Roedean's academic record wins praise from inspectors

ROEDEAN'S image as an academy for genteel young ladies was laid to rest yesterday when a school inspector's report acclaimed its academic achievements. The report, the first to be published on an independent school under the Government's new inspection system, said it was 'an excellent school with a deservedly high reputation'.

There were some small criticisms of the pounds 12,000-a-year boarding school from Her Majesty's Inspectors. They suggested that aspects of the school's management could be improved and that more could be done to challenge its most able pupils. But praise of Roedean's pastoral care and success with the less academic was lavish.

Ann Longley, the school's head, said it had 'bared its soul' and was absolutely delighted with the result. Yesterday, girls showed visitors around and behaved, as the report notes, 'in exemplary manner'. It says: 'During their time at Roedean they grow into confident, articulate, competent and independent young women.'

Emily Hodge, deputy head girl, who has a place to read English at Magdalen College, Oxford, said: 'The report is perceptive about the staff and the atmosphere. This is a very friendly school.'

The inspectors also wrote of 'a wealth of opportunity'. A theatre costing pounds 1.3m and a ballet studio have been built recently.

Did the generous resources contribute to the school's success? Mrs Longley, whose vision and enterprise are mentioned by the inspectors, said they did. 'The key is the quality and calibre of the staff. But the teachers have the resources they need to do the job. The environment in which the girls live and work is excellent.' Twelve inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education visited the school for a week last October, under a programme that will involve the inspection of around 40 independent schools a year.

Independent schools have their own inspection system, but the reports are not published. Mrs Longley said HMI reports would give independent schools more credibility. 'This was far more thorough than inspections organised by independent schools themselves.'

Ninety-nine per cent of the 436 girls at the school achieve more than five passes at GCSE.

Mrs Longley accepted the inspector's point about challenging able pupils. 'This is a reminder to us to think beyond exams. Four As at A- level is not the final goal.

'But we have an exam-driven system and there is concern about helping girls towards a university place.'