Bury St Edmunds middle school to challenge Ofsted ‘inadequate’ judgement

Geoff Barton
Geoff Barton
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A Bury St Edmunds middle school is to challenge Ofsted after it was judged ‘inadequate’.

Inspectors found Hardwick Middle School, in Mayfield Road ‘requires improvement’ in leadership and management, behaviour and safety of pupils and quality of teaching and is ‘inadequate’ in pupil achievement.

They found that students’ attainment at Key Stage 2 has ‘declined’ since its last inspection in 2012 when it was graded ‘good’ and last year was ‘significantly below average’ in writing and mathematics.

Meanwhile, disadvantaged students’ attainment was ‘far below that of others’ and ‘progress accelerates thereafter but by the end of Year 8 the attainment of a significant minority is below the level expected for their age’.

However, they noted that its recently appointed headteacher, senior leaders and governors have ‘identified the right priorities for improving the quality of teaching and learning’ and ‘standards are rising’.

The school, which is due to close in 2016 as the majority of Bury moves to two tier education, is in a ‘soft federation’ with King Edward VI School.

Geoff Barton, head at King Edward VI, serves as Hardwick’s executive head while Rachel Forward, previously assistant head at King Edward VI, is Hardwick’s head of school.

In a letter to parents, they said: “We are in dispute with Ofsted over the gradings. It feels to us as if the inspection focused too much on historic results rather than the progress of current students. We are also frustrated because the behaviour judgement is similarly linked to past results – even though inspectors comment on how impressive students’ conduct, attendance and attitudes are.

“That said, we are encouraged by many of the comments the inspectors make. They noted just how much the school is improving, and how much more progress students of all backgrounds and abilities are now making.”

Inspectors also found that ‘teaching is improving as a result of the changes leaders have made’ and students are ‘punctual, polite and they usually conduct themselves well around the site and in lessons’.

In a statement to the Bury Free Press, Mr Barton said they knew new Ofsted standards ‘would prove tough for any middle school’.

He said: “Whilst we do not accept some of the gradings and are challenging them, the inspectors clearly recognise how much impact the head of school Rachel Forward and her team have made in just 15 weeks.”

Ms Forward said: “I always said when I took on the leadership of the school in September that we would not allow Ofsted to distract us.

“In fact, they have given a very strong endorsement of the great work our team of staff have been doing and - most importantly – they have noted the superb qualities of our students.”

Phil Bowcher, chairman of governors, added: “Governors are disappointed that the inspection team didn’t take enough notice of the progress that students are now making across the school.

“We are vigorously challenging the gradings. But the inspection report totally vindicates the decision made last summer to ask the King Edward’s team to oversee our school.

“We are delighted that inspectors demonstrate so clearly the impact this is already making and how happy, safe, well behaved and purposeful the Hardwick students are.”

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “While Ofsted does not comment on individual complaints, we take all complaints very seriously and will investigate the issues raised in line with our published policies and procedures.”