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Bury St Edmunds headteacher determined to win back ‘good’ rating

11:56 15 November 2014

Hugh O'Neill, headteacher of St Benedict's School, Bury St Edmunds.

Hugh O'Neill, headteacher of St Benedict's School, Bury St Edmunds.

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A headteacher has said he is determined to win back a rating that matches his school’s “performance and reputation” following a series of Ofsted inspections and reports.

Hugh O’Neill, the head of St Benedict’s Catholic School, in Bury St Edmunds, said he felt the school’s latest Ofsted rating of ‘requires improvement’ did not give a full picture to parents.

In September this year the school received an unannounced visit from Ofsted inspectors.

The subsequent report caused controversy after it downgraded the school from ‘good’ and made statements about younger children not understanding the dangers of extremism.

Although that report was repealed last month following ‘quality concerns’ and comments relating to extremism were removed, the downgrading of the school was upheld.

Mr O’Neill said: “We know that we do a lot of things well at St Benedict’s, and this report certainly refers to our excellent GCSE and A-level results.

“There are things which we did less well last year, and the Ofsted criteria are very strict when it comes to gaps in what schools achieve. I suspect we are one of the best-performing ‘requires improvement’ schools in the country.

“We are absolutely determined to do everything we can to win back a rating that matches our performance and our reputation.

“In the meantime, we are pleased that some of the anomalies of the previous report have been corrected. The rating of the sixth form as ‘outstanding’ should surely have always been the case.”

Mr O’Neill added: “Originally people felt Ofsted was a one stop shop and I think, in our case, it is increasingly difficult [for parents] to judge how we are performing.”

The school is rated as “green”, performing well, by Suffolk County Council, achieved record A-level results and above-average GCSE results.

The report still criticises the school for a lack of progress by special needs, disabled and low prior attainment pupils, a claim that the headteacher feels could be down to statistical fluctuations.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: “As we have said from the outset, the school was selected for a no-notice inspection because it was failing to comply with the statutory requirement to provide parents with detailed information about the school’s curriculum on its website.

“While inspectors are paying greater attention to ensuring that schools provide a broad and balanced curriculum, they are also required to take account of the context of the school and the communities they serve.

“Ofsted’s regional director was concerned that in an earlier draft version of the report, insufficient account had been taken of the school’s context so he requested further quality assurance checks be carried out including a follow-up visit.

“The final report has now been published and sets out our findings and judgements from this inspection.”

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