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Bury St Edmunds: Why did Ofsted inspectors choose to spot check highly regarded St Benedict’s Catholic School?

PUBLISHED: 12:06 17 September 2014 | UPDATED: 12:06 17 September 2014

St Benedict's Catholic School, Bury St Edmunds.

St Benedict's Catholic School, Bury St Edmunds.

Archant

A Catholic school in Suffolk that was previously rated “good” by Ofsted has become one of the first in England to receive a ‘no-notice’ visit from Government inspectors, it has been claimed.

Around 40 schools up and down the country have been selected for the two-day unannounced inspections which are taking place over a two-week period.

Although Ofsted refused to confirm if Suffolk was on the hit list, one school believes it is one of the 40.

St Benedict’s Catholic School in Bury St Edmunds received ‘good’ ratings across the board at its last inspection in July 2013 and this summer celebrated its best GCSE results for three years with 71% of students achieving 5 A* to C grades - an 18% increase on last year.

The wave of unannounced Ofsted inspections comes in the wake of reports into the alleged ‘Trojan horse’ takeover plot by hardline Muslims at a number of Birmingham schools.

And according to St Benedict’s headteacher, Hugh O’Neill, the visit last Thursday and Friday was to ensure that the school was “maintaining core British values”.

He said: “The first we knew that we were to have an inspection was when the lead inspector phoned me at 8.10 that morning and then four inspectors arrived at the school reception at 8.15.

“We were aware of the agenda which the Prime Minister talked about after the Birmingham Trojan Horse case.

“But we were only inspected 15 months earlier and so this visit was quite unexpected.

“We are one of the first 40 and the reason they came to us was that they were following up on the issues to do with citizenship and British values.

“Apparently, they inspect schools to check whether they are maintaining core British values.”

But Graham White, secretary of Suffolk National Union of Teachers (NUT) said he did not believe that a visit to a school like St Benedict’s was a good use of Ofsted’s time.

He told this newspaper: “Everyone knows that St Benedict’s is a very good school with great exam results and it is oversubscribed because of that, so I am not sure why Ofsted has picked on this particular school out of so many around the country.

“There were some issues in Birmingham which were blown out of proportion and so Ofsted coming to a school in Bury with excellent teaching and results does not make sense.

“I am not even sure what Ofsted regards as good British values and this visit makes me question their agenda. St Benedict’s is highly regarded and we don’t have any significant issues with it and have never heard any complaints.

“I don’t see how it can be a good use of Ofted’s time or a good use of money. It’s a distraction for the staff and this impacts on the children.”

Ofsted would not discuss whether any other schools in Suffolk had been targeted in the first wave of spot inspections.

Suffolk County Council also declined to comment.

The St Benedict’s inspection report will be published later this month.

The Orwell Bridge has reopened this morning after 80mph winds battered Suffolk and brought its closure.

Several schools in Suffolk are to remain closed or open later this morning amid high winds.

Across Suffolk, dozens of bands, singers, solo acts, choirs and orchestras ply their trade on evenings and weekends as part of the county’s eclectic night time economy.

High winds have led to rail service cancellations including on the mainline from Suffolk and Essex to London and local routes between Sudbury and Marks Tey.

High winds have brought down overhead power cables leaving homes in many Suffolk and Essex communities without electricity.

A well known west Suffolk pub has suddenly closed its doors after the district council received a licence review application from police, stating the premises was ‘associated with serious crimes and disorder’.

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