I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my blog ‘Living with the Label’ written to explain and share the journey of our school following OFSTED in January 2017.
Inadequate: Living with the Label.
Being a school labelled as inadequate by OFSTED in January 2017 simply marked the start of a special journey, something that is making us effective and better in our practice.
My journey with Astbury School began twenty-one years ago when I started teaching in the infant class. Since that very first day, my heart has been drawn to serving the children, families and community who are the life of the school. Upon my appointment as Head teacher, in January 2016, I started to build a strong governing team to challenge and support the school in its actions and developed leadership across all levels of the school. This brought renewed vision and strategic direction to set the pathway to planning for excellence and my staff embarked on a rigorous and enriching training plan, giving them the tools that they needed to deliver outstanding teaching in a nurturing environment.
I knew that first class education was essential and that my children deserved the very best.
I received the first major milestone from the Church SIAMS inspectors in December 2016, where we were rated as ‘good’. This involved looking at the school’s Christian vision, how we embraced that in the running of the school, and most importantly enabling all pupils to flourish.
A SIAMS inspector stated: “All members of the school community recognise that, although the Head Teacher has been in post for less than a year, the impact of her vision on the development of the school’s Christian character has already been and continues to be extensive…this has impacted strongly on all aspects of church school improvement.”
When the school was labelled in January 2017, I also took solace in the following comment from Ofsted: “The new Head Teacher’s responsiveness to pupils’ needs, particularly for new arrivals to the school, has ensured that these pupils make sufficient progress from their starting points.”
Ofsted also reported that: “Governors monitor and evaluate the work of the school with increasing vigour. They ensure that the needs of all pupils are met through the effective use of additional funding and human resources.”
Parents were aware that the school had experienced difficulties, but they had faith in my ability to lead the school forward and commented favourably on the change in atmosphere within the school and on the recent changes in the way in which expectations of pupils’ behaviour have been raised.
Testament to this were the Pupil Progress Scores in July 2017, they had dramatically improved from being inadequate in 2014, 2015 and 2016, a clear sign that the school was no longer ‘coasting’.
In the latter half of 2017, after a delay brought about by the General Election, we were finally able to access significant school improvement funding. This accelerated our progress, enabling further staff training, including working with an educational consultancy, the Literacy Tree and the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics. The Literacy Tree placed children’s literature at the core of our English teaching, transforming English across the school and mastery in maths enables our children to participate, be inspired and succeed in mathematics and supports our teachers in lesson planning and meeting the needs of all children.
Our School Improvement partners, Cheshire East and Chester Diocese Academy Trust (CDAT) – Sue Riley previously of Brereton C of E Primary School, and temporary Head Teacher before I took my position, have all provided positive observational evidence and feedback which supports how far we have come as a school on our journey towards outstanding provision and gives external validity to our progress. “The children showed good attitudes to learning both when working individually and collaboratively. The lesson was well planned and the children were engaged in their learning. The classroom environment is bright, colourful and supportive of pupils learning.” June 2018.
We have also been able to invest in our buildings and infrastructure, with our brand-new extension to the reception area, creating an altogether safer and more inviting entrance to our school and enhancing our flexible learning environment. The classrooms have been refreshed with new furniture, carpet and attractive displays being used to support children in their learning and to show off our children’s hard work.
Through it all, our children have continued to flourish: they have confidently taken place in the 2nd Annual Town Triathlon, Eaton Bank Dance Festival, Town Choir Festival, the School Gardens’ Competition and the Cheshire Police Social Media Challenge; where we took first place. Not forgetting their well-renowned performance at Astbury May Day and two floats in the Congleton Carnival.
Further improvements on the horizon
During the remainder of this year and the start of next, we shall be developing a daily mile running track on the school field, which will support active learning. We will also be regenerating the EYFS outdoor classroom, creating a stimulating all year round learning environment.
Most significantly, we are due to become an Academy in early 2019, joining an established Multi Academy Trust (CDAT) with a proven record for school improvement. Once that milestone is achieved, we will be ready, and on countdown for the next Ofsted visit under a new Ofsted framework currently being developed for September 2019. It is only then that we will be able to cut off the label, which is a cross we have had to bear for some time now due to Ofsted being unable to re-inspect us until academisation.
Overall, I am proud of how far we have come, and although it has been an up-hill climb, we are able to see the shoots of growth being recognised, these are being nurtured, and my aspirations are becoming a reality.
Please take a look at some of the exciting things that we do at our school on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/astburyschool/
If you want to discuss this in any more detail, please ask to see me.
Newsletter November 15th 2018