UPDATED: Bury St Edmunds school ‘inadequate’ as standards slip to ‘all-time lows’

Howard Community Primary School
Howard Community Primary School
  • Ofsted rates school ‘inadequate’
  • Leaders, governors and local authority have ‘failed to stem decline in standards’
  • Dedication of staff praised

A primary school on a Bury St Edmunds estate has been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted after standards slipped to ‘all-time lows’.

Howard Community Primary, in Beard Road, was criticised in a report published today for a ‘badly organised’ curriculum, ‘weak’ teaching, learning and assessment while safeguarding ‘is not yet effective despite significant improvements’.

Following an inspection in July, Ofsted praised the dedication of staff but said ‘leaders, governors and the local authority have failed to stem the decline in standards’.

However, interim executive headteacher Nichola Perry has an ‘insightful understanding of the urgent priorities’ and her initial actions are ‘beginning to secure better leadership capacity’.

The school, on the Howard estate, was judged as ‘good’ by the education watchdog in 2014 but Suffolk County Council raised concerns in 2015/16.

Ofsted found that since then ‘there has not been a well co-ordinated, strategic approach by leaders, governors and the local authority to effectively and rapidly improve the quality of teaching and learning’.

The report said: “As a result, standards, most notably in key stages 1 and 2, have continued to slip to all-time lows.”

Inspectors noted the school has had a series of temporary leaders this year with ‘little clarity about their strategic roles in the short and longer term’.

Numerous leaders and staff have ‘worked hard to try and raise concerns and support pupils during this turbulent time’ as the deputy headteacher and a core of other staff have ‘attempted to bring about improvements’.

“However, these improvements are constantly hindered by the raft of interim leaders who arrive and leave school, with a lack of shared strategic vision between them,” the report said.

Noting how many staff ‘show immense care for pupils’, Ofsted said that when the school moved to Beard Road last September as part of the transition to two tier education staff spent their annual leave moving resources and equipment to the site.

“Much of the site was not ready for pupils, so staff and leaders spent large amounts of time establishing appropriate temporary classrooms,” inspectors said.

“Some of the accommodation, including in the early years, is still tired, well worn or unsuitable for use by pupils.”

The interim executive headteacher has ‘rapidly secured a full staffing structure’ and two interim governors appointed by the local authority are ‘diligent and dedicated to raising standards’.

Inspectors added: “The future of leadership in the school remains unclear.

“The executive headteacher is now in position for three days per week and on an interim basis.

“Parents have received confused and mixed messages about who will be supporting her in this role in the coming autumn term 2017 and the plans beyond this time.”

Toby Slater-Robins, chairman of governors, said: “It is extremely disappointing that despite the dedicated and tireless work of many, the school has been judged to be inadequate in all areas.

“Following the inspection in July, the report is very clear in its description of what we must do to improve our performance.

“In the coming weeks and months we will continue to work alongside Ofsted, Suffolk County Council and the Regional Schools Commissioner to accelerate and embed the improvements that have already been made following the inspection.

“I, alongside my colleague school leaders, fully acknowledge and accept the report’s findings, and will continue to work urgently to build a school of which the children, staff and community can be proud.”

Cllr Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said: “Howard Primary School has recently been through a period of considerable change.

“Suffolk County Council has been working closely with the school and the Regional Schools Commissioner throughout this difficult period, appointing a new chair of governors and governing body in October 2016 and interim head teacher arrangements.

“The current school leadership has a proven track record of improving education settings which are struggling. “In the four months since the Ofsted inspection much has already been addressed.

“There are clear plans to address all points from the Ofsted report and the school is working quickly to ensure that improvements are rapid and well established.

“We fully acknowledge that there is more work to be done. The school is now making good progress.

“We are confident that by working together the school will continue to improve, children will learn well and the community will recognise it as a good school.”