Following a full ISI inspection in April 2015, Shiplake College has been judged as ‘excellent’ across every single inspection category, the highest possible grade of achievement. Commendation of this magnitude is rare in independent education, placing Shiplake amongst the leading independent schools in the country.

A team of ISI inspectors visited the College from Tuesday 28 April to Friday 1 May 2015. The inspectors observed lessons, conducted formal interviews with pupils and examined samples of pupils’ work. They held discussions with staff, observed extra-curricular activities, conducted a full assessment of boarding, reviewed exam results and analysed the responses of parents and pupils to pre-inspection questionnaires.

The inspection report gave a clear judgement on each aspect of the school’s work. These headline statements are based on a four point descriptor scale ranging from ‘unsatisfactory’ to ‘excellent’. After collating and analysing evidence in each of the nine domains, the inspection team deemed Shiplake College to be ‘excellent’ – the highest accolade – in every field.

Quality of academic and other achievements

Under the umbrella of the 'quality of academic and other achievements', inspectors deemed the 'quality of pupils' achievements and learning', 'the contribution of curricular and extra-curricular provision' and 'the contribution of teaching', all to be excellent. The report stated that 'pupils receive a high quality of education, consistent with the school's aims to provide a broad education that encourages individuals to achieve their full potential.' 

The positive attitude of pupils towards learning, particularly through the use of the innovative and popular Thinking Space, was frequently referenced. The ISI representatives were highly impressed by the individualised curricular and extra-curricular programmes in place, which ‘allow all pupils to develop self-confidence, achieve a measure of personal success and be challenged inside and outside the classroom.’ Inspectors were extremely complimentary of Shiplake’s teaching staff, with over 50% of lessons observed receiving the highest possible grade – a truly exceptional statistic. Special praise was reserved for teachers’ ‘warm and respectful relationships with pupils’, whom they get to know very well as individuals. 

Quality of pupils' personal development 

The next section of the inspection focused on ‘the quality of pupils’ personal development.’ Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development were all deemed as excellent, in addition to the ‘contribution of arrangements for pastoral care’, ‘arrangements for welfare, health and safety’ and notably, the ‘quality of boarding’.

The report noted that ‘pupils display a cheerful confidence and ready courtesy to all members of the community, and flourish in the school’s nurturing and supportive atmosphere.’ Inspectors cited numerous opportunities which allowed pupils to ‘develop their character, confidence and leadership skills.’ Shiplake’s welcoming atmosphere was not lost on our visitors as they explained that ‘the school is highly successful in maintaining a friendly atmosphere, which enables pupils and staff to enjoy their busy working lives.’ The report was also full of praise for the pastoral management and care offered by staff throughout the College.

A comprehensive review of our boarding provision concluded that ‘the school works extremely hard to nurture, encourage, challenge and support every boarder in its care’, observing that ‘boarders are confident, courteous and self-reliant’. Excellent pastoral care is evident through all boarding houses, as ‘staff at all levels show interest and pride in boarders’ achievements and are keen to support them in furthering and widening their skills.’ The assessment also covered boarding facilities and the systems in place to safeguard pupils’ welfare and safety, which were described as ‘robust and well-developed’.

The Effectiveness of Governance, Leadership and Management

The report’s final judgements found the ‘quality of governance’ and ‘quality of leadership and management’ to be excellent. This includes links with parents, carers and guardians. Inspectors found that governors and senior staff shared a clear vision for the school’s development. ‘Commitment to enhancing the school’s academic life’ and ‘commitment to meeting the needs of each pupil’ were identified as particular strengths of the school’s leadership and management.

The Headmaster’s View

 ‘We are proud and thrilled to be formally recognised as one of the leading independent schools in the country. It is a great honour to be classed as ‘excellent’ in every domain, affirming our belief that the College has evolved and progressed significantly in recent years. I am particularly proud that our teaching and learning, personal development of pupils, and ability to inspire and engender creativity and innovation amongst young people are now applauded alongside the outstanding pastoral care and extra-curricular provision for which we have always been known.’

This excellent news, arriving so shortly after our overwhelmingly positive parent satisfaction survey results, is testament to the skill, passion and dedication of my colleagues. We look forward to carrying this momentum through the summer into the next academic year and continuing our excellent development as a College, built on the strength of our unique and unwavering community spirit.’


We hope that you will find time to read the ISI report in its entirety. However, we have also compiled a summary of the most salient points for ease of reference. Both documents are available to download below:

ISI Inspection Summary

Full ISI Inspection Report

9 A full ISI inspection in April 2015 judged Shiplake College as excellent across all nine inspection categories
96% of 2017 leavers gained entry to their chosen university
The personal development of pupils is excellent and is supported by high quality pastoral care
ISI Inspection, February 2010