A look back at region’s school successes from Ofsted’s regional director

Paul Brooker, Ofsted's regional director for the east of England. Picture: Ofsted

Paul Brooker, Ofsted's regional director for the east of England. Picture: Ofsted - Credit: Archant

Paul Brooker, Ofsted's regional director for the east of England region, reflects on a year of successes and how plans for the year ahead are going to be crucial in the face of funding cuts and staff recruitment issues.

The Eastgate Academy in King's Lynn had been rated outstanding by Ofsted. Picture: Ian Burt

The Eastgate Academy in King's Lynn had been rated outstanding by Ofsted. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

The back-to-school period can be a time of mixed emotions for staff and pupils.

Red Oak Primary School. Teacher Johnny Lee. Picture: Nick Butcher

Red Oak Primary School. Teacher Johnny Lee. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The summer holidays are over for another year and we all need to get back to work. I hope that we face this new academic year with a strong sense of momentum, fuelled by the successes of the last 12 months.

Many Norfolk and Suffolk schools did well last year.

Several that we inspected improved their rating and lots kept their good judgement. A handful achieved Ofsted's highest outstanding rating this year. This is a great achievement for them.


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Schools rated outstanding in the last year include Birchwood Primary in Suffolk. And in Norfolk - Little Melton, Cringleford and Eastgate Academy primary schools are all also now outstanding.

As they make plans for the year ahead, teachers and leaders can draw inspiration from these standout successes.

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The very best schools have lots in common. They have relentlessly high ambitions for each and every pupil.

Their staff work together to make their school a great place to attend.

Visiting – and inspecting - the best schools is a real privilege. It is wonderful to see staff and pupils working together to make sure everyone fulfils their academic and personal potential.

For some schools, the journey to outstanding has been a long one. In January this year, we rated Eastgate Academy in King's Lynn outstanding. Before becoming an academy, this was an inadequate school. Leaders here are uncompromising in their expectations of pupils. For this, they are rewarded with children who are happy and eager to learn.

Birchwood Primary School in Ipswich gained its outstanding rating last October. This was thanks to exceptional leadership, but also a brilliant curriculum.

This school promotes excellence in every aspect of children's learning. It does more than narrowly chase SATs results. Pupils experience a great range of extra activities that enrich and encourage their learning.

As in other parts of the country, schools here face funding cuts and staff recruitment problems.

Keeping up improvement is particularly difficult when it is hard to attract teachers. Schools facing these challenges should look at how their neighbours overcome similar obstacles.

Successful schools, even in our most challenging areas, develop their own staff. They nurture the next generation of leaders and have a great knack for breeding success.

Leaders in the places where it's hardest to recruit and retain staff deserve special credit.

Attracting staff to coastal towns can be hard. This makes it particularly rewarding to see two schools in Lowesoft doing so well - Red Oak and Westwood Primaries. In Yarmouth, Cliff Park Ormiston Academy and Ormiston Herman Academy also do well despite past struggles.

Social mobility is still a big challenge in Norfolk and Suffolk. But education is the solution.

When leaders plans for the year ahead, they need to consider what they'll be doing for their disadvantaged pupils.

Like those elsewhere, Norfolk and Suffolk schools get extra government funding for these children. They need to use it more effectively.

When leaders look at other schools for ideas, they should look at how they enable their most vulnerable children to thrive. Eastgate Academy is great example. The school has used additional funding to get one-on-one help with reading, writing and maths for disadvantaged pupils. This ensures they make exceptional progress.

I wish all schools in Norfolk and Suffolk the very best for this new term and the year ahead.

Don't let the enthusiasm and zeal of September wane throughout the year!

For more from Mr Brooker, follow his Twitter account on @PaulBrookerHMI

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