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Downham Market Preparatory School and Montessori Nursery rated “good”

PUBLISHED: 10:09 31 October 2018 | UPDATED: 08:58 01 November 2018

Principal Elizabeth Laffeaty-Sharpe serving lunch to pupils after snow prevented the school's caterers from attending last winter  Picture: Ian Burt

Principal Elizabeth Laffeaty-Sharpe serving lunch to pupils after snow prevented the school's caterers from attending last winter Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

A school which took legal action after being labelled “inadequate” by Ofsted has now been rated “good”.

Inspectors visited Downham Market Preparatory School and Montessori Nursery at Stow Bardolph, near Downham, last November.

They said leadership and management at the school, which has 101 pupils, were inadequate.

But principal Elizabeth Laffeaty-Sharpe, who founded the school in 1984, said there were factual inaccuracies in the report.

She obtained an injunction preventing the document from being published and was going to seek a judicial review.

Inspectors returned to Stow Bardolph in September. They rated leadership, teaching, pupils’ outcomes and personal development as good.

Their report said: “Since the previous inspection, the proprietor has ensured that safeguarding is effective. All the independent school standards are now being met.

“The new headmaster has an accurate view of the strengths and areas for improvement of the school. Leadership and management are good.”

Inspectors also looked at early years provision at Downham Market Preparatory School and Montessori Nursery, which they rated “outstanding”.

Mrs Laffeaty-Sharpe said: “It has taken 10 months and cost us over £100,000 to take our case to court and reach an agreement with Ofsted, to carry out a full re-inspection of the school and nursery.

“During that time our parents have been extremely supportive. They wrote letters and emails to Elizabeth Truss, our local MP and Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted.

“They expressed their anger and concern about the inaccuracy of the disputed report and asked them to support the school’s request for a re-inspection.”

The latest report says that parents are “positive and confident” about the school’s work.

“Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural education is a strength,” the report adds. “Pupils develop into caring and responsible citizens.”

Paul Brooker, Ofsted’s regional director for the East of England, said: “The judgements reached in September 2018 and in November 2017 reflect the findings from two separate, equally valid inspections of Downham Preparatory School and Montessori Nursery.

“In November 2017, our inspectors found that teaching at the school was good, but its leadership and management was rated inadequate, primarily because safeguarding was ineffective. The publication of this report was delayed because the school pursued an unsuccessful legal challenge to our inspection findings. The legal proceedings were concluded by the consent of both parties.

“In September this year, our inspectors found that leaders had responded to the findings and recommendations in the previous inspection report. Safeguarding was judged to be effective, and leadership and management is now good. Importantly, leaders had taken essential steps to ensure that the school is meeting the independent school standards that were not met at the time of the November 2017 inspection.”

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