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Eight Norfolk schools given council warnings over standards

Pupils and staff working in a classroom. Picture: Dominic Lipinski

Pupils and staff working in a classroom. Picture: Dominic Lipinski

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Eight schools in Norfolk have been handed council warnings this year - including four given one of Ofsted’s top two ratings.

Nightingale Infant School and Nursery in Taverham.  Picture: Denise Bradley Nightingale Infant School and Nursery in Taverham. Picture: Denise Bradley

Norfolk County Council issued eight warnings to local authority schools in the current academic year, papers from its children’s services committee show.

While the council was not able to give specific reasoning, they said warnings are issued in one of three circumstances - where pupil performance is unacceptably low, where there has been a serious breakdown in school governance or where the safety of pupils or staff is threatened.

The list includes Nightingale Infant and Nursery School, in Taverham, which fell from Ofsted’s top rating, outstanding, to its lowest, inadequate, in May.

It saw the headteacher step down and parents demand answers over the school’s divisive academisation, which is likely to take place in the next few weeks.

Tom FitzPatrick. Picture: North Norfolk District Council Tom FitzPatrick. Picture: North Norfolk District Council

Another warning was given to Raleigh Infant School, in Thetford, which was rated inadequate by Ofsted in February. That month, the regional schools commissioner for the area gave permission for it to join the Eastern Multi-Academy Trust.

A spokesperson for Norfolk County Council said: “Ninety percent of Norfolk’s schools are now good or outstanding and we want all children to benefit from the very best education. This means that we will act when we have concerns about the performance at a maintained school. This includes issuing warning notices where standards, safety or leadership and governance are causing concern.”

Winterton Primary and Nelson Infant, in Norwich, were also given warnings. Both are rated requires improvement by Ofsted, and Nelson, given the grading in 2017, was approved to join the Evolution Academy Trust in March.

But the remaining four schools given notices hold either good or outstanding ratings from the watchdog, including Brancaster Primary, graded good in April, and Brisley Primary, rated outstanding in 2011.

Chris Snudden. Picture: Submitted Chris Snudden. Picture: Submitted

While the warnings are not necessarily linked to Ofsted’s outcomes, the watchdog judges leadership, quality of teaching and learning, pupil development and behaviour and outcomes.

At a children’s services committee meeting in May, councillor Tom FitzPatrick questioned whether parents were told about the notices.

Chris Snudden, assistant director for children’s services, said: “Warning notices are issued to governors and we encourage them to share them. Mostly they will do that it and will become public knowledge one way or another. We cannot force them, but we would strongly encourage it.”

Warnings can also be given to academies by the regional schools commissioner.

Caston Primary School. Picture: Ian Burt Caston Primary School. Picture: Ian Burt

Pair of schools in federation warned

A pair of schools in the same primary federation were among those handed warning notices.

Parker’s Primary, in Saham Toney, and Caston Primary, both part of the Dove Federation, were told to improve, despite both being rated good by Ofsted since 2013.

Brancaster Primary School. Picture: Ian Burt Brancaster Primary School. Picture: Ian Burt

Newsletters on the schools’ websites show a new governing body was appointed at the start of February.

It says: “The governors have started the process of reviewing a number of areas of school life and you will hear more from us about this in the future and also as we implement any changes that are needed. We will also review our changes to ensure they are successful.”

An interim, Pat George, is leading the schools while executive headteacher Cor Dekker is not at the school.

In a newsletter, the governing body wished him a “speedy recovery”.

The federation was not available for comment.

Improvements have been made

A watchdog has noted improvements made at one of the primaries handed a warning.

The council issued a notice to Brancaster Primary School months before Ofsted visited the school in April, giving it a grading of good.

But the report noted “rapid improvements” made at the school since the audit by the local authority.

The school’s last year six exam results saw just 17pc of its cohort reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths.

In the Ofsted report, which confirmed the good rating originally given in 2013, inspectors said the school had faced “considerable change”, with the local authority probe enabling it to rethink how it could improve progress made by pupils at key stage two.

They said: “Your staff are highly committed to the school. They found the local authority audit challenging. However, they acknowledge the rapid improvements they have made since this took place.”

They said a review of governance “that followed the audit” had provided useful pointers for the governing body.

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