Lifting our spirits

I am sure you will concur that the lambs and the daffodils alongside the drive into school lift our spirits as the world awakens to spring. We can, as we come to the end of term, reflect on the numerous opportunities that pupils have enjoyed at school, whilst also looking forward to residential trips at Easter (French and German exchanges, Geography trip to Iceland, Classics trip to Italy, Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition in the Peak, tennis tour to the Algarve), as well as the promise of warmer and brighter days ahead. The lower school production of ‘Matilda’, several concerts and lots of sport have all been recent highlights, and I have enjoyed reading about our pupils’ involvement in the wider life of our school community as I write reports.

There is indeed a very strong sense of ‘school community’ at LGS, as we aim to share and live by common values. One school community in Reading has especially been in the spotlight recently, as the head teacher (Ruth Perry) took her own life in January while awaiting publication of a report which downgraded her school from ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Inadequate’ (a drop of three grades). Whereas in the independent sector inspections occur every three years, Caversham Primary had not been inspected since 2009. Caversham follows the pattern of a large number of ‘outstanding’ state schools which have been downgraded since the pandemic, with Ofsted perceived as taking a particularly punitive approach; indeed, 83% of the 370 ‘outstanding’ schools inspected in 2021-22 were downgraded. I have been an independent schools inspector since 2003, and I have always viewed this role as a way of helping schools to improve, to the benefit of the pupils. I normally also bring back some good ideas from inspection, which in turn enhance my own school! I am under no illusions where the responsibility for everything lies at LGS (‘the buck stops here’), and failures in inspections are generally attributed to leadership and management. It is a great privilege to be a head and most of us see teaching as a vocation; we are wholly committed to our role and we live and breathe our schools. I can therefore understand how very personally Ruth Perry took this inspection judgement and I very much hope that something good can come from her tragic death.

I wish you and your families a happy and restful Easter break, and think of our Muslim families, whose holy month of Ramadan has just begun.

Best wishes,

John Watson