Inspection 2016

Validation Report

Validation dates:  Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th March 2016

Lead Validators:  Lisa Bolton and Susan Havis


Type of school:  All through

Age range of learners:  4-16 years

Gender of learners:  mixed

Number on roll:  33


Headteacher:  Mrs Sarah Cottle

Date of previous school validation:  September 2011. This validation was carried out by Jersey Education using a different validation system and criteria.



The validation was carried out by a team of two validators, who spent two days in the school observing lessons, talking with students and looking at their work, engaging in discussions with staff, looking at school records and other documentation, and scrutinising returns to the parents’ questionnaire.

Description of the school

Sark school is a unique, small school on the island of Sark, providing full time education for children from the year in which they turn 5 until after they have completed their GCSEs in Year 11. Sark education law states that children can leave school at the end of the term in which they turn 15 years of age. However, for the past 4 years it has been part of the school’s expectations that students will attend school full time until after their GCSE exams, which are taken at Guernsey Grammar School. 

The school is co-located with the island hall in a central position on the island. The building provides light and spacious teaching spaces and access to the hall and extensive playing fields and playground. Currently the school is staffed by four full time teachers (one of whom is the Headteacher) and 1.4 FTE Learning Support Assistants and organised into 4 classes: Class 1 - Reception to year 2, Class 2 - years 3 - 5, Class 3 - years 6 - 9 and Class 4 - years 10 and 11. Circa 10% of students have special educational needs and there are currently no ESL students on the register.

In December 2014 a very experienced TA, with responsibility for supporting pupils with special educational needs, left the school. This has presented challenges for the school in meeting the needs of all pupils. The school has a falling roll and in 2015 there was no reception intake. It is anticipated that the roll will remain within the low 30s for the foreseeable future.

Despite the challenges of being a small school, the school provides a well rounded and increasingly successful education for the young people of Sark, in a wonderful learning environment. The largest challenge facing the school currently is finding a skilled replacement for the Class 1 teacher. In order to continue to provide an education that meets the needs of the pupils as they move through the developmental stages from early childhood to young adulthood.


Making judgments

The school and the validators used a five-point scale to evaluate the school’s performance.  The scale is as follows.

1.       Excellent

2.      Well developed

3.      Proficient

4.      Less than proficient

5.     Underdeveloped




The validation was carried out by a team of 2 validators, who spent two days in the school observing lessons, talking with students and looking at their work, engaging in discussions with staff, looking at school records and other documentation, and scrutinising returns to the parents’ questionnaire.


Main findings

Sark School is unique and, with her small dedicated team, the Headteacher has created a very special environment for the young people of Sark to learn and grow in. Contradictorily many of the features that have been turned into strengths by the Headteacher and her team such as having a small team, the geographical isolation of the school and access to resources, also create vulnerabilities for the school and are reflected as areas for development and support.

Under the positive leadership of the Headteacher and the commendable commitment of all staff the school has developed a nurturing ethos where students enjoy their learning and personal well-being and development is well developed. The teaching and learning spaces are welcoming and well organised, to promote both cooperative and independent learning. Staff know each student as an individual, develop strong relationships and use this knowledge and understanding to support and, in the best lessons, match learning to individual needs. Students demonstrate a pride in their school, are welcoming and keen to share their experiences with visitors.

The curriculum is well-developed, becoming increasingly adapted to provide a rounded education meeting the needs of the young people of Sark and ensuring that students are able to make positive contributions to the island. The introduction of Outdoor Learning has become a vital part of the pupils’ personal and social development as well as helping them to understand how unique Sark is, how it functions and the issues around preserving and sustaining the island into the future. The school has sort out community involvement, to enhance the curriculum and encourages the students to be involved in community and island life.

As the children progress through the school the Headteacher works with students to create bespoke pathways through an increasing range of GCSE subjects, from recognised exam boards and in to further education. The success students are gaining in their GCSEs is to be commended. The outcomes have improved dramatically and students are predicted to do well again this year. Students now need opportunities to influence the programmes of study and take greater responsibility for their own learning in the other year groups.

Attainment is improving; both the school and the students have demonstrated a commitment to improving the life chances of pupils. Progress is as expected in some year groups and accelerated in a few. The depth of teachers’ knowledge about individuals, while a strength, has impacted on the rigour of both on-going and summative assessment processes. This means that learning is not always as challenging as it could be and not all students take responsibility for improving their skills or understand what they need to do.

Under the guidance of the Headteacher, all of the teachers are involved in the leadership of the school. They work closely together, making joint decisions and sharing their expertise and skills for the benefit of all students. The team are highly reflective and have established a small cohesive team with shared goals. The school now needs to be supported in providing continuous development opportunities for the staff to move teaching and learning forward and to bring new ideas into the school.


Outcomes for learners

Learners’ enjoyment and achievement are proficient overall with well developed features. It is evident from the pupils responses to the validators, good attendance, positive attitudes and good behaviour that they clearly enjoy being at school and this is well developed across the school. Progress is proficient, being as expected in most classes but lacking consistency across the school and being too slow in some subjects and for some pupils.

