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.
Assessment for Learning is not well-implemented at Hogwarts school. In fact, students seemed only rarely to be given assessments of any kind, and homework tasks are often over-long and irrelevant (usually essay-based). Starters and plenaries are very rare, and usually students enter classrooms with a genuine fear of what they may be expected to achieve. As such, the pace of learning is very slow in most subjects—most notably chemistry, biology, PE (which seems to disappear after Year 7), and charms.
The Behavior and Safety of Pupils Is Unsatisfactory.
Frankly, the quality of safety provision for students at Hogwarts is totally unacceptable. Despite having a highly qualified, capable, and overworked school nurse, many severe and significant injuries have occurred in recent years. The main sport played by the school, entirely internally, is incredibly dangerous and should be reviewed by the Health and Safety Executive immediately. Several injuries from wildlife have occurred in recent months, with trees and large flying animals usually to blame—these hazards are not successfully monitored or kept safe by any member of staff other than the groundsman. This kind of Health and Safety brief is not usually in the remit of a groundskeeper, and it is our recommendation that more staff are drafted in to help with this task.
There have been several deaths in recent years, all on site. The recent loss of the previous headteacher was a severe blow to the school's reputation, and many parents have removed their children from the premises. The headmaster's death went entirely unexplained, though rumors that a pupil murdered him are almost certainly hyperbole. The death of a Year 12 student during an international competition was also kept from the newspapers, and the effects are still being felt across the school. This summer, the school was disrupted by riots and pitched battles between rival sectors of the community. Whether the school was an incidental victim of this outburst of aggression or an active part of it is unknown to the inspectors. Significant damage was wreaked on the school buildings, with certain wings now closed for repairs. In short, at present Hogwarts is a very unsafe environment for all students and staff.
Behavior of students is very poor indeed. Staff seem to maintain their grip on the school using threats of violence, and yet student disruption is at high levels. Most of the worst behavior seems to be focused around one particular “house” within the school's pastoral system, but despite this clear correlation, no positive action has been taken. Bullying is a very common occurrence and is not dealt with very well by the pastoral team, which consists of some of the strictest staff members in the school. Often the bullying among students can become physical aggression very quickly, with some students causing one another actual bodily harm.
The bullying of students by staff is at unacceptable levels, with some students singled out from an early age for grudges that seem to date back decades. Most of these issues stem from the high levels of insular relationships that form in the school between staff and pupils. Much of this stems from the unsatisfactory usage of a house system, which seems only to make the students more insular. Cross-house friendships are very rare and often mocked by other students and even staff. Looking at the records, the House Championship has been corrupt for some time, with clear preferential treatment given to some houses over others.
The Leadership and Management of the School Is Satisfactory.
Until his death, the previous headteacher had a very strong reputation in the local community and had steered the school through some difficult times. However, accusations of favoritism dogged his career, and his lack of investment in quality teaching led to some very poor staff choices, including the appointment of unskilled staff for Divination (a spurious subject that has no academic rigor) and the constant poor selection of teachers for the difficult role of Defense Against the Dark Arts (a PSHE subject). After the headteacher's death, the school was run by the Chemistry teacher, rather than the established deputy. The reasons for this are unclear, but it is certain that it had a detrimental affect on the school and its students. Middle management is a tier that seems not to exist, with the headteacher taking sole responsibility over every aspect of the school. This is not an efficient model, and it is recommended that the school create a new tier of management to help the headteacher with his workload.
Hogwarts School is awarded a grade of 4 (unsatisfactory).