Inspection Reports

From 2019 Abbey College Cambridge is inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).

Previously the college was inspeced by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted).

Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) Report, September 2021

The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) is approved by the Secreatary of State to inspect schools which are, or whose heads are, in membership of the associations which form the Independent School Council (ISC) and report to the extent to which they meet the Independent School Standards (‘the standard’) in the Schedule to the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014, including the National Minimum Standards for Boarding (‘boarding NMS’), where applicable.

Ofsted Reports

Ofsted is the government-run body that inspects schools to make sure that standards are being maintained. After each school inspection, Ofsted assigns a status to the inspected institution based upon a 4- grade scale, ranging from the lowest (grade 4, inadequate) up to the very highest (grade 1, outstanding). Grades are assigned across 7 categories encompassing both educational and pastoral criteria.

In it’s most recent report in 2017, Ofsted classified Abbey College Cambridge as a ‘Good’ School.

The full reports may be read below together with some of the key observations made by the Ofsted team:

Abbey College Cambridge, after a recent inspection, has been awarded the status of “good” in 6 and ‘outstanding’ in 1 of the assessed categories.


Key Observations

Effectiveness of Leadership and Management

  • The Principal, well supported by senior leaders, has created a culture of ambition, high standards and strong academic attainments.
  • The exceptional care and welfare that exists throughout the school provides a nurturing environment in which students flourish.
  • Leaders’ actions have secured A-level results that have consistently been among the highest in the country in terms of attainment. The proportion of students achieving the highest grades is significantly above national figures.
  • Leaders tailor the curriculum to meet the needs of most individual students well. Many students follow additional English programmes to develop their speaking listening, reading and writing skills. The extra support for English helps students to access other parts of the curriculum more successfully and improve their outcomes.

Personal development, behaviour and welfare

  • The School’s work to promote students personal development and welfare is outstanding.
  • Leaders’ rigorous adherence to statutory guidance, their meticulous record-keeping and the high priority given to students’ welfare mean that students feel safe and well cared for.
  • Leaders successfully create a ‘home away from home’ that promotes students physical and emotional well-being exceptionally well.
  • Students develop into well-rounded individuals and develop valuable life skills, which prepares them extremely well for the next stage in their education.
  • Students say there are no areas in school where they do not feel safe. Staff from the school and the boarding provision work closely together to ensure they meet student’s needs.
  • Students enjoy the wide range of sporting and extra-curricular activities on offer.

Quality of teaching, learning and assessment

  • Teacher’s use of visual resources is highly effective , such as writing key vocabulary and drawing graphs on the walls, which alongside clear teacher explanations, helps accelerate students’ learning.
  • Teacher’s embed the development of students’ language skills well across all subject areas. The clear-pronunciation and well-defined explanation of subject-specific vocabulary by staff helps students to develop their language and understanding well. Students improve their ability to explain their thoughts precisely, using the correct terminology.
  • Teacher’s use of visual resources is highly effective, such as writing key vocabulary and drawing graphs on the walls, which, alongside clear teacher explanations, helps accelerate students’ learning.
  • Teachers often have strong subject knowledge and use of well-considered real-life situations help students grasp difficult abstract concepts. An example of teaching enabling students to gain greater understanding was seen when a teacher used the experiences of a skydiver to explain the concepts of surface area, air resistance and terminal velocity. Students were able to apply the knowledge when later solving problems linked to viscous drag.


  • The comprehensive safeguarding policy that is available on the school’s website reflects the latest statutory guidance.
  • Leaders take their safeguarding responsibilities very seriously, and many school and boarding staff undertake higher-level training.
  • The curriculum is planned well so that students know how to stay safe.
  • Staff are well trained to be alert to any potential safeguarding concerns. Staff are very clear about how to refer any concerns they might have.
  • Academic mentoring counsellors provide useful help and support for students suffering from stress and anxiety.
  • Leaders carry out health and safety checks regularly and act on any concerns raised. The school carries out detailed risk assessments on all aspects of school life.


  • The behaviour of students is outstanding.
  • Students’ conduct around the site and in lessons is impeccable. Inspectors did not see any poor or disruptive behaviour in lessons or throughout the school over the course of the inspection. Leaders have created an ethos of high expectation and cooperation between staff and students.
  • Students are polite, friendly and respectful. They enjoy the many healthy options available in the clean and well-run canteen area. Mealtimes are sociable and civilised occasions. Students are keen to point out that they are involved in decision about what appears on the menu.
  • Leaders track student’s behaviour regularly and systematically. This enables them to spot patterns of concern and to act quickly. Records show very few incidents of poor behaviour, and almost all are linked to relatively minor incidents. Leaders use exclusion sparingly and effectively. On the rare occasions that leaders exclude students, it is to uphold the high levels of behaviour expected of all.

Outcomes for students

  • Leaders prepare students well for the next stage of their education, training or employment. The vast majority continue to university, and over 99% of students last year received at least one offer of a place.
  • Students who study A-Level qualifications attain excellent results. From starting points that the school assesses as broadly average, students achieve results that demonstrate good progress. The percentage of students achieving the top grades is significantly above national figures.
  • Most-able students achieve extremely well. The results at advanced level especially are highly impressive. Leaders set challenging targets, which they have consistently met for number of years. The A-Level results the students achieve are extremely high in terms of attainment.
  • The vast majority of students make very good levels of development in their language and literacy skills. Students learn to read, write and understand in an additional language quickly. Students are able to access the material more easily in all subject areas as a result of the improvements in their English skills. This helps students to make good progress from their starting points.

Sixth form provision

  • Students make at least good progress and achieve well. Students’ results in some subjects, notably mathematics, are exceptionally high.
  • Leaders are very aware of the importance of each ‘student’s journey’. A four-day induction programme, alongside pre-course preparation materials, helps students settle in and choose the right courses. Teachers check students’ suitability for each programme through initial baseline assessments, which works well to direct students to the most appropriate courses based on their ability and aspirations.
  • The strong relationships that exist between students and staff ensure that time in lessons is used productively. The support from staff, alongside teachers’ in-depth knowledge of the examination board’s assessment criteria, help students prepare well for examinations.
  • Students are involved in wider aspects the school and the wider community. The ‘ABC’ extra-curricular programme offers over 50 clubs, societies and activities that students use and appreciate. Students regularly raise funds for charity, and recently donated £4,000 to the East Anglian Children’s Hospice.
  • Students attend well and are punctual to lessons. Retention rates are high.
  • The growth of the leadership and diploma programme successfully prepare students for the next steps in their education.