The personal development and well-being of students is well developed. The school provides a warm and caring ethos that supports the well-being of students and facilitates the personal development of pupils into confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. In order to move this criterion to excellent the school needs to be able to provide further opportunities for students to voice their opinions, to be involved in the decision making processes of the school and to be able to provide greater opportunities for exploring the world beyond Sark.


The quality of provision

The quality of provision, teaching and use of assessment are variable across the school with an overall judgment of proficient. Classroom management and relationships are well developed. There are secure elements of well-developed in some classes in the quality of lessons observed and the impact of assessment for learning and technology. Engagement and expectations are currently proficient with examples of well-developed and excellent where the students are able to make decisions about their own learning and understand how to build on their skills. The use of assessment into planning and meeting learners’ needs, needs to be more careful and precise. 

The team at Sark school provide a well developed curriculum and are an example of how a school can make good use of the environment and community around it. The students’ needs and the context of the school is increasingly influencing the curriculum and the community involvement to provide enhancements such as music, sports, outdoor and community learning and visitors to the school. The school offers an extensive extra-curricular programme, given the size of the school and available staff; drawing on the skills of individuals from the local community and visitors to Sark, to broaden this offering. The curriculum could be further developed, and the proficient use of assessment and engagement moved to well developed, by giving the students greater ownership of their learning and providing more opportunities for independence and involvement in the daily life of the school.

The school provides proficient care, guidance and support for its pupils overall. However in terms of care, safety and welfare and transitions, the school is well developed with good levels of engagement with a wide range of outside agencies. Students are happy and safe in school and there is a warm and welcoming atmosphere in all classes. The staff form close relationships with students and are fully aware of their individual circumstances. This means they are able to provide individual support for each child. Health and safety procedures are rigorously applied within the context of the curriculum. Due to the cross phase classes, transition processes are secure and transitions into school are carefully planned to involve both students and parents. Work experience options for KS4 students need to be developed further to enhance transition to work or to further education. Monitoring and intervention processes are currently in need of more structure and clearer processes.


Leadership and management

The Headteacher has set a clear ethos and direction for the school and individually has had a positive impact on KS4 attainment over the last three years. There are an increasing number of subjects available to students at GCSE level which are supported by recognised UK boards. The success students are gaining in their GCSEs is to be commended. The outcomes have improved dramatically and students are predicted to do well again this year. The staff work as a supportive and collaborative team with the Headteacher. The staff are able to use their initiative and skills to develop the curriculum and provide enriching experiences both in and outside their classes.

The self-evaluation process is proficient as while all staff are involved, there is a need to develop a more self-evaluative culture linked to continued development and consistent processes for monitoring student progress and attainment. The number of lesson observations is small and their use for professional development and self-evaluation limited. The school made judgments in sections 3, 5 and 7 of well developed and the validators judged the same areas as proficient with well developed features. These judgments are linked to the schools teaching and assessment and its ability to monitor student progress effectively.

The effectiveness of the leadership and management is currently proficient. All staff share a common ethos and set of values that are very apparent in all the activities in school. The leadership is very effective at providing opportunities for student’s personal development and provides a curriculum offer that is increasingly tailored to the needs and interests of the children. Student outcomes have improved, though there are inconsistencies in pupils’ progress across all key stages and a lack of rigour in some processes of assessment, monitoring and intervention. More work is needed to provide specific support for children with SEN. This needs to be planned within schemes of work to provide a differentiated approach.

The school has demonstrated significant areas of improvement since their last validation in improving the outcomes for learners. There is still work to be done in developing higher order thinking skills, independent learning and in the setting up and monitoring of more systematic processes of assessment and intervention. Within the school, resources are well used and distributed appropriately. The loss of the Class 1 teacher will have a serious impact on the school’s capacity to improve with further limitations on the flexibility of structure. This will also prove detrimental to the experiences of children at Sark school. In order to move the school forward the Headteacher needs to be able to build a staffing structure that supports the continuous professional development of her team and the sharing of good practise, both within the team and from external sources. A culture of self-evaluation needs to be fostered with a well defined school action plan that addresses priorities and links them to a clear timeline and accountability.


Main areas for school improvement

1.      To develop pupil voice in a number of aspects of school life from providing opportunities for students to lead and manage their own learning to being part of the daily leadership and management of the school.

2.      To develop more rigorous assessment and monitoring processes so that learning is more closely matched to learners’ needs and challenge and pace of progress is improved.

3.      To provide further opportunities for staff professional development both internally and externally.

4.      To investigate strategies for student development both in accessing specific resources to support learning and in building their resilience outside of school.


The school and the validators used a five-point scale to evaluate the school’s performance.  The scale is as follows.

1.      Excellent

2.      Well developed

3.      Proficient

4.      Less than proficient

5.     Underdeveloped