'Simply wrong': Trust hits back at damning Ofsted report which ranked primary school as inadequate
PUBLISHED: 12:54 28 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:38 28 February 2019
An academy trust has claimed a damning Ofsted report which plunged one of its schools into special measures is "simply wrong".
Great Yarmouth Primary Academy was ranked as “inadequate” in the report, which claimed very poor behaviour was having a disproportionate impact on pupils’ progress and that disruption in the classroom was commonplace.
The academy, run by the Inspiration Trust, was also criticised for its high number of fixed-term exclusions and increasing levels of pupil absence.
Inspectors said school leaders had an “unrealistically generous” opinion of the school’s effectiveness, had not demonstrated their capacity to improve the school, and had failed to ensure teaching was effective.
But chief executive of the Inspiration Trust Dame Rachel de Souza hit back hard, saying the report was “simply wrong” and that the inspection team “made mistakes from the very beginning”.
The Trust has also made a formal complaint about the inspectors’ attitudes to safeguarding during their visit, and said it would have pursued court action, but was deterred by a potential legal bill of £100,000.
The inspection report, published on Thursday, said pupils’ attainment in reading, writing and maths was unacceptably low, with around half of pupils leaving ill-prepared for secondary school, while handwriting and punctuation skills were not improving adequately.
But the trust claimed key stage two results had risen by 9pc year-on-year and key stage one assessments had also improved.
Despite regular highly disruptive behaviour by a “sizeable minority” of pupils, children told inspectors they felt safe in school and the report said most showed consideration for others.
But the high number of fixed-term exclusions at the school was noted as a cause for concern – during the two-day inspection five pupils were excluded, while in the current academic year there have so far been 44 exclusions.
In a statement, Dame Rachel laid bare the trust’s criticisms of the education watchdog.
“We have tried to challenge these very clear problems directly with Ofsted but they have refused to listen, twisting the text of the report to fit their negative narrative rather than admit they got things wrong,” she said.
“As a trust we have invested £2m in curriculum development, resources, and training, and yet the report claims the trust does not have the capacity to improve the school.”
She added: “We do not pretend that the school is perfect – none is. But this report does not represent the school I know, or the one seen by a former regional schools commissioner adviser who reviewed it for us just days before the inspection.
“Our legal advice is that there is a case to argue but that court action would cost around £100,000, money we are not prepared to divert from front line teaching.
“Instead, we will continue to fight this seriously flawed report through Ofsted’s internal procedures – and focus the trust’s resources on helping our pupils and supporting our recently joined new principal and the dedicated staff at Great Yarmouth Primary Academy.”
The school in Dickens Avenue, which opened in 2012 and has previously been rated “good” by Ofsted, saw the appointment of a new principal in January after a term with its vice-principal at the helm.
While Ofsted acknowledged the trust had put support in place to help the school through a “period of vulnerability”, it had “come too late to sufficiently stem a decline in standards since 2016”.
Mike Smith-Clare, Labour spokesman for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, labelled the report “appalling”.
“Local children and their families have been let down. It is essential that immediate and urgent improvements are made in order for them to receive the quality primary education they deserve,” he said.
“Inadequate support, management and teaching is impacting not just on the learning of children but on their future prospects. It is wrong for attainment in reading, writing and mathematics to be deemed unacceptably low.
“It is equally wrong that the support provided for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities is not effective. This is a serious failing.”
Ofsted has been approached for comment on the Inspiration Trust’s statement.