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Ofsted: Bury St Edmunds County Upper School spent 'too much time' challenging 'inadequate' rating




Leaders at a Bury St Edmunds school rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted have spent ‘too much time’ challenging the judgement which has ‘slowed improvement’.

County Upper, in Beeton’s Way, was judged to require ‘significant improvement’ following an inspection in January in which the watchdog found that, although the school was ‘outstanding’ in several key areas, ‘leaders failed to take all reasonable steps to ensure pupils’ safety’.

However, an Ofsted monitoring inspection on July 3 has ruled that leaders and managers are ‘not taking effective action towards the removal of the serious weaknesses designation’.

County Upper School in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
County Upper School in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

In a letter to headteacher Vicky Neale, inspector John Mitcheson said: “The stance taken by you, governors and trustees in doubting the findings of the previous inspection, rather than accepting them, has slowed the school’s improvement.

“Safeguarding is still not as effective as all other aspects of the school's work. This is because leaders have focused too much time on challenging the outcomes of the inspection.”

He said that the school’s action plan is ‘not fit for purpose’ but the Bury St Edmunds All-Through Trust’s statement of action ‘is fit for purpose’.

On the progress made, Mr Mitcheson said Mrs Neale had ‘taken decisive action to improve pupils’ safety on site’ with new fencing at the front of the school and further fencing planned later this term.

Electronic registration, implemented this term, ‘provides leaders with a clearer overview of pupils’ daily attendance’ and the management of safeguarding is ‘improving but at this stage not all procedures are carried out consistently and systematically’.

Recent action to restore collaborative working with Suffolk County Council has ‘not worked and relations have broken down’.

Pupils were ‘positive about the recent improvements’ and told inspectors they felt ‘secure’.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: "It is the role of the local authority to take the safety and welfare of all pupils very seriously, this includes those who may be vulnerable.

"Following the monitoring inspection report from Ofsted, Suffolk County Council will continue to work closely with County Upper School to assist them to address the points raised and we will challenge the academy where we believe the safety of its pupils is not being fully considered."

A Department for Education spokesman said the Regional Schools Commissioner was 'continuing to work closely' with the school, Suffolk County Council and the chairman of the trust 'to resolve the concerns highlighted by the latest Ofsted report'.

Steve Boor, chairman of the Bury St Edmunds All-Through Trust, said: "We are clearly disappointed that the many changes the school has implemented have not been sufficient to fully convince Ofsted of the effectiveness of safeguarding at the school.

"There are further changes we have made since the monitoring visit and others which are pending and we are confident that the situation by September will look very different."



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