School loses ‘outstanding’ status after GCSE debacle and framework change

Hugh O'Neill Head Teacher at St Benedict's Catholic Upper School
Hugh O'Neill Head Teacher at St Benedict's Catholic Upper School
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A headteacher says last year’s GCSE debacle and a new Ofsted framework has cost his school its ‘outstanding’ rating.

St Benedict’s Catholic School, in Bury St Edmunds, has dropped to ‘good’ with Ofsted inspectors, who spoke highly of the teaching, students’ progress, the sixth form and leaders.

However, the school is not outstanding because ‘teachers do not always make sure more-able students are sufficiently challenged and at times marking does not show students what they have done well and how to improve’.

Headteacher Hugh O’Neill said the dip was ‘not unexpected’ after the school was hit by last year’s controversial English GCSEs results, which many teachers across the country believed were the victim of downgrading.

He said: “We know that our GCSE results in 2012 were much lower than usual, largely because of the GCSE English issues. We went from being the top school in Suffolk for both GCSE and A-level in 2011 to the top school for A-level in 2012, but not for GCSE.

“That has cost us our outstanding rating. We accept this.”

He also pointed to Ofsted’s new framework, which has ‘already dropped the vast majority of schools down a grade compared to their previous rating’.

Mr O’Neill said: “The Government is keen to make ‘outstanding’ a very exclusive grade, and one year of lower results at GCSE has been enough to lose us that exclusive status.

“We know that, if we had been inspected a year ago, we might have kept our ‘outstanding’ grade.”

He added that they ‘remain committed as ever to excellence’ and are planning to win back their ‘outstanding’ status.

“As a school that has always sought to improve we now have a new challenge.

“Parents and students have many ways of deciding the merits of the school that they choose, and we are confident that, here at St Benedict’s, we will continue to offer an excellent education for all.”