Quality Mark Case Study: Dunottar School

Dunottar is a small, but growing, co-educational independent secondary day school in Reigate, Surrey. The school became part of United Learning in March 2014 and since September 2014 has been undergoing the transition from a single-sex girls’ school to a fully co-educational establishment. As a non-selective independent school, the ability range at the school is wide. In the first Quality Mark assessment the department was awarded a ‘Silver’ Award. It was recognised in the final report that the Department had made rapid progress and had the potential to achieve a ‘Gold’ Award.

At re-assessment the department submitted further evidence to the HA and the Assessor visited the department for a half day. At this point the school was awarded a gold Quality Mark, which was then renewed in 2020.

‘No Regrets…’ 

I am Julie Boden, Head of History at Dunottar School in Reigate in Surrey. Until 2014, we were a small independent girls’ school but in that year joined United Learning and became a co-educational school and since then  have been on an exciting journey. We have always been a mixed ability school, so teach a range of abilities at both GCSE and A Level. We are a small department but we all share a passion for our subject and want to ensure that our students have the best experience they can in the time they spend in our history class rooms. It was this that was the main driver for us to become involved the HA Quality Mark process. 

Initially, we were awarded a silver QM in February 2016 but were so impressed by the process and especially the supportive comments from our assessor with regard to further improvements that could be implemented, that we decided to ‘Go for Gold.’ This was achieved in March 2017 and were fortunate enough to be able to renew this in October 2020. 

Here are some comments regarding the different areas required for the portfolio of evidence:

Teaching and learning

We implemented enquiry-based questions in our KS3 schemes of work and also used some of these to guide our assessment tasks. A key area for development was improving our feedback and we introduced MAD (making a difference) tasks alongside a more rigorous tracking of our GCSE students exam skills.

One of the best additions to our curriculum resulted directly from our conversations with our assessor which was the introduction of a Year 9 cross-curricular World War One day. This has now become an integral part of the school calendar and allows students to learn more about the First World War but also to see how other subjects can be interwoven and history is not just something done in isolation.

Here is what the assessor had to say... Read more


We have grown in size as a department since the start of the QM process and one of my personal highlights has been supporting and mentoring 2 students at the start of their teaching careers; one undertaking her training with United Teach and the second undertaking her NQT year.

Introducing new ideas and initiatives within the department has also encouraged me to delegate more and allow other department members to have greater responsibilities. It has also made me appreciate the different skill sets and strengths of the department members and using them to best advantage, such as managing the History Department twitter feed.

Here is what the assessor had to say... Read more


The history curriculum at Dunottar never stands still and we are always looking to improve our existing content and introduce new themes within our curriculum. (This is the area we are currently working on developing further). Part of this journey has been fostered by QM. 

Here is what the assessor had to say... Read more


The mixed ability intake of the school is mirrored in the students taking GCSE and our focus is for each student to achieve their potential. We are always trying to find ways of facilitating support for our students such as differentiated revision classes. We also have been making a more concerted effort to reward our students throughout the school with things like half-termly electronic postcards and historians of the month.

Here's what the assessor had to say... Read more


We have been keen to support local angles in what we do and are really pleased ot have introduced our students to the Surrey History Centre. One developmental aim from our report was to reach out beyond the history department both to other curriculum subjects and into the community. We have been working hard at this. 

Here's what the assessor had to say... Read more


I entitled this ‘No Regrets…’ and I would certainly say that as a department we have had no regrets about engaging with the whole QM process. It is a really positive and supportive process from start to finish. It enables you to see what you already do well (and there will be lots of things) but it also allows you to think about new ideas. The meeting with the assessor was one of the highlights because having an outsider provide you with such constructive feedback about ways to further improve your department, was invaluable. It was this, without doubt, that made us ‘Go for Gold.’ Having achieved the QM, also means you are continually focused on making further improvements. As a department, we are constantly thinking about ways to move forward with new ideas and initiatives.

I would not hesitate to recommend this process to other schools but you have to go into it knowing that it will be hard work and not just a way of gaining an accolade for your department.

Attached files:

Previous page     Next page