The full Ofsted report for a St Albans secondary school has been published.

Verulam School had a change of headteacher in May, with many of the new leaderships changes being praised by inspectors.

However, the report also notes that in some areas "opportunities are still being missed".

You can read the full report below.

What is it like to attend this school? 

The majority of pupils are settled and contented to be at Verulam. They feel safe in school, and they are kept safe inside the school building and around the site. Most pupils behave sensibly. Those who break the school rules are dealt with firmly but fairly.

The school has a long and varied history. Some traditions are proudly continued, such as the prefect and house systems. These provide good opportunities for sixth-form students to show leadership and act as role models for younger pupils. The school is also aware of contemporary issues and prepares pupils well in an age-appropriate way for life in the 21st century.

Expectations are high for academic achievement. Pupils achieve well in the majority of curriculum subjects. The school provides very well for most aspects of pupils’ wider development. Overall, a good range of popular co-curricular activities are provided. While the school recently put on a successful drama production, opportunities and participation in the performing arts are not as strong, for example, as sports. The school is developing this aspect of its provision.

Working relationships between staff and pupils are respectful. The sixth form provides a structured learning environment. It also provides opportunities for students to develop leadership skills and the self-responsibility needed for future study. 

What does the school do well and what does it need to do better? 

The school provides a broad, ambitious curriculum to pupils in all key stages. A wide range of GCSE, A-level and vocational options in key stages 4 and 5 reflect pupils’ needs and interests.  

Typically, the curriculum is well organised in a way that systematically builds pupils’ knowledge. Teachers have strong command of their subjects. This helps pupils and students achieve very well in most areas, including in the core subjects of English and mathematics and in history and geography. In just a few subjects, the curriculum is not planned in so much detail and, consequently, the standards achieved are not as consistently high.  

New assessment strategies were introduced across the whole school last year. Teachers employ common approaches for checking pupils’ knowledge in lessons, including questioning and asking pupils to recall previously learned information.

While these are mostly effective, on occasion, they are not always adapted sufficiently to reflect the unique characteristics of different subjects. Additionally, in a few instances, too much time is spent testing knowledge through assessments. This limits the time teachers have available to teach new knowledge. As a result, some opportunities are missed for pupils to gain the breadth and depth of knowledge that they need to achieve highly. 

Pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) are clearly identified and follow the same curriculum as their peers. ‘The Hub’ is a safe space where they are given bespoke individual support and nurturing. This includes targeted, effective support which helps the weakest readers become more fluent and confident. In turn, this gives them better access to the curriculum.

Staff are given detailed information about these pupils’ needs. Staff take this into account when arranging their classroom seating plans. While some teachers make adaptations and adjustments as required to help meet individual needs, this is not consistent. This occasionally slows learning for pupils with SEND because they struggle to complete their work. 

Attendance levels are improving. Leaders have good knowledge of the reasons why pupils are absent and have a range of effective strategies to support them. Sixth-form students are confident and smart in their appearance and attitudes.

Students who join from other schools, including girls, are quickly welcomed and helped to feel part of the school community.

In Years 7 to 11, there are clear, high expectations of how pupils should behave. The great majority understand these and behave well in class and around the school. Pupils who misbehave are dealt with appropriately, with a balance of sanctions and opportunities for reflection. This helps them improve.

While accurate records are kept of behaviour incidents, these are not always analysed in sufficient detail to help leaders and staff monitor any trends for individuals or groups of pupils or provide them with additional support.  

Many aspects of provision for pupils’ and students’ personal development are excellent. In particular, the personal, social and health education curriculum in all key stages is well thought through and very well resourced. This is supported by additional strategies focused particularly on mental health and well-being. The school is an inclusive place where pupils and students can be confident about being themselves.  

The majority of staff enjoy working work at Verulam. They, and pupils, appreciate the way in which leaders are supportive and are visible around the school. The only concerns they have are around workload related to assessment, including the strategy introduced last year.  

The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.