‘It is time that politicians stopped using Norfolk children as pawns in their games’ - Sheringham headteacher

Sheringham Primary School head teacher Dominic Cragoe. Photo: Karen Bethell

Sheringham Primary School head teacher Dominic Cragoe. Photo: Karen Bethell - Credit: Archant

MPs are using Norfolk's children as 'pawns in their political games', according to one of the county's most successful and respected headteachers.

Speaking as his school was rated good with outstanding features, Sheringham Primary headteacher Dominic Cragoe rounded on politicians for their 'highly damaging' portrayal of Norfolk's schools.

He said recent attacks on school standards by the head of Ofsted and the nine Norfolk MPs were 'intellectually deceitful'.

Mr Cragoe, whose 619-pupil school is the largest primary in Norfolk. acknowledged that a 'larger than average' number of the county's schools were falling short of good or outstanding Ofsted grades.

But he said there were 'huge numbers' that were doing very well, and questioned why the government did not target cash at 'great schools' that were not academies, to enable them to support weaker schools.

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Mr Cragoe said: 'I don't think that any headteacher or anybody within Norfolk accepts failure. People are working extraordinarily hard to deal with complex issues.

'But there seems to be a pictured portrayed nationally that Norfolk is not very good at educating its children and that's simply not the case.

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'It's intellectually dishonest and it does nothing for the morale of parents and teachers.'

Sheringham Primary was initially rated outstanding across the board after its inspection on July 16 and 17. But it was reviewed by Ofsted quality assurance officials, who moved it down to good.

Mr Cragoe said: 'Four inspectors and a trainee inspector inspected us for a full two days and were highly complimentary about us from nursery to year six and awarded us outstanding in all five areas.

'But this was reviewed over the summer holidays by Ofsted QA and changed to good in four areas and outstanding in one area due to above average absences and a dip in standards in 2012 which has since been eradicated.'

It is the second time in recent weeks that a Norfolk school has been downgraded between the draft and the final report. Open Academy in Norwich suffered the same fate, being downgraded from good to 'requires improvement'.

A blitz of school inspections in March revealed Ofsted's serious concerns about education standards, and was followed by the first inspection of its kind examining how the council supports school improvement.

In June, Norfolk's nine MPs gave a vote of no confidence to the then director of children's services Lisa Christensen, in the wake of a damning Ofsted report into children's services, including a ruling that the department's support and challenge for schools was 'ineffective'.

Within a few days, Mrs Christensen resigned.

Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said: 'Norfolk County Council has for far too long presided over a mediocre and complacent school system that has denied tens of thousands of children the chance of a decent education.'

In August, Ofsted rated as inadequate Norfolk's services for looked-after children.

Mr Cragoe said he was 'delighted' with Sheringham Primary's Ofsted report, and added: 'It is immensely pleasing to be able to show a very different side to all the damaging and mostly negative political posturing that went on throughout much of last year with regards to Norfolk educational standards.'

He added: 'Many headteachers in Norfolk and the local authority sought help before this year to deal with the larger than national average percentage of schools deemed not to be doing as well as they should, but until the political changes occurred at County Hall few of Norfolk's MPs seemed very interested.

'It is time that politicians stopped using Norfolk children as pawns in their political games, as was so evident last term.'

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