Ofsted has praised the outstanding sixth form and behaviour of pupils at Yavneh College in Borehamwood but the Orthodox academy dropped a grade overall in its first inspection in 12 years.
It is the latest previously outstanding Jewish school to miss out on the top grade after a new inspection.
Ofsted had predicted that the new inspection framework, implemented after Covid lockdown, would make it more difficult for outstanding schools to retain their status.
Spencer Lewis, executive head of the college, which was rated good overall, said: “Ofsted is a tough, rigorous process but we are delighted to read what the inspectors had to say about our school, there is so much of which to be proud.”
Inspectors found that pupils “thrive within this tight-knit community. They are well equipped as young adults to enter the world ready to work towards the school’s vision of ‘a world built on kindness’”.
Sixthformers modelled the school’s values “impeccably”, Ofsted said, while pupils demonstrated values such as yedidya (friendship) by volunteering at school and in the local community. As part of Project Smile, they sent gifts and cards to vulnerable members of the community.
Noting “impressive” exam results, inspectors said that articulate pupils made positive contributions in class, while sixthformers displayed “exceptional sophistication” in tackling complex subjects.
Pupils learn the value of kindness
Yavneh’s ambitious curriculum was “thoroughly planned”, with staff provided with precise guidance about what pupils should know and understand, inspectors reported.
Pupils benefited from the “calm learning environment”, while commitment to their personal development lay at the heart of the school’s curriculum. “Pupils learn the value of chesed (kindness) while assuming leadership positions and taking responsibility for themselves and others,” Ofsted said.
While there was a growing number of pupils with special needs “not previously experienced” at the school and students with SEND did “exceptionally well” in the sixth form, Ofsted said, “occasionally, staff do not support pupils with SEND effectively”.
Its approach to reading made a “positive difference” to many pupils, inspectors said, but "some staff do not routinely provide weaker readers with texts that match their reading abilities.”
The school said it was working on improvements in these areas.
Yavneh was last inspected before it converted to academy status. Until late 2020, Ofsted reported, “the school was exempted by law from routine inspection, so there has been a longer gap than usual between inspections”.
The Hasmonean High Schools for Girls and Boys – which were previously outstanding when they formed a single school – were recently re-rated as good, as was King David High School, Liverpool. Both the Independent Jewish Day School and King David High School Manchester have dropped to “requires improvement”.
Wolfson Hillel Primary and Gesher have kept their outstanding grades.