This essay was originally published on Peter Wharmby’s blog, Life, Teaching, and Other Distractions.
The Achievement of Pupils Is Satisfactory.
Pupils at Hogwarts have access to a reasonably wide range of esoteric qualifications, suited to its key demographic. As an independent school, it does not have to follow the National Curriculum closely; however, it is disappointing to note that basic requirements such as English, Mathematics, and Religious Education are all lacking or entirely missing from the school's syllabus. This has had adverse effects on all students, many of whom have never even been taught basic KS1 or 2 literacy. A few students have attended state or independent primary schools, and these students typically perform very well in contrast to their peers.
The majority of students appear to be underperforming, with most pupils struggling in all their lessons, most of which appear to be set at too challenging a level. One particular class, which seemed to be based on A-Level chemistry, proved too difficult for even the most proficient students. Only one pupil managed to complete the lesson objectives, mainly thanks to his use of an annotated textbook. However, certain subjects appear to be either very short-term or far too easy for the majority of students. An outdoors lesson was observed where students made very little progress over several lessons, simply performing the same repetitive tasks again and again, counting and feeding small maggot-like creatures. Clearly the curriculum requires an overhaul to bring literacy and numeracy levels up to the appropriate level for such a prestigious establishment.
Extracurricular activities are well-established at the school, with chess clubs, animal care groups, and “duelling clubs” all vying for popularity. There is a definite sense of social responsibility among some students, with evidence of a student-led campaign to get the canteen workers more breaks and holiday time. The school library is underused and often totally empty. The librarian has no idea why this is the case.
The sixth form is indistinguishable from the main school, as the students all remain on to study to the age of 18. The subjects offered remain the same, though with more rigorous examinations. End of KS4 results are generally average, whereas end of KS5 results this year were disrupted by unforeseen and external events. Students typically go into government posts, journalism, or remain unemployed.
The Quality of Teaching Is Unsatisfactory.
Teaching at Hogwarts is generally very old-fashioned and lets the students down considerably. Lessons are formulaic and, other than the occasional impressive display of skills from teaching staff, are dull and lifeless. Lessons all too often revolve around tedious rote-work and use of textbooks. The study of History is particularly poor, with very little teacher interaction and no group work of any kind. Students were frequently found to be asleep during these lessons and, on one occasion, the teacher was also sleeping at a desk. Clearly this is not good enough and suggests that Senior Leadership need to have far more rigorous Continuing Professional Development in place for struggling teachers, alive or dead.
Teachers have very high expectations of their pupils—often far too high for their age and ability. Again, during chemistry, the teacher was seen to display entirely unfounded expectations of a Year 7 class who could barely keep up with his description of various chemicals, poisons, and antidotes. Students in this class were often punished for their lack of prior knowledge after knowledge harvests—a worrying trend that the SLT need to counter as soon as possible.
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