School told it must improve

Headteacher Hilary Webb

Headteacher Hilary Webb

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by

OUR Lady’s Catholic Primary School has become the first Oxford school to be told that it ‘requires improvement’ – reigniting the row over the Ofsted rating.

The school in Oxford Road, Cowley, follows Southwold Primary, Bicester, and St Mary’s Primary, Banbury, in being given the controversial new Ofsted judgement.

The category replaces ‘satisfactory’ and was put in place to try to galvanise ‘coasting schools’ to aspire towards being at least good.

Last month Southwold headteacher Anna Ballance hit out at the negative terminology which she claimed set the school back six months.

Oxfordshire County Council education cabinet member Melinda Tilley defended the new category.

She said: “It takes the place of ‘satisfactory’ which I think a lot of people were getting complacent about. I don’t think it is a bad thing.”

But the National Union of Teachers had serious criticisms about the changed definitions.

The union’s Oxfordshire secretary, Gawain Little, said: “The whole thing makes a mockery of the high expectations all teachers have.

“It’s as if they are saying good and outstanding schools shouldn’t be seeking to improve, which is ridiculous.

“By constantly moving the goalposts, they are under-mining any faith in Ofsted judgments among teachers and the broader community.”

Our Lady’s was told not all teaching was good, and where work set was not challenging enough, pupils’ progress was too slow, leading to some children misbehaving.

Support for children who speak English as an additional language was not managed systematically enough, so these pupils did not do as well as they could, inspectors said.

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One of the criticisms was the school did not offer enough opportunities for children at the early stages of learning to read to an adult in school.

Our Lady’s, which has 309 pupils, is one of 45 which has signed up to the Oxford Mail-backed Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, which will give targeted children extra chances to read with teaching assistants and volunteers.

But there was praise, too, for awareness of what needed to be done to improve, a very well-run foundation stage, and good teaching in Years Five and Six resulting in accelerated progress.

Headteacher Hilary Webb did not wish to comment on the new category.

But she said: “We are pleased Ofsted acknowledged many of the strengths of Our Lady’s School, including the strong Christian ethos which supports pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development well.

“Through robust school improvement planning, governors and senior leaders are working together with a strong and committed staff to ensure all children demonstrate the accelerated progress Ofsted wished to see to gain a good category at the next school inspection.”

The school has pupils from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, with 38 different home languages spoken.

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