Sunday 22 April 2018

Ofsted Report

Ofsted Update

As you may have read on our website (see letter below), Thornhill challenged Ofsted’s judgement from our last inspection, which was in December 2015.

Ofsted have not returned to Thornhill since then to inspect or offer advice.

The 2016 results clearly show that using the official government headline measure of school performance (called Progress 8) Thornhill is the highest performing of the city’s 18 Secondary Schools.

Thornhill was also the highest performing secondary school in Sunderland in 2014 too. In 2015 Thornhill had the 5th highest performance in the city and so for 2014, 2016 and combined over the last three years Thornhill is the highest performing secondary school in Sunderland.

Given that Ofsted praised all other major elements of school performance, safeguarding, behaviour, welfare and attendance, Thornhill believes our 2014, 2015 and 2016 results, as a true comparison between schools, vindicates the challenge brought to Ofsted’s judgement.


Dear Reader

Ofsted has published their report following the inspection undertaken in December last year.

This letter is to convey to you that governors and staff strongly reject the findings of the report which, we believe, portrays an inaccurate and unfair picture of the school and fails to recognise the achievements of our pupils, staff and the school’s wider local community.

Governors are already challenging the judgement with the submission of a formal complaint regarding the conduct and judgements of the inspection team.

Despite this we will not rest in our determination to provide the highest quality educational opportunities for our pupils and can report that before inspectors’ findings were published our next strong phase of development work has already begun to have impact.

Educational progress is recognised as the most important measure of a school’s performance. In 2014 Ofsted placed Thornhill as the top performing school in Sunderland and in the top 15% of schools in the country for the educational progress pupils’ made. In 2015 Thornhill continues to be in the top 5 of the 18 secondary schools in Sunderland for this measure.

 In addition Ofsted’s own 2014 measures revealed that Thornhill pupils made more educational progress than the average for pupils in all schools in the country judged by Ofsted to be ‘outstanding’.

In both 2014 and 2015 Ofsted’s performance figures show year groups, which entered the school significantly below the national average KS2 attainment level, leaving in Y11 in line with the national average ie.  Ofsted’s performance measures acknowledge that Thornhill dramatically improves pupils’ career prospects and life chances.

Further, in 2015 Thornhill maintained its headline performance figures while many schools across the country experienced decline due to the more difficult GCSE examinations. At the highest grades almost half (46%) of Thornhill’s 2015 leavers achieved one or more GCSE A*/A grade.

For 2016 the school already has confirmation that 62% of its current Y11 pupils have at least one A*/A grade!

The following table details the last three years of educational progress achieved by Thornhill’s GCSE results and compares this to the other four secondary schools in Sunderland (represented by the letters A-D for sake of anonymity) which have been inspected by Ofsted against the new framework introduced in September 2015. The table demonstrates how out of line Thornhill’s judgement is when compared to school performances.

Over the last three years Ofsted’s educational progress measure clearly indicates pupils at Thornhill have consistently made better progress. Yet Thornhill has been given the harshest judgement.



Progress 2013

Rank 2013

Progress 2014

Rank 2014

Progress 2015

Rank 2015

Ofsted Judgement









School A








Academy B








Academy C








Academy D









What inspectors also appeared to fail to recognise is the impact incorrect marking by exam boards had on the initial release of summer 2015 results.

Prior to their visit Ofsted failed to inform the inspection team that 50% of Thornhill’s 2015 Y11 leavers had received incorrect GCSE grades due to the impact of declining marking standards of the exam boards.

These incorrect grades spanned English, Mathematics, Business, History, Science and French. The grades were corrected when the school requested remarking of the pupils’ answers. Inspectors had not been informed by Ofsted of the grade improvements before they arrived to inspect the school. The version of Thornhill’s 2015 examination performance which created inspectors’ preconceptions prior to their visit was seriously flawed.

Thornhill achieves GCSE outcomes for its pupils’ well above the government’s floor targets, progress is almost invariably well above the national average and our performance does not even fall into the government’s new criteria for ‘coasting schools’. Inspectors say pupils’ behaviour is good and the school keeps everyone safe. Their overall judgement is unjustified.

Such is the strength of feeling at the school that our previous Chair of Governors has resigned in protest at the report, after 22 years of voluntary service. During the latter 12 years of that time Thornhill has been nationally praised by the Department for Education, on three separate occasions, for its commitment to continual improvement. Mrs Dorothy Butler, an experienced previous Chair of Governors at our sister school has been elected as the new Chair of our Governing Body.

The report does contain much praise from the Ofsted inspectors for many of the important areas of the school’s operation. For example the behaviour of pupils and their safeguarding, where inspectors stated they ‘had not encountered a single instance of low level disruption’ and commented in particular about the respectful nature of Thornhill pupils, adding that the ‘school’s safeguarding procedures were second to none’, the wider report however, remains unfair and inaccurate.

As noted above the school has already begun its current round of improvement measures for which, as past and recent history attests, Thornhill has a proud and successful record; and will be working even more closely with officers of the Local Authority to ensure the period of closer scrutiny by Ofsted, following their report, will be as short as possible.

Thornhill will also embark, like all other maintained schools, on the route to becoming an academy and we will be seeking a sponsor to assist in this process.

All those associated with, and who know, Thornhill believe we continue to offer high quality education. We are determined that soon this will be recognised by Ofsted too and will be working with all our resolve to ensure this outcome is achieved.

Yours faithfully               


Chair of Governors                   Executive Head Teacher

Here is a link to the OFSTED website, where all relevant reports are available for parents to review and download.

Ofsted Website