enabling pupils to develop their knowledge and appreciation of the wider world. The school participates in special diocesan masses and helps lead the singing at the Christmas Carol concert in the Cathedral and the Good Shepherd Mass. Appropriate teaching of world faiths is included in the religious education curriculum and this helps foster an attitude of respect for other faiths and cultures among pupils.
Achievement and Standards in Religious Education
Religious Education is a valued and enjoyed subject at St Catherine’s and its standard is excellent. Scrutiny of the pupils’ workbooks indicated both the pupils’ commitment to doing well in the subject and the encouraging marking style of the religious education teachers. The school has set up a pupil target setting and review system and this contributes to the achievements in religious education. There is attainment data in religious education for every pupil, and the attainment levels at the end of each key stage were as good as or better than those in English. At GCSE 100% of pupils achieved A+ to C in Religious Education, with 58% achieving A*/A. Effective displays to highlight good work are prominently positioned in the classrooms, along with prayer focus corners in the prep classrooms. The Religious Education in the school contributes significantly to the spiritual development of pupils, and especially to the personal understanding and development of a living faith.
Teaching and learning in Religious Education
The teaching and learning in Religious Education are outstanding. A total of 10 lessons were seen in the course of the inspection, each for more than 30 minutes, and all were either outstanding or good. Every teacher teaching religious education was seen. The use of ICT is confident, and the approach is challenging. The use of questioning to stimulate pupils to think and work things out was extensively used by teachers at all levels. Classroom management in Religious Education is very good. There is a common ‘Differentiated learning planning sheet’ in use by teachers across the school and this ensures that as well as clear planning there is proper attention given to spiritual, moral, social and cultural elements of lessons, various teaching styles to serve the visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and other aspects of pupil learning, and careful assessment for learning methods and outcomes. The plenary learning consolidation summary was a noticeable feature ending lessons. The Preparatory department has established a tracking system to ensure that in all subjects there is an effective tracking and sharing of information about a pupil’s progress up the school.
Quality of the Curriculum
The quality of the Religious Curriculum is very good. The content conforms to the Curriculum Directory of the Bishops Conference. However the percentage of curriculum time given to Religious Education is slightly less than the 10% expected by the Bishop and it should be increased to 10%. The curriculum in the preparatory department is based on the ‘Here I Am’ progamme and teachers are confident in their planning for and use of it. The topic that was being introduced during the inspection focussed on energy, developing into the power of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost. At the secondary level, the pupils are moving from using the Icons programme to using the second edition of the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’ progarmme in KS3. Provision of its introduction is well planned and handled. The Edexcel Catholic papers at KS4/GCSE are used. An appropriate sixth form syllabus and programme of study has been adopted at sixth form. This is the first year of the sixth form in the school and this year there is only a year 12 General religious education class but it will go up to year 13 next year. Pupils are articulate in their discussion and presentation of issues in religious education and are confident in putting forward their points of view in discussions.
Leadership and management of Religious Education
The leadership and management of Religious Education is outstanding. The organisation across the school works well. There is a religious education coordinator for the preparatory department who gives excellent leadership and at secondary level the Head of Religious Education is outstanding. There is good monitoring and support of religious education teachers at all levels. Teachers are confident in their planning and teaching of the subject. The provision of the resources for the teaching of Religious Education is generous and there are the textbooks, copies of the scriptures and library books on religious matters in good quantities.