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Corpus Christi Catholic High School praised after Estyn visit

One of Cardiff’s largest Catholic schools has been praised by inspectors for its “caring and nurturing community” and for seeking to “enrich pupils’ lives through faith and extremely high-quality care, support and guidance”.

In its latest Estyn report, carried out in March this year, inspectors said that a notable strength of Corpus Christi Catholic High School in Lisvane was its ethos that contributes positively to pupils’ wellbeing, behaviour and engagement in learning.

They added that the school has a “well-established vision for pupil and staff wellbeing, which is underpinned by its Catholic ethos and centred upon all members of the school being attentive, compassionate and truthful. Leaders and staff at the school promote this vision consistently and pupils appreciate the high levels of support they receive.”

Estyn inspectors were impressed by the behaviour of pupils. “Most listen with respect and attention to their peers and teachers, share their opinions confidently... and many produce writing that is technically secure and suitably structured.

“Many have secure number skills... but a few pupils struggle with mental calculations and in a minority of instances pupils do not analyse graphs and data well enough to come to sensible conclusions.”

Teachers have high expectations for pupils and the curriculum provides appropriate opportunities to develop their literacy and numeracy skills, it said, but added: “The provision for digital skills is at an early stage of development and currently the school does not promote the use of Welsh language strongly enough in areas other than Welsh lessons.”

A strength of the school, said the report, is its approach to the wellbeing of both pupils and staff. “Most pupils feel safe and happy,” said the report. “They know who to turn to if they have any problems and feel well cared for.... and the school has employed a trained nurse who provides mental health first aid and refers particularly vulnerable pupils to the relevant external support.”

Most teachers, it said, create a “calm and purposeful” learning environment and in a few instances, where teaching is particularly strong, teachers have a passion for their subject and inspire pupils. But, where teaching is not as strong, pupils do not make as much progress as they should.”

Corpus Christi currently has 1,076 pupils aged between 11 and 16, with 15.1% eligible for free school meals (Wales average – 20.2%), 5.7% having additional learning needs (ALN) and just 0.5% speaking Welsh at home. In its last inspection, carried out in February 2015, it was rated ‘good’.

Many pupils with ALN, said the report, make secure progress from their starting points and it recognised that the school provides a broad range of support for pupils’ individual needs, while the school curriculum meets the needs and interests of almost all pupils, and there is a wide range of extra-curricular activities including numerous sports and academic clubs.

Estyn was particularly impressed with the school’s efforts to tackle barriers to learning and its strategies to re-engage and raise the aspirations of the most disaffected pupils. Its ExCel programme, introduced after the pandemic, is a “highly successful and creative approach that focuses specifically on improving targeted pupils’ attitudes to learning and developing the skills they need to make good progress.”

The inspectorate has now invited the school to share its work in this area and the ExCel programme with other schools in Wales.

Corpus Christi headteacher Patrick Brunnock and his senior team work well together, said the report, and “have high expectations for themselves, staff and pupils”. It recommended, however, that the school “refines self-evaluation so that it identifies precisely any aspects of teaching and learning that need improvement, and increases the range of opportunities for pupils to practise their digital skills and Welsh language around the school.

Commenting on the report, Mr Brunnock said: “I’m delighted with the report’s findings and Estyn’s recognition of how the Catholic ethos permeates throughout Corpus Christi.”

Cllr Sarah Merry, Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for education, said she was delighted with Corpus Christi’s inspection. “It’s clear that Patrick Brunnock and his team are having a real impact on the school. Their innovations are making a difference in the areas of disaffected pupils and it’s pleasing that Estyn has recognised this in inviting the school to share its ExCel expertise with others.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Corpus Christi in the future as it strives for even better results in the future.”

Estyn has adopted a new approach to inspection in schools and Pupil Referral Units across Wales. Inspection reports will no longer include summative gradings (e.g. ‘Excellent', ‘Good' or ‘Adequate') and now focus on how well providers are helping a child to learn. The new approach aligns with the personalisation of the new curriculum for Wales with inspections involving more in-person discussions, placing less emphasis on achievement data.Estyn believe that the new inspection approach will make it easier for providers to gain meaningful insights that help them to improve without the spotlight on a judgement.