Official watchdog praises Brighton school for lockdown lessons

Ofsted has praised Balfour Primary School for its lockdown teaching but the school needs to reach a hardcore group that does not engage.

The school, in Balfour Road, Brighton, had a monitoring visit by Ofsted inspector Alison Bradley on Tuesday 2 March, after two full inspections in 2017 and 2020 rated the school as “requiring improvement”.

In her inspection report, Ms Bradley said that Balfour head teacher Simon Davies was “rightly proud” of the school’s remote learning from January to March during lockdown.

Despite the mainly positive feedback in the report, published yesterday (Wednesday 31 March), the school’s Ofsted rating will not change until it has another full inspection.

Ofsted said: “The school made what one parent described as a ‘dramatic shift in the quality of online learning’ ahead of the current lockdown.

“You achieved that by drawing on recent research about effective remote education and taking account of the views of parents, staff and pupils about their experience last year.”

The inspection was carried out remotely with the inspector speaking to school leaders, staff, pupils and governors, and looking at the remote learning.

Parents also responded by sending 101 texts and comments through Ofsted’s Parent View website.

The education watchdog commended the school for adapting the curriculum to leave out the more practical elements of their education until they return to school.

The school has also focused on getting pupils “up to speed with their reading and writing”, with teachers going back through phonics from last spring before the first lockdown, as well as covering this year’s work.

Ofsted said that a hardcore group of pupils had not been taking part in learning at home despite teachers using “different strategies”.

The inspector advises the school to review these strategies so all pupils are participating.

Pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) received tailored support, with work starting last year to improve teaching and learning and staff training.

This had affected English and maths, Ofsted said, but the school needed to make these improvements consistent across other subjects.

Simon Davies

Ofsted said that the school leadership had “forged ahead” to revamp the wider curriculum, adding: “New plans, which clearly identify the key knowledge and concepts that pupils must understand, remember and be able to apply in each subject, were in place for the beginning of this school year.

“Work has started to ensure a more seamless progression from early years.

“Leaders are ensuring that staff stick to subject plans as far as possible in the current circumstances so that pupils’ learning continues to build over the course of this year.”

Mr Davies said: “The next steps for the school were focused around continuing our current strategy and positive direction that we are moving in with regards the areas identified in the previous inspection.

“We recognise that there is still work to be carried out but we are extremely proud of the rapid improvements that have been made so far.”

Shelley Baker

In a letter to parents, chair of governors Shelley Baker said: “Governors continue to support and challenge the school in all areas of the school improvement plan so that all children receive the best experiences in school.

“And this report is part of the evidence we will use to signal that we are clearly heading quickly in the right direction.

“However, we are not complacent and we highlighted to Ofsted the areas in which we are continuing to focus.

“Now all children and staff are back in school we can continue to support Simon as he forges ahead.

“Despite the challenging times we are in, the school, under Simon’s leadership, has demonstrated it has the capacity to be the outstanding school we strive to be – and we thank him for his tireless commitment and drive for improvement.”

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