THEY got the best GCSE results of all the non-selective schools in Bournemouth last year.
And the huge improvements shown at Winton Arts and Media College and Glenmoor School for Girls since principal Ben Parnell took the helm three years ago are certain to lead to further success.
But when it comes to parental choice the schools remain at the bottom of the pile. Despite there being a total of 360 places available this September, around 100 are likely to remain unfilled.
That’s why Mr Parnell decided to take drastic action to prove how much the academies have improved in a bid to attract more pupils and boost their reputation.
For the last two days, a team of inspectors from the Challenge Partners Team have been on site, carrying out a gruelling inspection similar to the government-led Ofsted reports.
Read the results here
Mr Parnell paid for what is known as a “Mocksted” report because he fears it may be at least a year before Ofsted pay the school another visit.
The schools currently have an Ofsted rating of “satisfactory”, a banding now referred to as “needs improvement”. But that grading came after inspections that were carried out two years ago, and a lot has changed since then.
Mr Parnell believes parents looking for a secondary school for their children place huge emphasis on inspection reports, so decided to speed up the process.
“We want parents to know how good we are. We have got spaces for September and we should be full,” he said. “We are the highest-achieving schools in Bournemouth and these are not the schools that parents knew three years ago.”
Other schools in the area with lower GCSE results are over-subscribed for September.
Mr Parnell said: “I just don’t understand why, but we don’t have a brand new £12 million building like some others and sometimes parents make a choice based on that.”
He said 21 girls had joined Glenmoor during term time since September.
“A lot of people realised they did not make the right choice in the first place,” he added.
The inspection process is similar to those carried out by Ofsted and involves observing lessons, open access to all parts of the school and meetings with staff and students.
Inspector Jacquie Smith, Associate Head of Lampton School in Hounslow, observed an English lesson first, accompanied by Winton and Glenmoor assistant vice principal Rachel Hesketh.
Both took notes, then discussed the quality of the lesson afterwards.
Jacquie Smith said: “My focus is on teaching and learning.
“It is about constantly tweaking things to get the best possible teaching and learning. In an inspection like this we get to have a dialogue and give feedback.”
The team spent a total of two days in the schools, giving their verdict at lunch time yesterday.
Mr Parnell has now urged prospective parents to have a look round the school before making a final decision.
“Just turn up, any day, any time and you can look at anything you like,” he said.
“We are very open because we know it is really good here and we want everyone to see that.”