Penarth’s fee-paying school Westbourne has been given a straight flush of “Excellent” ratings by the Welsh Government schools inspectorate Estyn.
Westbourne School, in Stanwell Road, is a co-educational independent school for pupils from 3 to 18 years of age and has a total of only 172 pupils on its roll. The prep school has 50 of those pupils and the secondary school has 122.
The school has just undergone its first full inspection since 2012 and has come out with flying colours and top marks in all categories
- Standards: Excellent
- Wellbeing and attitudes to learning: Excellent
- Teaching and learning experiences: Excellent
- Care, support and guidance: Excellent
- Leadership and management: Excellent
The majority of pupils are said to live in “Penarth, Cardiff and the surrounding areas of South Wales“. 20% of pupils are from “minority ethnic backgrounds”.
A quarter of the pupils appear not to have English as a first language and “receive support in learning English as an additional language”. 50% of all the 122 pupils in the secondary school speak English as an “additional language”.
Unlike state schools – all of which are required to teach the Welsh Language – Westbourne has made a commercial decision not to teach Welsh – although in its report Estyn phrases this rather more delicately by stating Westbourne “does not aim to make pupils bilingual in English and Welsh.”
Estyn says “the standards achieved by pupils at Westbourne School are extremely high and pupils with English as an additional language make particularly good progress. In the sixth form, all pupils study the International Baccalaureate Diploma and results are extremely strong when compared to those of other schools internationally.”
The inspector’s report says “Pupils are well-motivated, enthusiastic learners who engage eagerly with the wide range of opportunities the school provides.” Estyn says the school “meets all of the Independent School Standards (Wales) Regulations 2003”.
The proprietor of Westbourne School is a company called Montague Place (which runs a group of several private schools).
Montague Place states that Kenneth Underhill (the former headmaster/”principal” of Westbourne School) is now the firm’s “Global Education Director”.
Estyn says Mr Underhill was, for a number of years a “peer inspector” for Estyn [ a current leader in a school who joins an inspection team of a different school, but is not directly employed by Estyn] .
Estyn says “ The inclusion of peer inspectors is always subject to checking there are no conflicts of interest with the provider being inspected. Since leaving the post of headteacher at Westbourne Mr Underhill is no longer a peer inspector for Estyn and neither does he work for us. He was not involved on Estyn’s behalf in the inspection of Westbourne School.”
Estyn however makes no mention in its report of its long association with Westbourne School’s former head, Mr Underhill, who left his post as Westbourne School’s principal at the end of last year (2017) on his appointment as Global Education Director for Westbourne’s proprietors, Montague Place.
In its glowing report, Estyn says the school’s senior leadership team have a strong, clear vision that they share exceptionally well”.
Estyn – whilst giving the school a top score and a clean bill of health – recommends that Westbourne should “Share best practice in teaching and assessment across the school” and should ” Estyn advises the school to “amend its current development plan to show what actions the school intends to take in response to the recommendations.”