Celebrations haven’t ended for the team at St Thomas of Canterbury School in Sheffield since it was inspected by Ofsted on 20 and 21 May under the toughest framework so far and judged to be ‘outstanding’ in all areas. This followed shortly after the successful Section 48 inspection in November, 2013 when the school was also judged as outstanding. The school has an excellent reputation for its innovative approach to teaching and learning and many teachers from other schools visit the school to look at this excellent practice. The inspection team were truly blown away by the school’s innovative approach to teaching and the children’s thirst for learning. Pauline Pitman, the lead inspector, confirmed in her report that teaching is outstanding, “because it is innovative, imaginative and inspires pupils to learn.” She went on to say that, “Expectations are very high and inspiring learning experiences support pupils to progress to a higher level.”
Andrew Truby has been headmaster at the school since September 2009, when he was appointed as one of the youngest heads in the country at the age of 28. From the outset, Andrew was determined to take the school on a journey towards becoming outstanding. Now that this day has arrived, Andrew commented, “We are all absolutely delighted with the outstanding judgement because we have worked relentlessly for this for many years. The school has a real family feeling about it and an incredibly powerful Catholic ethos which can be felt as soon as you walk through our doors. I am probably the luckiest head in the world because my staff are truly talented from the welcoming and highly efficient office staff, the dinner staff who provide excellent activities for the pupils, the cleaners and building officer who maintain the school to the highest standard to the teachers and support staff who make learning irresistible, I have a truly outstanding team behind me.” The school appointed Liam Colclough, a talented young deputy head at the start of the academic year who has certainly made quite an impression at the school already. The inspection team noticed his ‘strong leadership’ and the ‘outstanding practice’ he shares with other staff. Liam is pleased to be part of the St Thomas’ family and adds, “We are blessed to have such a wonderful team of staff who live and breathe this school while pushing themselves to the limits to help all children achieve. It is a privilege to work in such a thriving learning community which is underpinned by our talented, reflective and inspirational children. The journey really has only just begun for our school.”
Reflecting on the journey, Andrew added that, “The journey towards outstanding has not been without significant challenges and huge personal sacrifices from the team. As a school, we do not do things in order to please Ofsted; everything that we do is because we believe that it will have a major impact on our children’s learning.” Staff at the school feel privileged to work with such amazing children. The inspection team were so impressed by the children’s outstanding behaviour and commented that, “Pupils are proud of their school and of their work. They arrive at school with a smile and even the youngest children have developed a real sense of ownership in their community and in their ability as learners.” Members of staff at the school are highly ambitious for every single child in their care in terms of releasing their academic potential as well as developing each child spiritually, morally, socially and culturally. It is heartening that the inspection team recognised this about the school.
What is next for this outstanding school?
The school has made it clear that it is not going to be defined by the outstanding Ofsted judgement and will certainly not be putting banners outside but will continue to be defined by its core values around teaching, learning, emotional intelligence and family. The school hopes to extend its age range to include nursery provision within the next few years and has exciting plans to further develop the grounds to promote adventurous play and risk taking. Outstanding is not the end of the road but the beginning of the next stage of the journey. The team at St Thomas of Canterbury now aim to create a world-class school as a centre of excellence to share this with other schools for the benefit of children everywhere.