Ofsted 'Outstanding'

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Click here to go to the Cockburn School page of the Ofsted website

Click here to view the 2022 Ofsted inspection report – Outstanding in all areas


Cockburn School was judged to be Outstanding in all areas in their Ofsted inspection in February 2022. During the inspection, inspectors judged the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, and leadership and management all to be outstanding, leading to an overall effectiveness judgement of outstanding. This latest recognition again puts the school in a position amongst the UK’s elite of ‘outstanding’ education providers.

According to Ofsted, an outstanding school is highly effective in delivering outcomes that provide exceptionally well for all its pupils’ needs, ensuring children are well equipped for the next stage of their education.

From September 2019, Ofsted refocused its inspections of schools under their new framework, to make sure that learners are receiving a high-quality education that puts them on a path to future success. The new framework is designed to focus on the whole quality of a pupil’s education with a greater recognition of education providers’ work to support the personal development of pupils and a greater emphasis on behaviour. The new exacting standard expects that outstanding schools are exceptional in all areas of the framework both consistently and securely. The Ofsted handbook states that: “Our aim is that schools should only be judged outstanding in a particular area if they are performing exceptionally, and this exceptional performance in that area is consistent and secure across the whole school.”

Ofsted grades will reflect the areas that matter most to parents/carers: quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, and leadership and management.

During their visit, inspectors met with leaders, staff trustees and governors. They also talked to pupils about their work and visited lessons, observed extra-curricular activities and form time sessions, spoke to curriculum leaders and teachers and looked in depth at areas of the curriculum, including English, Mathematics, History, ICT and Spanish.

“Cockburn School is at the heart of the community.”

The report begins by recognising what it is like to attend Cockburn School “Cockburn School is at the heart of the community. Leaders’ ambition and support for the pupils who attend it are exceptional. Staff and leaders share one vision: a ‘transformation to excellence’. Pupils treat each other with respect and dignity. The school site is very calm and incredibly purposeful”.

Throughout the inspection, inspectors noted that the quality of education provided by the school is exceptional. “Teachers know the important knowledge that pupils must remember because the curriculum design in each subject is clear to them. Pupils are empowered to independently check how well they are learning. This builds their confidence”.

The inspection team were impressed with the school’s curriculum and the quality of the teaching. “Pupils are enormously interested in lessons because curriculum planning is detailed. Pupils are admirably independent” and added “The clarity in curriculum planning means pupils, including those with SEND, produce work of outstanding quality”.

Pupils’ creativity is nurtured and developed through an arts curriculum which is rare in its scope and ambition. The extra-curricular offer has a clear strategic purpose. It is precisely connected to the school curriculum to help pupils remember what they learn during the school day. Pupils with SEND access the full extra-curricular offer.”

The inspectors highlighted the importance of the school’s vision, values and expectations: “Pupils demonstrate ambition and pride because they are encouraged and supported to be their best. Relationships between adults and pupils are built on mutual respect. This extends to pupils’ respect for the vibrant and engaging school environment. Pupils wear uniform impeccably and are proud to hold positions of responsibility, such as school council.” The report states that the “Leaders clear vision is to make this school the beating heart of the community. The high aspiration for pupils is very well understood and shared by all staff.

“Behaviour around the school site is exemplary.”

Throughout the inspection, inspectors saw the excellent behaviour and attitude of all pupils that reflected the normal day to day life of the school. “Leaders work tirelessly with hard-to-reach pupils, everyone has a chance for a fresh start. Behaviour around the school site is exemplary. Pupils have highly developed levels of respect for each other and for the community in which they live. The atmosphere in the school is exceptionally positive.”

Executive Headteacher, David Gurney, said “I am delighted that Ofsted have agreed with our own assessment of Cockburn School. The report recognises the hard work and high expectations that lead to excellent academic outcomes, alongside the importance of developing the character or our pupils in our caring and supportive community where the wellbeing of both pupils and staff are key. I would like to thank all pupils, staff, parents/carers, trustees and governors for their ongoing hard work, support and dedication. Considering the new inspection framework is much more rigorous and judgements are harder to achieve, combined with the ongoing demands of the pandemic, it makes us even more proud that inspectors did not identify any areas for development. We have an inspiring team of staff and pupils at the school who work tirelessly together to provide outstanding education to the children of South Leeds.”

Head of School, Rob Dixon, added “‘The entire Cockburn School community is overwhelmingly proud of the feedback provided by Ofsted. This result reflects a significant, whole team effort and strong partnership working. Each member of staff, family and young person has played a central role in ensuring that Cockburn School continues to provide an outstanding education which emphasises real-world, future-focused learning and career opportunities, irrespective of difference and challenge.”

Chair of the Board of Trustees and a governor at Cockburn School, Peter Nuttall, said “This result is a tremendous feather in the cap of the school. It has taken a vast amount of work by staff, pupils, trustee and governors over a number of years of steadily rising achievement, to gain an outstanding result, which is unusual for an inner-city high school, putting Cockburn School within the top schools in the country. Part of the Ofsted judgement noted how the school is at the beating heart of the local community, and this is reflected in the waiting list for Year 7 places. We now expect this to get longer!”


Next step Outstanding for Cockburn School on its journey of “Transformation to Excellence”

On Wednesday 30th January 2019 Cockburn School received a Section 8 ‘one day inspection’ by Ofsted.  The purpose of the inspection was to determine if the school is continuing to provide a ‘Good’ education.  There were three inspectors in school on this day and they were so pleased with the education the school provides that they confirmed the ‘Good’ judgment but also recommended that inspectors return to complete a two day (Section 5) inspection. This is because inspectors found significant evidence that Cockburn School may be judged ‘Outstanding’ if it received a section 5 inspection now. The school was informed that its next inspection will be a Section 5 inspection, which will typically take place within one to two years. The school was last inspected in September 2014 when it was judged to be Good with Outstanding features.

Inspectors noted while they were here that the school is an integral part of the local community it serves. The leadership of the school has strong vision in place that makes decisions that are right for the students and meets their needs. Student behaviour and conduct was exemplary and over time they make substantial and sustained progress in their learning.

We are delighted with this response and it confirms all the hard work that our students, staff, parents and governors put in to making Cockburn School such a great school for the local area. We look forward to our pending inspection, which is likely to take place within the next two years, and to potentially achieving ‘Outstanding’ status.

Cockburn School continues to work hard to ensure the quality of education we provide is of the highest standard and the full report from Ofsted, which you can download below, is recognition of our progress so far.

Click here to view the 2019 Ofsted Section 8 inspection report

In 2014, Ofsted graded Cockburn School as Good with Outstanding features.

Click here to view the 2014 Ofsted inspection reportClick here to view the 2010 Ofsted inspection report



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