School still reeling from Ofsted report
THE mood among governors and staff at Wortham Primary, near Diss, is heavy with shock and frustration.Like a star pupil left stunned by a bad grade, the school is still trying to come to terms with an Office for Standards in Education inspection report which it feels is unjustly harsh.
THE mood among governors and staff at Wortham Primary, near Diss, is heavy with shock and frustration.
Like a star pupil left stunned by a bad grade, the school is still trying to come to terms with an Office for Standards in Education inspection report which it feels is unjustly harsh.
Following a three-day visit in March, inspectors decided there were “serious weaknesses” in some aspects of the school's work in that leadership, management and governance were “unsatisfactory”.
In the words of chairman of governors Susan Rae, it felt like they rolled up in a tank and fired.
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Eight years ago, long-standing head Sue Hogg was taking home fudge from Highgrove House after shaking hands with the Prince of Wales.
She had been invited up after the school's first inspection under the new Ofsted system. The small school, set just off the A143, was deemed excellent, and singled out for the special honour of visiting Prince Charles at his Royal abode.
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The school's second Ofsted also went well, although there was work to do on ICT, and accommodation issues were raised.
Two years ago, in 2002, it was named a school of achievement, and last year, after years of hard grind and fundraising, it celebrated the opening of a brand new hall where children could come together for assemblies and have room to do PE indoors. The grounds were also improved.
Then, like a bolt from the blue, the third Ofsted inspection delivered a stunning blow to morale.
The report does point up positive aspects at the school, and says that standards are good in English, maths, science and art and design by year 6, and teaching is sound overall.
However, it says the curriculum is “insufficiently balanced”, and links with parents and the local education authority are “poor”.
The sense of hurt among governors and staff at the school is palpable.
The primary has five teachers including the head, Miss Hogg, who has worked at the school since 1982 and has been head for 17 years, and there are a number of staff and governors who have served there for many years.
It is clear they set their standards high, and are baffled by the wounding assessment.
The corridors and classrooms are filled with colourful children's artwork and there is a quiet hum as pupils get down to work.
Although the school readily admits it has progress to make on ICT, governors cannot work out how teaching and achievement can be satisfactory unless the school is being well run.
The primary has a roll call of 76 pupils, and a number of children travel in from outside the catchment area.
It's the sort of school which coach drivers enjoy coming to because they know pupils will be well-behaved.
Maureen Ling, a governor for 28 years, is clearly upset.
“It's just so disheartening for the staff and they work so hard. I thought Ofsted was supposed to be about raising the standards in schools, not demoralising the whole structure,” she said.
“One wonders if they were in the same school I have been in while they have been doing work and the children are attentive and well-behaved and that's not been reflected at all.”
The school, which will be re-inspected in six to eight months to see if the “failings” have been addressed, is planning to complain to Ofsted.
Jill Grovesnor, a teacher at the school for the past 15 years, says she has found it a rewarding place to work and enjoys the intimate atmosphere of a small school where you know every pupil.
“We do work as a team,” she said. “I really felt that you could not really recognise our school.”
“You don't teach in that way. You accentuate the positive. You certainly don't try to destroy their self-esteem.”