Watchdog praises Portslade school despite concerns over reading

Posted On 18 Jan 2022 at 12:30 am

A “good” primary school in Portslade has been praised by the official watchdog Ofsted although it faces a “full inspection” next time after concerns were raised about reading.

St Nicolas Church of England Primary School, in Locks Hill, Portslade, provides “enriching experiences for pupils”.

Ofsted said: “Pupils are happy here (and) parents particularly appreciate how staff ‘went the extra mile’ during lockdown.

“In certain areas of the curriculum, such as mathematics, learning is carefully sequenced to build and connect knowledge for pupils.

“Pupils are confident mathematicians. They remember what they have learned and confidently link their learning.

“This process starts in Reception Year, where children explore measures through cooking and count blocks while building high towers.

“Knowledge builds through the school and supports pupils to learn and remember more in mathematics.

“In some subjects, which are well developed, teachers use a range of assessments, such as unaided writing and regular quizzes, to carefully match the learning to pupils needs.

“This helps pupils to make progress. However, not all curriculum areas are well developed.

“Sometimes pupils do not remember what they learn, especially in the subjects where the curriculum is being developed.

“Some pupils in key stage 1 are not learning to read quickly because they are struggling to master phonics.”

The report by Ofsted inspector Deborah Gordon reiterated the point, saying: “Pupils in key stage 1 do not have a consistently well-implemented synthetic phonics programme in place.

“They are not mastering the skills they need to learn to read quickly, or to help them catch up quickly if they fall behind.

“Leaders should ensure that teachers have the training and support they need to implement the new phonics approach across the key stage.

“The curriculum is not consistently well sequenced. Sometimes pupils do not build on learning so that they know and remember more over time.

“Subject leaders should monitor the delivery of the wider curriculum to ensure that sequences of learning which build knowledge are being consistently implemented across the school.”

The report also said: “There has been no change to this school’s overall judgment of good as a result of this initial inspection.

“However, the evidence gathered suggests that the inspection grade might not be as high if a full inspection were carried out now.

“The next inspection will therefore be a full inspection.”

Andy Richbell

Last week, Green councillor Steph Powell asked Brighton and Hove City Council officials what was happening to support the school.

She asked her question at the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee when Ofsted’s report was shared with councillors at a meeting attended by Andy Richbell, the school’s head teacher since 2009.

The council’s head of education standards and achievement Mark Storey said: “We’re working very closely. We have a school partnership adviser who works with St Nicolas.

“Specifically, they were asked to make some improvement in phonics. We have provided support for that. That’s in line with across the authority – and nationally.

“A lot of Ofsted inspectors are reporting (concerns about) phonics. It’s an area that’s been highlighted so we’ve got a programme that’s going on across the city at the moment to support all schools with phonics.”

The Ofsted report added: “Leaders and governors fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities well. Record-keeping is meticulous, including processes for recruitment.

“Leaders respond quickly when pupils need additional support. They work well with other agencies to keep pupils safe from harm. Staff have had the training they need to help keep pupils safe.”

The school, which is close to Southern Cross, has about 420 pupils, with capacity for 436. It was a junior school until 2013 when it became an all-through primary.

To read the full Ofsted report, click here.

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