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Bury St Edmunds: Middle school fighting closure receives ‘requires improvement’ rating by Ofsted

08:08 26 March 2014

Howard Middle School in Bury St Edmunds

Howard Middle School in Bury St Edmunds

A middle-school in Bury St Edmunds which is fighting against closure has been rated ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted.

An inspection at the end of February downgraded Howard Middle School from its previous rating of ‘Good’, saying that attainment at the end of Key Stage 2 was too low.

Suffolk County Council is currently in public consultation on plans to close the school in 2016 as part of the move to a two-tier education system throughout the county.

The report alluded to these plans, saying: “This has had an impact on staff turnover, with a number of new staff joining the school in September 2013.

It later added: “Several changes of staff had a negative impact on pupils’ achievement in Key Stage 2 in 2013, particularly in mathematics”.

However yesterday the head teacher at the school, Greg Sadler, said he wouldn’t point the finger at the council’s consultation to explain the inspection result.

“We have had a turnover of staff,” he said. “The issue isn’t the people leaving; it’s that I can’t get people to replace them because nobody wants to come to a school that has an uncertain future.”

Mr Sadler criticised the Ofsted report as “contradictory” and “unfair”.

Ofsted found the school to require improvement in every aspect of the report. It said, “Pupils do not make enough progress in their first two years at the school to fill the gaps in their learning.”

It added: “Inspectors did not observe consistently good progress in lessons or in pupils’ work over time across the range of subjects. More-able pupils do not always make the progress they should because the work they complete is not challenging enough.”

Too much teaching required improvement, the report said, “During the inspection, only a few examples of good teaching were observed, although no teaching was inadequate.”

The report did note, “Strong spiritual, moral, social and cultural education supports pupils’ personal development.”

Mr Sadler said the report failed to take account of the low starting points for pupils at the school.

“When you run a middle school you should be looking at data on entry and data on leaving,” he said.

“We are working hard with the primaries to ensure that kids come out of those primaries at exactly where they should be.”

Pupils, he said, were making three years of progress in the first two years at Howard Middle School, which he described as “outstanding”. However, he added, Ofsted expected them to make four years of progress in that time.

He also said it was “slightly unfair” that the report criticised the school for “too low” results at Key Stage 2 when it acknowledged that, “By the time they leave the school at the end of Year 8… pupils have made more rapid progress and achieve levels broadly in line for their age in mathematics and reading.”

Mr Sadler said: “There are a lot of contradictions throughout the report. It said performance management of staff is rigorous and that we have not been afraid to move away from inadequate teaching but at the same time they said leadership has not been successful in ensuring pupils at KS2 reach floor targets.

“I do challenge the judgement, I don’t think it’s right.”

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