Angry Yarmouth head to appeal over critical Ofsted

A GREAT Yarmouth school is mounting a vigorous appeal against a damning Ofsted report which places it in special measures for the first time.

The report, published this week, is highly critical of management and teaching at St Nicholas Priory Junior School in the Market Place putting the 375 pupil school in the lowest possible category and rating it “inadequate” overall.

But headteacher Mark Adams said that other schools with worse results had not been tagged as failing and that the inspector had overlooked the many things that the school did well from its base at the heart of one of the country’s most deprived council wards.

Norfolk County Council and the board of governors are supporting Mr Adams in his “rigorous and vehement” bid to be lifted out of the demoralising judgment, which he says stands to do more damage than good to the school and its pupils who are proud of the progress they are making.

The critical report comes less than three years after the school was rated as good with some outstanding features and Mr Adams - the school’s head for 11 years - praised for his excellent leadership and relentless focus on improvement.

Since then Mr Adams argues, results have improved across with the amount of children achieving level four in both English and Maths making an impressive leap from from 40pc to just over 59pc - a crucial fraction of a percent below the Government’s 60pc “floor standard.”

He said: “According to Ofsted’s judgments we have gone from near the top to the bottom in less than three years. Our argument is that we have improved in every one of the 27 measurements. What they are saying is that we have not improved rapidly enough.

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“We lodged a very rigorous complaint on September 9 so they delayed the report while those investigations took place and now some of the language has been changed.

“We put in a further complaint, and now the report has been published we can appeal. We say the report is unfair and inconsistent when compared to other schools. If they say these statistics are not high enough I would agree but schools with lower results are not on special measures. We do not feel we have been treated fairly.”

If the appeal fails the school will be inspected every term until Ofsted feels it is ready for a full inspection.

“I think we have an excellent case,” Mr Adams said. “But I have to be realistic and work with the situation we are in and work as hard as we can to get out of that. Behaviour has been something we have worked very hard with and we have not had an exclusion for two and a half years, and lowered the number of internal exclusions from more than 500 days to 120 days.”

He criticised Ofsted for using emotive and negative language like “inadequate”, “persistently low”, and “not good enough” which gave an inaccurate impression of what was going on at the school where results were improving every year and children said they enjoyed school. Although it made some positive observations these were overlooked in the summing up.

The report concludes: “The school’s effectiveness has declined considerably since its previous inspection.”

Pupils are told in a letter from the lead inspector they are not making enough progress. The school is currently over-subscribed with 140 pupils vying for 96 places this year. Mr Adams says based on tests carried out last year the current Year 6 can expect to produce the best scores in the school’s history - without the help of special measures.

Fred Corbett, assistant director of children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We are surprised by Ofsted’s findings, particularly around the school’s capacity to improve and leadership and management.

“Whilst there is a clear need to further raise levels of attainment at the school we feel that the right strategies are in place to achieve this and the school is making progress. We will be working closely with the school to address the issues identified by inspectors. but we do have concerns about the inspection process and have raised these with Ofsted.”