Our son started Wilmington Grammar this year having passed his 11 plus with flying colours. He could have gone to Dartford Grammar but we felt Wilmington would suit him better.
I've just read the recent OFSTED report, not good. Overall score is a 3 (satisfactory), not where I'd expect a Grammar school to be. To add insult, my son's preffered choice (Leigh Academy) scores a 1 in it's OFSTED report. This was his first choice school (and much closer to home) but we felt Wilmington would be the better choice, and he was quite happy with that, though he clearly did not want to go to Dartford Grammar.
The main theme behind Wilmington's OFSTED reports seems to be bad teaching methods/lesson planning/engaging the interest of pupils. Some lessons are rated as being excellent, others not so good. Over the previous 2 years the pass rated have dropped slightly, though this year (2010) they have risen again. The report does say that the school is heading in the right direction and seems to have confidence in the new head and the leadership team.
OFSTED questioned parents and summarized as:
Responses to the questionnaire were supportive of the overall effectiveness of the school. A very large majority of parents and carers who responded felt their children were making enough progress in their learning. They took a more positive view of this aspect of the school's work than inspectors did after the team had spent time in lessons. Parents and carers were appreciative of the quality of care provided, and felt that their children enjoyed attending school and felt safe while there.
I have to say, I think it is a great school, and so does anyone else I speak to. My son's primary school head also thought the same, stating that both Wilmington and Dartford were excellent schools and the choice should come down which one would suit my son's personality.
Wilmington did score a 1 in Pupils' attainment, while Leigh scored a 3.
My son is very happy at Wilmington, and on the whole the work seems very engaging (though there does seem to be a huge amount of homework, even compared to his friends at Dartford Grammar). We are very pleased with how easily he has settled into the school and he is already showing real independence, something we didn't expect to see so soon. Tonight we are off to a parents' evening where we will be told what the school expects our son to attain over this school year, based on the year so far.
The report on Wilmington sounds like they've gone to a different school, and parents views don't seem to reflect OFSTED's report in any way.
Which leaves me wondering just how accurate these OFSTED reports are.
As for Leigh, is is a very nice school, state of the art and shows what an Academy should be. But there was something about it that didn't 'click' with us, everything seemed a bit stage managed, including the responses from pupils when questioned. I'm sure it's a good learning environment, and it ticks all the right boxes as far as OFSTED are concerned, but the pupils' attainment score was only 3 and this seems a very important factor to me.
It's good to see a non-grammar school do so well, let's just hope it's results live up to OFSTED's expectations.