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Schools rise to tough challenge from Ofsted
Buy this photo » Wendy Heritage, headteacher at St Andrew’s Primary, Chinnor, which went from satisfactory to outstanding. Picture: OX59303 Antony Moore
THE call comes without notice, announcing the impending visit of a team of inspectors analysing every aspect of your school.
And the outcome of the new, tougher inspection regime could see your school, previously ‘satisfactory’, told it requires improvement and facing regular monitoring visits from Ofsted inspectors.
But despite concerns raised by headteachers and education leaders about the new, tougher inspection framework introduced last September, the results of the first year’s inspections, as reported in yesterday’s Oxford Mail, showed a picture of improving schools across the county, with the majority posting improvements.
An analysis of more than 100 county schools inspected under the new framework in the year up to July 11 showed there were more schools getting higher ratings than those being downgraded.
In all, 15 county schools received a lower inspection judgment, while 41 received an improved rating.
Forty-five remained the same – although 18 of those schools, once deemed satisfactory now face monitoring visits due to the reclassification which means such schools are rated ‘requires improvement’.
Five schools were deemed to be outstanding, including three for the first time, but two previously outstanding schools – The Cooper School in Bicester and Hook Norton Primary – were downgraded to good.
And just one county school made the jump from satisfactory to outstanding – St Andrew’s Primary in Chinnor.
Headteacher Wendy Heritage said: “Whenever you have a new framework, you are always very concerned, especially when at the start you hear stories from other schools. It can put the fear of God into you and make you feel very anxious and concerned about how your school compares.
“But we felt everything that was there was really what we should be striving for and it does actually give you something to aspire to.”
Carterton Community College was one of the 35 schools which moved from satisfactory to good.
Headteacher Niall Mc-Williams described Ofsted as a “political hot potato” and highlighted The Cooper School as having missed out on a deserved outstanding judgment.
He said: “I can’t quite work out why some schools have been downgraded.
“The only consistent thing about Ofsted is that it’s inconsistent.”
He pointed out that The Cooper School could have to wait five years before being re-inspected – and said the significance of Ofsted in terms of confidence in a school should not be underestimated.
He said: “It can make or break a school, and it can actually make or break headteachers’ reputations and can cost them their jobs.
“It is a total lottery, but in general if I look at the ratings in Oxfordshire, it is looking relatively fair across the board.”
Five county schools went into special measures and one, Fitzharrys School, in Abingdon, was given the new category of ‘serious weaknesses’.
But three which had been either in special measures or issued with a notice to improve came out of Ofsted’s bad books – all of them to a good rating.
They were Stonesfield, Middle Barton and Cumnor primaries.
Melinda Tilley, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for children, education and families, said The Cooper School’s judgment did ‘stick out’, which she said seemed unduly harsh.
But she added: “We were quite pleased with a lot of the ones that went from satisfactory to good.
“Schools are going to have to work harder to get outstanding, but that probably isn’t a bad thing.”
Inspection was tough but not a negative, says head
CHRIS Harris, headteacher at Larkmead School, Abingdon, had fears about the changes.
The school, previously satisfactory, was given a ‘requires improvement’ judgment.
But Mr Harris said his views had changed after going through the experience. He said: “It’s tough but I think it has not been a negative for us at all in terms of raising standards.
“The framework has set a standard that schools are very aware of.
“They are aware of what’s at risk and what’s at stake. Schools are operating better than probably they ever have in terms of being very precise about the standards for all the different groups of students.”
He said there was a “relentless” emphasis on teaching which he said was hard – but ultimately positive for pupils.
Mr Harris said: “The framework has made it plain that even schools in areas where there may be low prior attainment can make real progress – and that is really positive for children’s futures.”
‘The new framework has raised the bar’
THE Diocese of Oxford has 120 schools in the county, 35 of which faced inspections last year.
They included the Oxford Academy, which went into special measures, but also Cumnor and St Andrew’s Chinnor, which both saw significant improvements.
Education director Anne Davey, right, said: “The new Ofsted framework has raised the bar for schools, removing the former ‘satisfactory’ grading.
“This has seen good outcomes for some schools and more challenging ones for others.
“While we aspire to see all of our schools doing well and being recognised for their efforts by Ofsted, we realise the Ofsted framework does not take into account all of the work that goes on in Church of England Schools.”
She said while educational attainment was prioritised, church schools also focused on spiritual and emotional development.
Mrs Davey said: “We are delighted the new Ofsted framework has recognised the progress Cumnor has made under the leadership of the new headteacher Ed Read.
“However, we were disappointed for Wootton by Woodstock, which went from good to requires improvement, because they have had such a difficult time with structural problems that have meant moving into temporary accommodation.
“That has been challenging for everyone.
“The improvements at St Andrew’s, Chinnor, are so encouraging and the school is a shining example of a church school that has overcome challenges to become ‘outstanding’ for the children it serves.
“We are also pleased St John the Evangelist, Carterton, is making real progress towards coming out of special measures.”
New chairman of governors at Oxford Academy John Putt said: “The Oxford Academy’s staff, pupils and senior leadership team continue to work hard and we are expecting that this year’s GCSE results will indicate the improvements which have recently taken place in the school.
“We believe we are now making steady progress towards coming out of special measures. Let us wait until the new team has entered into dialogue with Ofsted, which will be very soon.”
HOW Oxfordshire schools that have been through the new Ofsted inspection regime have fared:
- Outstanding: Six
- Good: 64
- Requires improvement: 25
- Inadequate: Six
- Downgraded from outstanding to good: Two
- Downgraded from good to satisfactory: Seven
- Downgrade from satisfactory to inadequate: Five
- Downgraded from notice to improve to special measures: One
- Upgraded from good to outstanding: Two
- Upgraded from satisfactory to outstanding: One
- Upgraded from satisfactory to good: 35
- Upgraded from inadequate to good: Three
- Retained outstanding rating: Three
- Retained good rating: 24
- Reclassified from satisfactory to requires improvement: 18
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