Henfield school celebrates its achievements as headteacher speaks about stressful Ofsted inspection and lockdown period

St Peter's Primary School in Henfield is celebrating it achievements - after impressing two inspection teams within a month.

Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 10:03 am
Updated Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 10:04 am

Ofsted visited the school in February, and has now published its report rating it as 'Good' across the board and praising its leadership and rapidly rising outcomes.

Headteacher Denise Maurice congratulated her school's 'amazing' staff and pupils.

She said: "You won’t see a banner outside our school broadcasting our Ofsted rating because I don’t agree with celebrating the ‘machine’ that aims to raise standards in such a an unsupportive and a high stakes manner.

Henfield Primary head Denise Maurice with pupils, pictured before lockdown

"However, I cannot let the moment pass to celebrate the amazing achievements of the St Peter’s children and staff who all had to endure not one but two Ofsted inspections within a month!

"The inspectors first arrived on 4th February and as anyone working in education knows it is a highly stressful 48 hours as reputations and careers hang on the information gleaned.

"We were delighted with our initial feedback as the inspection team captured the essence of how our learning community works and recognised the impact of our recent school improvements. In the weeks to follow, whilst I was waiting for the final report to arrive, you can imagine my utter disbelief to receive a phone call from Ofsted telling me the that we needed to have another inspection as the first one didn’t meet their Quality Assurance control!"

She said exactly one month to the day, they welcomed a second inspection team to St Peter's whose findings echoed that of the first - but then the report's publication was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It was finally published in May.

Mrs Maurice said: "I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank and congratulate our pupils who well and truly impressed the inspection teams with the quality of their work and their confidence and succintness when discussing their learning; our amazing staff team who bring so much creativity and commitment to St Peter's and to all our families who support us in so many ways from gardening, volunteering in classrooms and raising money through the PTA."

Speaking of the pandemic and school closure, she said that although staff were exhausted from enduring the two Ofsted inspections, 'our staff's team spirit jumped into action' and within two days had prepared home learning packs of exercise books and equipment, delivering about 100 around the village to children not in school.

"Vickie Bacon, from Digital Pencil Ltd, who provides our iPad training popped into school on the Thursday before we closed to train all the teachers in how to use the Seesaw app. This is a learning platform by which teachers can upload activities and then the children can communicate with their teacher and upload work, which they in turn can give feedback on.

"On top of planning and monitoring children’s work, teachers have called parents weekly to offer advice and support. Feedback from parents is that this is something that they have really appreciated. Teachers and TAs have also been in school supporting Key Worker children and we are delighted to have to our Reception, Y1 and Y6 children already back in school, although it's only for two days a week we can currently only accommodate half a classroom under current guidelines.

"All being well, we plan to have all the children back for two days a week before we break up for the summer holidays. Fortunately we are blessed with the space and staff numbers to be able to do this.

"It has been an immensely challenging and stressful time for school leaders having to manage frequent changes in policy and advice alongside looking after their pupils and staff."

Mrs Maurice said she was frustrated to read comments by head of Ofsted Amanda Spielman, who has been reported as calling for a more 'can do' and 'optimistic approach' by schools.

"The primary headteachers in our locality have been working flat out, endeavouring to do the best they can for their school communities within the guidelines. They, along with the rest of their staff, have not been able to take their usual breaks, as schools haven’t closed since February half term and so are exhausted.

"We have plenty of ambition, - some gratitude and a well-earned rest so that we can re-charge for September is what we need.

"This school closure time has been a steep learning curve for educators and families alike! I think everyone would agree how much we all need school and that school isn’t just about learning – the social interaction plays a massive part in everyone’s mental well-being.

"For us at St Peter’s it has afforded us the opportunity to reflect on how we teach, as we have been able to harness technology in new ways and how we can improve our work life balance."

Ofsted inspectors rated St Peter's as 'Good' in all areas of assessment.

The report said: "Much-improved leadership has enabled the school to improve its curriculum resources and to provide well-equipped indoor and outdoor learning environments.

"Pupils think St Peter’s is a great place to learn. They appreciate the support they are given, enjoy their time at school and learn well.

"Pupils at St Peter’s reflect their school values, ‘respectful, resourceful, resilient and aiming high’, in everything they do. This is because staff have high expectations and support all pupils to meet them. Teachers challenge thinking by using pupils’ interests to provide stimulating activities and experiences. One pupil told us, ‘Sometimes, it is a little hard for me, but I don’t give up. I keep on trying'.

"Leaders are ambitious for the pupils, and the school celebrates endeavour and success. Outcomes have risen rapidly. Pupils talk enthusiastically about the many sporting achievements, their visits out of school, the visitors to school and their responsibilities. These positively contribute to pupils’ confidence and well-being. Staff and governors care deeply about the pupils of St Peter’s and the local community. As a team, they have created a nurturing school where pupils flourish and feel safe. Pupils’ behaviour is good, and this produces a pleasant and productive learning environment."

The report said that inspectors had returned a month after their initial visit to 'gather additional information to secure the evidence base' because of 'concerns identified during the quality assurance process'. It added: "As is usual when this occurs, this inspection report was not published until Ofsted was satisfied that the inspection was secure."