Varndean School

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About Varndean School

Name Varndean School
Ofsted Inspections
Headteacher Mrs Shelley Baker
Address Balfour Road, Brighton, BN1 6NP
Phone Number 01273561281
Phase Secondary
Type Community school
Age Range 11-16
Religious Character Does not apply
Gender Mixed
Number of Pupils 1498
Local Authority Brighton and Hove
Highlights from Latest Inspection

What is it like to attend this school?

Varndean School is on a mission to achieve its goal of 'world-class' education. Inspirational leaders are rapidly transforming the school. They constantly look for ways to make it better and improve the areas that could be even stronger.

As a result, pupils achieve extremely well in most subjects.

Pastoral care is exceptionally strong. In this very large school, pupils feel known and individually cared for.

Parents are grateful for this and overwhelmingly supportive of the school. One summed this up by saying that the school helped his daughter to 'find her passions and be the best she could be'.

Pupils are impressive and incredibly proud of their sc...hool.

They are fully involved in the multitude of clubs and extra-curricular activities. Behaviour is excellent. Pupil leaders gain useful skills by taking on extra responsibilities.

They are very well prepared for their next steps in life. Diversity and difference are celebrated. Pupils and staff do not tolerate any bullying – it is anathema to them.

School leaders expertly support pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. They model successful strategies with other schools in their community. They prioritise support for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) so that those pupils do increasingly well.

What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?

School leaders are passionate and ambitious about what pupils will learn. Highly experienced, knowledgeable governors share and shape this mission. Leaders streamline the demands they make of staff.

They drive through improvements that have the greatest impact. Staff training is exceptionally strong and well focused. Staff recognise and value this, fostering the excellent relationships they have with leaders.

Staff at all levels successfully model the behaviours they want the pupils to follow.

The vast majority of subject leaders design excellent curriculums. Teachers use these expertly to lay secure foundations for future learning.

For example, in science, pupils learn about the nature of the atom in key stage 3 so that they can understand isotopes in key stage 4. Very rarely, some subject planning is less coherent. In those cases, pupils do not gain enough knowledge at the right time to make sense of what comes later.

Senior leaders are aware of this and are taking effective action to address it.

Staff know their pupils extremely well. Pupils with SEND are identified at a very early stage to make sure they have enough support in school.

Teachers adapt their lessons extremely well to engage pupils' interest. This is particularly successful with disadvantaged pupils. Important vocabulary is taught specifically and at the right time to ensure pupils understand their work.

Teachers prioritise fluency to help pupils express themselves well in their writing. Well-established programmes successfully promote pupils' reading, including reading for pleasure.

Teachers are real experts in their subjects.

Their precise and helpful questioning stretches and extends pupils' knowledge. Consequently, the standard of pupils' work is very high. In most subjects, and most of the time, pupils get excellent feedback that consolidates their understanding.

Pupils' behaviour and attitudes are excellent. They show unwaveringly strong respect for others. Pupils take huge pride in their work and in their school.

Pastoral systems provide exceptional support. Parents particularly value the work of the small schools and support given in the 'school base'. Pupils with SEND can access 'The Space', which helps them recharge and refocus.

Pupils take part in a plethora of additional clubs, visits and extra-curricular activities. These are very well-attended. Leaders make sure they include pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as those with SEND.

Activities cover a huge variety, from an active feminist club to participating in the school musical.

Pupil leaders are prominent in school life. There is very strong teaching of modern British values.

Pupils are extremely well prepared for adult life. The school is a safe place to be different. Leaders ensure that healthy lifestyles are promoted.

There is excellent advice on careers and pupils' next steps, which meets or exceeds all relevant government guidance.


The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.

Leaders ensure that the well-being of pupils is pre-eminent.

Staff at all levels carry out their safeguarding responsibilities diligently. Thorough training equips them to recognise any risks to the pupils in their care. If pupils need extra support, leaders seek out the most appropriate help.

This might be from outside agencies or charities.

The school takes all necessary precautions when appointing new staff. Leaders do everything they can to prepare pupils for the risks of life in the outside world.

Online safety is covered thoroughly. Pupils are taught a strong, age-appropriate understanding of consent.

What does the school need to do to improve?

(Information for the school and appropriate authority)

• Although the curriculum is very well organised, there are some isolated examples where subject planning has been less coherent in the past.

In these cases, pupils do not build up their knowledge as well as they do elsewhere. Although leaders have taken actions to remedy this, that process is not yet completed. Leaders should continue their work to ensure that all subject curriculum planning is as consistently strong as the best.

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