New leadership stemming ‘decline in standards’ at town primary school

St Michael's CofE VA Primary and Nursery School in Aylsham, during its blessing by the Bishop of Nor

St Michael's CofE VA Primary and Nursery School in Aylsham, during its blessing by the Bishop of Norwich in 2015. Picture: ARCHANT

Fresh leadership is helping to reverse a prolonged decline in standards at a Norfolk primary school.

St Michael's Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary and Nursery School in Aylsham was judged to require improvement by Ofsted following a visit by inspectors in late October.

The inspectorate said standards had slipped since the school was last inspected five years ago, when it was judged to be good.

Leaders, governors and advisers from the county council had attempted to stem the decline, but Ofsted said it was not until the current headteacher John Neenan took up his post in September 2018 that improvements started to pick up pace.

Parents and carers said they had noticed improvements at the school, which expanded from an infant to a primary school in the 2018/19 academic year.

Ofsted's inspection report said: "The headteacher has quickly earned the confidence of pupils, parents, staff and governors. Staff appreciate the support they receive and the consideration of their workload.

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"Nevertheless, the headteacher and governors are under no illusions about the significant amount of work to be done to improve the quality of education."

Inspectors said the school's curriculum was not well thought through and not ambitious enough, with the teaching of reading and maths said to need particular improvement.

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Children in nursery and reception were said to settle well, but inspectors felt the curriculum did not properly prepare them for the move into year one.

Pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) were also said not to be getting an "effective" education.

However, the report said pupils felt happy and safe at the school and that recent work to improve behaviour had been successful.

Headteacher Mr Neenan said: "All staff and governors at St Michael's Primary are absolutely focussed and committed to delivering the best education possible for our children.

"Whilst we are disappointed with the overall result, I am pleased they recognised that since my appointment as the new headteacher, 'improvements have gained momentum'.

"This progress is through the hard work and dedication of all staff, and I have absolute faith in our team to move the school forward to where it needs to be."

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