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Excellent' Inspection Report for Malvern St James Girl's School


Malvern St James Girls’ School, the leading all-girls’ school for day pupils and boarders aged 4-18 in Malvern, Worcestershire, has achieved the highest rating of ‘excellent’ in its inspection report published by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) this month. There are two outcomes assessed by the ISI in its Educational Quality Inspection: ‘the quality of pupils’ academic and other achievements’, and ‘the quality of pupils’ personal development’ and each achieved an ‘excellent’ in the inspectorate’s headline judgement.

Key Findings, which summarise the report, state that ‘pupils develop excellent levels of knowledge, understanding and skills … (They) communicate fluently and persuasively and have highly developed levels of numeracy, literacy and ICT skills … (and they) excel in sport, performing and other arts, and a range of extra-curricular activities’. The inspectors also observed that ‘a sense of fun and laughter is rarely far away’.

Malvern St James is led by Headmistress Mrs Olivera Raraty, who joined in September 2016. Previously she was Senior Deputy (Academic) at Notting Hill and Ealing High School in West London and Assistant Director of Studies at Wycombe Abbey, both leading girls’ schools in the day sector and boarding sector respectively. She brings with her a wealth of expertise in all-girls’ education accumulated over several decades.

Mrs Raraty commented, “This report is an endorsement of the quality of learning and life at MSJ and recognises the school’s many strengths in academic attainment, academic enrichment and extra-curricular activities. Teaching at its most effective was observed as ‘adventurous, and models the need to take risks … (pupils) make rapid progress as a result’. Girls were seen to ‘relish’ an academic challenge and to ‘acquit themselves with distinction’. I am pleased that the inspectors noted that our girls go on to study science and mathematics at A Level ‘in large numbers’, that they are well prepared for universities with the most demanding entry requirements, and refer to our ‘carefully tailored programme making available subjects such as Greek, Mandarin, BTEC P.E. and the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) for all’. Also noted is the encouragement and support they receive from staff which allows them to ‘excel in teamwork and problem solving, encouraged by abundant opportunities in the classroom and an attitude of positivity’.”

“The ‘excellent’ rating in pupils’ personal development demonstrates how girls benefit from the pastoral support they receive, and the culture of the school and its community ethos. There are many references in the report to the spirit of collaboration, teamwork and a sense of belonging that imbues the school, and I’m delighted that the inspectors saw the sense of fun which is such a big part of who we are. They also observed that ‘even the youngest pupils are willing to offer a partially correct answer in class rather than remain silent. They are not afraid to make mistakes ... teachers establish pupils’ perseverance and resilience through their gentle but firm encouragement’.”

This willingness to ‘have a go’ and not fear making a mistake is a crucial element of the ‘growth mindset’ which is a core part of our philosophy at MSJ. In essence, it is the belief that with a positive mindset, failure forces us to think around a problem and overall it fosters perseverance, encourages innovation and achieves greater progress over time. If girls believe that it’s OK to try and fail, rather than having to be perfect all the time, they are more likely to take intellectual and creative risks and enjoy the ride, which means working harder and going further in the long run.

The ISI report went on to remark that pupils are ‘self-confident’ but also have a ‘highly developed capacity for constructive self-criticism’; they ‘contribute to the school and wider community’ and show ‘highly developed social awareness’. It was noted that girls have an excellent sense of personal and moral responsibility, and preparation for life beyond school is good because ‘although guidance is always available, the choices are always theirs’. Mrs Raraty comments, “All of this is really important in developing young women who are ready to take their place in the world and can do so with confidence but not arrogance.”
She continues, “I am very pleased with the report’s overall findings but no ‘excellent’ school can afford to stand still. There is always something that can be done better. The one recommendation from the report, for teachers to share best practice from the inspirational and excellent teaching found in the school, supports my vision and ambitions for us to be an exceptional place for teaching and learning.”

The school’s boarding provision has also been inspected in the Focused Compliance Inspection for Schools with Residential Provision and met all required standards. There are only two judgements in this inspection: ‘met’ or ‘not met’.
Mrs Raraty adds, “Overall, I think these two reports - Educational Quality Inspection and Focused Compliance Inspection - give all staff and students a great sense of confidence and energy moving forward. I feel a bounce in the step of the whole community: we knew we were doing well and it’s wonderful to have that officially recognised by the rigorous testing of the schools’ inspectorate.”

Malvern St James was formed from the merger of Malvern Girls’ College and St James’s School in 2006. Malvern St James is the only girls’ school in Worcestershire which goes through to Sixth Form. The school has five girls holding offers to Oxbridge this academic year and 60% of its Sixth Form are holding offers for the top 10 UK universities (according to The Times’ best universities league), including one holding a scholarship offer. Four girls are holding offers from US universities, including two scholarships with unconditional offers.

The school’s Senior Maths team recently reached the National Finals in London and they were placed in the top 2.5% of schools in the country. Last month, Flora Barber was commended in Oxford University’s Christopher Tower Poetry Competition – recognised as among the most prestigious literary awards for this age group (16-18 year olds), and earlier this academic year Lucinda Hobden won Cambridge University’s Peter Lawrence Essay Prize in Modern Languages. One of our Young Enterprise teams has won the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Finals, and is now progressing to the West Midlands Final in June.

Alumnae of the school include two of this year’s Sunday Times/ Debretts list of Most Influential Britons – Caroline Lucas MP and Gay Haines, as well as tech entrepreneur Sara Murray, who founded confused.com, and Jennifer Kirby, acclaimed RSC actress and new star of the BBC’s Call the Midwife.

Published: May 15 2017

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