Striking the perfect balance of external challenge and recognition of excellent work
Case study: Oakdene Primary School
In March 2013 Oakdene Primary School in Stockton-on-Tees received an Outstanding Ofsted grade. Having achieved a high standard across all aspects, the school didn’t want to stand still or be complacent. They looked to the Quality Mark Primary accreditation as a way to achieve this and to also recognise their ongoing improvement.
Quality Mark provided the external validation of their teaching standards as well as recognition of the school’s commitment to continuous quality improvement. Nine months after achieving the award, the school successfully achieved Quality Mark Early Years so those same high standards became embedded throughout the whole school.
The impact of continuous improvement on the pupils is clearly evident, with the Executive Head Teacher now witnessing ‘outstanding’ on such a sustained basis it could be easy for this to be almost taken for granted. Oakdene has developed a professional improvement culture that invests substantial resource in teacher and staff development. This ensures that there is a strong commitment to regular review of practice often resulting from school-led action research programmes and knowledge gained from wider research. As a result, the school constantly evolves.
“We saw Quality Mark as a really powerful tool – it gave the perfect balance of external challenge to make sure we weren’t just ticking along, and also the recognition that we’re doing a great job.”
- Liz Bramley, Executive Head Teacher
For Liz Bramley, Executive Headteacher at Oakdene Primary School, their outstanding Ofsted grade was recognition of a great team effort, but as a visionary leader she viewed it as not the end of the journey but rather as another milestone in improving provision for the school’s pupils. This, coupled with the government’s approach of risk-assessing outstanding schools, led to the school turning to Tribal’s Quality Mark, a nationally recognised accreditation of a Primary school’s excellence. It enables them to continue to be reflective, outward-facing and take a pro-active approach to subsequent assessments.
A whole-school approach to continuous quality improvement
Oakdene initially applied for the Quality Mark award for their Primary phase, designed to help schools reflect on the quality of practice and provision. It celebrates and supports continuous improvement in focusing on the core subjects of English and Maths.
The Quality Mark Assessor spoke with a range of stakeholders to gain a comprehensive view of the school’s practices in regard to the 10 elements of the Quality Mark, from their whole-school improvement strategy to the range of teaching approaches and learning styles employed. Feedback was obtained from the Head Teacher and Senior Leaders, literacy and numeracy subject leaders and the SENCo, as well as pupil, parent and governor representatives.
Subsequently, the school’s practice was judged to be outstanding across the range of Quality Mark elements, with particular commendation being given to the involvement of parents and carers in developing their children’s Maths and English skills and the target setting for the improvement of the school’s performance.