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Chairman talks about efforts to put Howard Primary School at the heart of the community

Toby Slater Robins, Chairman of Governors at Howard Primary School''''PICTURE: Mecha Morton
Toby Slater Robins, Chairman of Governors at Howard Primary School''''PICTURE: Mecha Morton

Efforts are being made to improve the standard of education at an ‘inadequate’ Bury St Edmunds primary school and help the community around it.

That is the pledge made by the chairman of the board of governors at Howard Community Primary School, in Beard Road, after a damning Ofsted report was published last month.

This week, Toby Slater Robins said his role was to ensure pupils received a first class education, while he also spoke of plans to turn the former caretakers’ bungalow into a foodbank and put the school back at the heart of its community.

Howard Primary will become an academy after being rated ‘inadequate’ in every area by Ofsted during its inspection in July, with ‘four or five’ potential sponsors for the school currently being investigated.

The decision will be made next year, but the school does not have the final say on which sponsor takes control.

“It is not a decision we make,” said Mr Slater Robins. “This school is so important to the local authority and the Department of Education that the amount of effort being put into finding a suitable sponsor is phenomenal.

“The sponsor needs to have the capacity, the people and the experience to support our school, but it also needs to have money, because getting schools out of trouble is expensive.”

Mr Slater Robins joined the board of governors in July 2016 ‘to do one thing: to make sure that the offer that the kids get is better than it was’.

“It was never going to be simple, it was going to be quite difficult and it was going to be quite turbulent at times and it’s been all those things – in spades,” he said.

In addition to the work within the school, Mr Slater Robins has met community leaders and organisations such as Havebury Housing Partnership and Bury Drop-in to see what the school could do to support the community.

“The connection between us and the community was broken,” he said. “You can’t deliver school improvement without the support of the community. Our first priority is teaching and learning, but what more can we do?”

It is hoped opening a branch of the foodbank in the former caretaker’s bungalow could help where there was a need on the estate, while it is also hoped to get other services – such as the CAB – on site.

“We are a good port of call to provide services such as a foodbank,” he said.

Mr Slater Robins described the Ofsted report as ‘devastating’ and said he would have resigned had it been critical of him. But it was not.

Work to address problems started within days of the inspection, with safeguarding issues tackled before the end of the summer term and a ‘huge amount of effort’ put into all areas before September.

“I see my role as to be the greatest advocate for these kids and this community,” said Mr Slater Robins.

“This place needs as many people to fight for it as possible. The children deserve to have the most exceptional education that we can give them. Up to now, we haven’t done that. We have to try even harder to get ourselves out of the situation we are in.”

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