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Inspectors recognise Quaker values at Sibford School

2 June 2015

Sibford School in Oxfordshire has been recognised by independent school inspectors as holding Quaker values at the heart of its day-to-day life.

In a report published by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), the school is praised for providing an environment that enables pupils to ‘develop in confidence, self-esteem and tolerance’.

The report continues: “The leadership has considerable strengths and the school is considered by pupils, parents and staff to be well run. Those leading the school are strong advocates of Quaker values and have been very successful in enshrining these values, giving the school its distinctive character and underpinning the caring, nurturing environment that allows pupils of all ages to prosper, to respect others and to value democracy.”

Head Michael Goodwin said: “It is extremely heartening to see that the inspection team not only recognised, but also appreciated, the distinctive characteristics of Sibford as a Quaker school. Indeed, on reading the report for the first time, it felt as though Quakerism was getting a big pat on the back, as well as Sibford School.”

ISI inspectors visited Sibford School from 17 March to 20 March 2015. The final report was published and distributed to the school, the Society of the Department for Education and Ofsted on 26 May 2015.

Michael Goodwin continues: “It was a relief to find that we were compliant with regulations. Friends may recall that I have been outspoken against a Department of Education regulation that requires all schools to ‘actively promote fundamental British values’. We chose to ‘let our lives speak’ rather than produce a strategy and were therefore delighted to find the following sentence in our report:  ‘The school promotes British values, albeit from the wider perspective of international Quakerism. It promotes tolerance and respect for others and their values.’ It’s good to know that being Quaker has made us compliant!”

The ISI report commends Sibford School on the spiritual development of its pupils, which it describes as ‘excellent’ and goes on to say: “Quaker values are central to the life of the school. Pupils respond with reverence and respect for the Meeting for Worship and their time for sustained silent reflection and contemplation. They show a strong sense of spiritual awareness and empathy for others.”

In other areas of the report the school is praised for its excellent curricular and extra-curricular provision; excellent arrangements for pastoral care; and excellent quality of boarding. The report says: ‘The school is passionate about the emotional well-being of its pupils, with staff at all levels providing highly effective support and guidance in accordance with the school’s pastoral aims. Pupils’ behaviour is excellent throughout the school. In line with its ethos, the school has links with a preparatory school in Uganda and supports a charity for children in Malawi. It also provides the pupils with an appreciation of, and active concern, for their immediate environment and the wider community.’

“To my mind we couldn’t have received a better report,” concludes Michael Goodwin. “Each one of the Quaker schools depends on members of the Society for its governors, and it is clear that this Quaker input makes a real difference. The report describes our governance as ‘excellent’ and goes on to read: ‘governors are ambitious for the success of the school. Leadership and management at all levels is good with some excellent features. Among these is the successful working out in the life of the school of the Quaker ethos.’

The full report can be found on the ISI website, or on the school’s own website www.sibfordschool.co.uk

•    Sibford School will be celebrating the ISI report at its annual Open Day which takes place on Saturday 13 June. The day starts at 9am with Meeting for Worship following which there will be Opening Event entitled ‘Celebrating Excellence’, featuring live performances from students studying Drama, English and Music. There will also be opportunities to view displays of work, activities and exhibitions. All welcome.