School gets damning inspection report

By Liz HearnshawA SHORTAGE of senior staff during a crucial inspection period has been blamed for problems at a school that have seen it judged as having “serious weaknesses”.

By Liz Hearnshaw

A SHORTAGE of senior staff during a crucial inspection period has been blamed for problems at a school that have seen it judged as having “serious weaknesses”.

Inspectors have branded the effectiveness of Sexton's Manor Community Primary School in Bury St Edmunds as “unsatisfactory” and said its performance in January had declined since their last visit two years ago.

They ruled standards in English, science and mathematics must be improved to allow pupils to achieve their full potential, while the progress of the 190 students also needed to be better monitored.

School headteacher, Des Talbot, blamed the damning report on the long-term absence of both her deputy and assistant headteachers, both of whom have been on sick leave for a lengthy period, which meant the full-time staff of nine was severely depleted.

“We had some staff absences, with two senior members on long-term sick leave, and unfortunately we had the inspection during a momentary dip for us,” said Mrs Talbot.

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“Now we have the support from the local education authority to get some temporary members of staff in to deal with the situation.

“It is very difficult when people are first off ill and sick notes get extended from a couple of weeks to a month.”

She added: “We changed some staff around at half-term to begin to help the two classes most effected and we are now in a situation where we have been able to put some temporary staff in place from Easter.

“I do not think the local education authority could have done any more. It has been a very difficult and challenging time for the school in terms of staffing.”

Staff now have 40 days to draw up an action plan with the help of the local education authority and governing body.

Inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education will visit the school again later in the year. If improvements have not been made, it is possible it may be placed on special measures.

But Mrs Talbot said she felt positive the next inspection would be favourable and added: “The inspectors had every confidence that, with the permanent staff, we would rapidly come out of serious weaknesses. I think they saw some very good teaching when they visited.”

Martin Harvey, the county council's area senior adviser, said it would work with the school to ensure standards were raised.

“We will be monitoring the school's progress and helping it to ensure that improvements are made in order to provide the best education for all pupils at the school,” he added.

“There were temporary staff in place, but, of course, when two of the most senior members of staff go sick it is very difficult to replace them with people of the same seniority.

“I think this is an easy inspection to put right because once the school returns to its full-staffing complement the problems really ought to have been solved.”

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