‘Outstanding’ school sees Ofsted rating plummet
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A Suffolk primary school has seen its Ofsted rating slip from ‘outstanding’ to ‘requires improvement’ nearly six years since its last inspection.
Bedfield Church of England Primary School, near Woodbridge, was told it requires improvement in four out of five categories following its latest Ofsted inspection in June.
The inspector criticised leaders for making "overly optimistic" evaluations of the school's performance, failing to check rigorously that pupils were making strong progress, and being slow to respond to a decline in standards.
The quality of teaching, learning and assessment was also judged to be "inconsistent" over time - with children in the early years failing to make good progress, especially in literacy and maths.
However, pastoral care and safeguarding measures were found to be strong, disadvantaged pupils were said to make "positive overall progress", and the children were judged to be "well prepared for life in modern Britain".
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It comes as Ofsted steps up its inspections of 'outstanding' schools across the UK.
Institutions rated 'outstanding' have been exempt from routine inspections since 2011 - with some schools going without an Ofsted visit for 10 years or more.
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However the independent regulator said in June it had substantially increased its inspections of such schools over the past year, amid fears parents can "no longer have confidence in their outstanding grade".
Bedfield Primary was last inspected in September 2013, when it was found to be 'outstanding' in all areas.
Teaching 'too variable to be good'
The new report said: "Leaders, including governors, have not ensured that the outstanding quality of education identified at the last inspection has been maintained.
"The acting headteacher has a clear understanding of the school's weaknesses. However, until recently, she has not had sufficient capacity to address them effectively.
"The overall quality of teaching, learning and assessment across the school is too variable to be good.
"Teaching does not consistently take pupils' starting points into account. Consequently, activities do not always build upon pupils' previous learning or provide pupils with an appropriate level of challenge.
"When this happens, pupils either struggle to complete tasks, because they do not fully understand them, or complete them quickly because they find them too easy."
The only category judged to be 'good' was pupils' personal development, behaviour and welfare - with bullying said to be "very rare", and children taught to stay safe.
The report added: "Pupils' behaviour in and out of lessons is positive. They are friendly, polite and well-mannered.
"Incidents of poor behaviour are rare, and there have been no fixed-period exclusions in recent years."
'We have the capacity to change'
Martine Sills, acting headteacher, said all staff at the school "care deeply" about the pupils, and want them to have the "very best opportunities" in life.
"We do, as the inspector commented, 'understand the actions to improve the school further', and we have 'the capacity to bring about these changes'," she said.
"Whilst we recognise there are areas to improve, the inspector noted many positive aspects of the school, which is encouraging.
"The inspector commented very favourably on the behaviour of the children and how positive they are about their school. He could see that pastoral care is strong and that 'provision for pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is effective'.
"He could see that the children are taught to be resilient learners who are not afraid to make mistakes."
She also highlighted a number of "supportive and positive" messages sent by parents in the wake of the report.
One said: "We have seen a huge improvement in [our daughter's] confidence since starting at Bedfield [...] the inspection is a snapshot only."
Another added: "Despite Ofsted's views, personally I can see the huge difference you have all made in [my son's] learning and confidence over the past year, do not feel too discouraged your hard work is appreciated."
A third parent said: "I have nothing but thanks for the education Bedfield has provided to both [of my children]. They have been immensely lucky to be able to attend such a nurturing school."