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Provider: Denbigh High School

Level of follow-up: Special measures

Removed: June 2023

Denbigh High School was inspected in November 2016. Because of shortcomings in leadership and teaching, pupils were not making enough progress, and the school required significant improvement. A monitoring visit 18 months later indicated that the school had not made sufficient improvement and it was placed in special measures.

Despite having a suitable post-inspection action plan and introducing a range of strategies designed to secure improvement, by the time of Estyn’s seventh monitoring visit in May 2022, the school had not made sufficient progress to be removed from follow-up. One of the factors restricting the school’s improvement was the fact that it had experienced several years of instability at senior leadership level.

When the current headteacher was appointed in September 2022, he prioritised establishing a culture of trust and collaboration. One of the most important aspects of his vision was that staff should work together on improvement strategies that were focused on pupil outcomes, rather than meeting any perceived requirements of Estyn monitoring teams. He recognised that inspectors are not looking for any specific type of strategy or approach, but instead are only interested in the impact that the school’s work has on pupils’ progress and well-being.

One of the key features of his approach was the introduction of the ‘Quality Enhancement’ process. This approach to self-evaluation and improvement planning used joint working between senior leaders, middle leaders and other staff – for example with book scrutiny and lesson observations – as its starting point. This helped teachers and leaders at all levels to come to a shared understanding of the specific strengths and areas for development of each subject area and individual teacher. Not only did this enable leaders to plan for improvement more precisely, the focus on ‘learning conversations’ rather than ‘top-down’ accountability helped to strengthen the developing culture of trust and collaboration.

Senior leadership roles were refined and realigned in order to match the school’s improvement priorities more closely and also to make best use of individual leaders’ skills and experience. Pastoral leadership was reorganised to help these leaders take a more coordinated and collaborative approach to supporting and improving pupil well-being. To address the recommendation regarding provision for the development of pupils’ skills, leaders began to take a more strategic and focused approach. This meant that individual subject areas concentrated on specific, designated skills areas, for example developing pupils’ ability to summarise information from a range of texts. This helped to increase the impact of this aspect of the school’s work.

These strengthened approaches increased the pace of improvement. In the monitoring visits that took place in 2022-2023, inspectors noted that teaching was increasingly challenging and engaging and was helping pupils to make better progress. As a result, the school was removed from special measures in June 2023.