Sunday, May 19, 2024

Ofsted “downgrade” Grays Convent school

IT WAS, as Miss Jean Brodie once said: “the creme de la creme” of Thurrock education, but over the past few years, Grays Convent has lost its place in the top tier of Thurrock education.

In 2008 and 2009, it had the highest percentage of students gaining a 5 A* to C (61%) but it dropped to third place in 2010 and 2011 and then slumped to 5th in 2012.

Its decline has sharply contrasted with the rise of schools such as the Harris Academy. In 2008, the College Avenue school was 2% higher than Harris. In 2011 they were 26% behind.

Whether that has been reflected in school rolls is questionable, however YT has been contacted by parents who claim they put down the Convent as fourth choice and have been allocated the school.

Supporters of the school say that it has been true to a traditional educational ethos and has not dumbed down or succumbed to what has been described as the “Glee” school of educational philosophy.

As one parent said, (who did not wish to be named). “The convent may be old fashioned but this is the school that will produce girls that go on to Oxford and Cambridge or go on to start businesses.”

In 2011, Ofsted graded the school as Outstanding but earlier this year, they returned, and although it is far from disastrous, some education experts believe it shines a light on some of the cracks that may have appeared in the school.

Ofsted points out the following positive aspects about the school

1.GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and mathematics is above the national average.

2.Teaching is good. The large majority of lessons provide engaging and interesting activities that help the pupils to make good progress.

3. Pupils who need extra help to catch up are well supported. As a result, the gaps in attainment between different groups are closing.

4.The development of pupils’ literacy and numeracy skills is good. Most pupils make at least good progress in these areas.

However, it also makes the following criticisms.

1.Not enough teaching is outstanding and some requires improvement.

2.Teachers do not always set tasks that are well matched to individual needs and this slows down progress for some pupils keen to learn.

3.When marking work, teachers do not always give pupils enough guidance on how to improve or expect them to respond to their advice.

4.In less successful lessons, teachers sometimes limit what the pupils are able to achieve by keeping very tight control over every aspect of the lesson.

The headteacher, Miss Brister, is unavailable for comment.

YT hopes to interview the portfolio holder, cllr John Kent on a number of issues next week.


  1. Ofsted changed their inspection standards last year. The intended result was that a lot of the schools previously described as outstanding would now be classed as good. Following on down through the scale, a large number of schools would receive a grade lower than they had previously attained.
    So it seems as if the schools have got worse when the reality is that the standards have changed.
    It could be argued that schools should continually try to improve and hence should be reclaiming their original status under the new framework. However, continuous improvement is not always something within the complete control of the headteacher and can take time to deliver.
    The Convent School seems to want to provide a traditional approach to education, which is something many people state that they would like for their children. Unfortunately, that approach is open to the criticism of those who decide what the standards are. Which is all that the Ofsted inspection shows.
    Results wise, it seems that the Convent have continued to deliver the same standard of outcome over a long period of time, whereas other schools have been able to show rapid improvements.
    This does not seem surprising given it’s approach.
    It would be interesting to be able to compare how the curriculum at Harris Academy is delivered in comparison with that of the Convent. It might be that one focusses upon getting the exam results and the other upon providing the pupils with a more balanced and well rounded education. If that were to be the case I wonder which one parents choose for their children.
    So, not so weird. In fact along with the Harris Academy a number of the other secondary schools have continued to show great improvements and are above the national average on results (William Edwards for example).
    The problem with the whole situation regarding education is that measures like ‘exam results’ and ‘Ofsted inspections’ are taken to be concrete values. They are not. At best we can only compare one person’s exam results with those of other people taking the same paper at the same time. Any further analysis is flawed because, as I noted above, the standards change, the questions are different, the grading boundaries are shifted, etc… And all of this happens at request of the views of those in power.

  2. Grays Catholic and very proud of our school. Not sure one would appreciate social climbing, consumerist types as a model for improvement at this particular school. Self promotion not necessarily our thing. Honest work and hard graft, you know the drill.

  3. I agree with the above. The Ofsted framework has changed at least twice since the convent’s last inspection and it is now far more difficult to get an outstanding grade. It is really impossible to compare schools on Ofsted grades now unless they have actually been inspected in the same year. Even then it can depend on the team and the day they turn up. At 63% the convent’s GCSE percentages are well above the national average and they are actually GCSE results, not “equivalents” which certain other Thurrock secondaries so heavily rely on. It is good qualifications in academic subjects that university entrance depends on. Two ex-convent students got into Cambridge last year which is no mean feat and recent reports here suggest they may have been the only two in Thurrock.

    A good education certainly is about a great deal more that examination results. In particular the Christian ethos of a school like Grays convent is something that goes a long way. We had some ex-pupils now at the convent back to talk to our children this year and there they were very impressive.
    Rather than say the convent has declined It is probably more accurate to say that Chafford/Harris has improved. It has certainly done that given that it actually failed its Ofsted inspection not that many years ago under a much more lenient Ofsted framework,


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