A Brighton primary school has won praise from the official education watchdog Ofsted in a newly published letter.
St Bartholomew’s Church of England Primary School, in Ann Street, just off London Road, Brighton, received the positive letter after an inspection earlier this month.
Ofsted inspector Amanda Gard wrote to new head teacher Katie Blood about steps taken since St Bart’s was told that it required improvement after a previous inspection in 2016.
The letter said: “Senior leaders and governors are taking effective action to tackle the areas requiring improvement.
“The school should take further action to sharpen the school’s improvement plan by
- including more precise success criteria to measure the school’s progress
- developing a monitoring schedule to ensure that timely checks are made and followed up
- building on developments in mathematics teaching to strengthen provision in other subjects especially writing
- reviewing the use of information about achievement and attendance so that leaders measure more precisely what pupils know and understand at key points within the year (and) leaders can demonstrate where attendance has improved for individual pupils
“Since the last inspection in September 2016 there have been some important changes.
“Following a period of temporary leadership by an executive head teacher, you were appointed as substantive head teacher in April 2017.
“Only one governor remains from the original board, with all others appointed since the last inspection. A new chair of the governing body took up post in April 2018.
“Since your appointment you have worked hard to build effective relationships across the school.
“You have successfully developed staff trust after a period of instability and helped everyone to understand their role in raising standards.
“The staff team is now pulling together with a shared sense of purpose and direction. As one teacher commented, ‘Everybody’s up for it.’
“Your comprehensive school improvement plan systematically tackles the areas for improvement identified at the last inspection.
“You have made sure staff responsibilities are clear and have set realistic timescales for improvement.
“However, your success criteria are not always specific enough for leaders and governors to check exactly how well the school is doing.
“In addition, the plan does not show how and when actions will be monitored. You agreed that it would be useful to develop a more detailed monitoring schedule to help keep actions on track.
“You have successfully helped pupils to understand what the school is aiming for, and their part in its improvement.
“You have increased everyone’s focus on teaching and learning.
“Some teaching still requires improvement. You have implemented a range of strategies to tackle this, including focused support from consultants and helpful staff training sessions.
“You are rightly determined to improve the quality of teaching so it is consistently good.
“With much to tackle, you have sensibly concentrated on priority areas first. This has included developing better teaching approaches in mathematics.
“As teachers are becoming more confident in teaching mathematics, you correctly intend to build on this success to improve outcomes in other subjects, especially writing.
“Alongside developing teaching, you are strengthening the role of subject leaders.
“Pupils are enthusiastic about the positive changes to behaviour … They reported that changes to lunchtime supervision mean, ‘It feels more safe.’
“You acknowledge that a small minority of pupils still present challenging behaviour, but we saw no disruption in lessons or around the school during my visit.
“Teachers told me they appreciate the strategies and support which you provide for behaviour management.
“Parents agree that there is a positive atmosphere in the school, saying you have made welcome improvements.
“You are working hard to improve attendance. Your wide range of strategies includes meeting with individual families, as well as raising the profile of good attendance in newsletters.
“Pupils are motivated by prizes for the best class attendance, such as a visit to a café, sponsored by local business.
“Although attendance remains far too low, you can show some improvement for many individuals.
“You recognise that it would be helpful to analyse this further to evaluate which strategies have worked well.
“An external review of pupil premium funding was carried out following the previous inspection.
“Teachers say that disadvantaged pupils are ‘a high priority’. In many classes they are catching up with their peers, although this is not consistent across the school.
“The local authority has provided a great deal of valuable support … There have also been additional visits to support you as the new head teacher and useful advice from the finance and human resources teams.
“The diocese (of Chichester) has also supported the school effectively.
“Staff have also benefited from working with local schools to agree teachers’ judgments on standards of work or to see good practice in other settings.”
Overall the school is still adjudged overall to require improvement – the third highest of the four grades given by Ofsted. Outstanding and good are the two best grades while inadequate is the worst.
But the letter makes clear that things are getting better.
“We were delighted with Amanda Gard’s letter … She recognised the hard work and commitment shown by staff and governors on our journey of school improvement.
“Our pupils shone with enthusiasm and showed her what brilliant learners they are.
“As a school, we are lucky to have welcoming and supportive families who are part of valued school community.
“As a result of this letter, we have confirmation that we are on the right path to success and further progress is inevitable.”
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