'Ofsted has set us back six months'

First published in Bicester Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

A headteacher has said a new inspection rating that her school “requires improvement” has set her efforts back by six months.

Southwold Primary School in Bicester is only the second in the county to receive the new rating, which replaces “satisfactory” judgements.

Headteacher Anna Ballance, who took up post in January, said the negativity implied by the new terminology had put her school back six months.

She said: “Throughout the report, it acknowledges that we are improving since I came to the school and yet the term requires improvement makes it seem as though we have gone backwards.

“I felt I had the staff now working with me, the parents were beginning to work with me and the children and I felt like we were moving forwards but this feels as though it has knocked us back six months.

“Now I have to pick it all up again and make people believe we are going in the right direction – which we are.

“It was very unhelpful and the report read much more negatively than the feedback we received during the inspection.”

The report said the school did not meet the criteria for good because although attainment was improving, not enough pupils made fast progress.

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Use of grammar was weak, mental maths was not good enough and the quality of teaching variable, while the actions of senior leaders to improve teaching and learning had not been in place long enough to show a clear impact.

But a number of strengths were highlighted.

Inspector Keith Sadler said pupils’ achievement had improved considerably last year, attendance was above average and teachers knew what was expected of them.

He said: “The new headteacher, working in close partnership with the deputy headteacher, has made sure that there are good systems for checking teaching and learning.”

Mrs Ballance said actions were already being taken to address the issues raised.

She pointed out that a phonics programme implemented in September was already showing improvements.

Mrs Ballance came to the 352-pupil school from Wolvercote Primary School.

Prior to her appointment, the previous headteacher was absent for two years with the deputy acting as headteacher.

The school now faces another inspection within the next two years, and Mrs Ballance said the judgement had made her determined to get a “good” outcome.

She said: “We knew we were not yet good but we feel we are moving towards good – that hasn't come through with the terminology, especially when you are one of the first schools to go through the new framework.”

Ofsted has defended the new regime.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said: “There are too many coasting schools not providing an acceptable standard of education. Of particular concern are the 3,000 schools educating a million children that have been satisfactory two inspections in a row.”

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