Ofsted: ‘Headteacher carries heavy burden’

Mike Mitchell, headteacher of Seven Stars Primary School, with Year 5 pupils
Mike Mitchell, headteacher of Seven Stars Primary School, with Year 5 pupils

A headteacher fighting to improve standards at a Leyland primary school is ‘carrying a heavy burden’, according to Ofsted.

Seven Stars Primary School, in Peacock Hall Road, was told that overall it ‘requires improvement’ when inspectors visited in October.

“There is a long haul ahead to wipe out the bumpy ride pupils typically experience as they move throughout school”

Ofsted inspector Joanne Olsson

And a report just published from a follow-up visit in January shows that headteacher Mike Mitchell is facing reluctance from some school leaders to accept the watchdog’s findings.

In her follow-up letter, inspector Joanne Olsson told Mr Mitchell: “You know the inspection judgment is accurate; not everyone is as
convinced.

“Nonetheless, staff and governors are pulling together towards a common goal.

“They are confident you can lead the way and everyone is on board for the journey ahead.

“You know there is a need for change. You are under no illusions that continuing with strategies that have not brought about success in the past will not serve the school well in the future.

“Nevertheless, you are carrying a heavy burden; responsibility for improving the school is not spread evenly among all leaders.

“This has not held you up in the short term.

“However, in the long term, this poses a potential barrier to the school’s speedy recovery.”

After the initial inspection, the leadership and management, quality of teaching, achievement of pupils and early years provision were judged to all ‘require improvement’, whilst the behaviour and safety of pupils was classed as being ‘good’.

Inspectors found that by the end of Year 6, pupils’ standards in reading, writing and maths were not high enough, and teaching has not ensured that pupils have made consistently good progress over time across the school.

Since the October inspection, the deputy headteacher and the reception teacher have left, and a Year 6 teacher is on extended leave.

A new reception teacher and two temporary teachers took up post in January.

Ms Olsson added in her recent letter: “You have not wasted any time in getting to grips with the findings from the recent inspection.

“You set about tackling the key shortcomings as soon as the inspectors left your school in October.

“Despite almost half of the teaching staff joining the school in January, you are not using this as an excuse.

“Disruption in staffing is not getting in the way of improving teaching and lifting pupils’ achievement.

“Your well written action plan shows you know what to do to bring about improvement. Your planned actions to improve teaching and leadership are spot-on and you are using the wide range of external support wisely to help you move forward.”

According to the league tables for 2014, Seven Stars has made the most progress in Level 4 reading, writing and maths from the previous year, compared to all other primary schools in Leyland.

The school saw an increase from 39 per cent of pupils getting the expected marks, to 60 per cent.

At the last inspection, Ms Olsson found: “Your current data on pupils’ achievement show the tide is turning and more pupils are making expected progress.

“Nonetheless, there is a long haul ahead to wipe out the bumpy ride pupils typically experience as they move throughout school.

“In some classes pupils forge ahead quickly, making strong gains in their learning; in other classes they tread water.”

Mr Mitchell told the Guardian: “The inspector’s monitoring report in January contained some very positive comments and they could clearly see the measures we’re taking to tackle the areas that Ofsted highlighted.

“She was very supportive of what we’re doing and everyone is pulling together and working so hard.

“Although our final overall Ofsted rating last October was ‘requires improvement’ with ‘good’ for behaviour and safety, I’m confident that we will turn that into ‘good’ across the board at our next full inspection.”

He added: “Our children love coming to Seven Stars and we have a great working relationship with our parents and families.

“Our school prides itself on putting children first in everything we do.”