Governor defends Huntingdon school after scathing Ofsted report

St peter's School

St peter's School - Credit: Archant

A SCATHING report on a Huntingdon academy by Government education inspectors is unfair and demotivating for staff, the chairman of the governing body said yesterday (Tuesday).

Five inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) descended on St Peter’s School at short notice in January, the first time it had been inspected since becoming an academy in September 2011.

After observing 48 lessons by 48 different teachers they concluded that 1,131-pupil St Peter’s “requires improvement” – the equivalent of a C on a scale of A to D.

But they did acknowledge that the behaviour and safety of pupils was “good” (B), adding that the school enjoyed a calm and friendly climate in which students and adults got on well together.

The inspectors also acknowledged that overall standards at the school had risen impressively, pointing in particular to the achievement of the English department, a subject in which standards were continuing to rise – “teaching has been transformed and is now consistently good,” they said.

They found half the teaching to be good or outstanding, but that overall it needed to improve, particularly in mathematics and the sixth form.

And they were scathing about the school’s leadership and governance, effectively accusing the academy’s managers of complacency.

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“Senior leaders and managers have too positive a view of the academy’s effectiveness and have not, therefore, moved quickly enough to bring about improvement.

“The governing body has not held the headteacher and senior leaders to account, because it does not recognise the academy’s weaknesses. Governors are ill-informed about students’ progress and achievement.

“The academy has not taken advantage of its informal partnership arrangements to strengthen key aspects of its provision.”

They called on the school to strengthen teaching, particularly in mathematics, to commission and independent review of governance, and to provide more focused and effective leadership.

Mick Taylor, chairman of the governing body, was clearly furious.

He accused the inspectors of having come into the school with a prepared agenda and of having adopted negative attitudes during the two-day process in late-January.

“There’s lots of pretty unfair criticism in this,” he said. “My assessment of the inspectors is that they were destructive, rather than constructive. I was disappointed that they did not recognise in any way the huge successes we have had academically – we have had some super [exam] results, especially in comparison with other schools I the area.

“I felt the inspectors had a prepared agenda from which they didn’t deviate.

“This report is demotivating for the teaching staff who have worked so hard – from the head to the teaching assistants.”

In relation to maths teaching, the report told the school nothing it did not already know.

“We had weaknesses in science and in English a while ago, and we turned them round. We are doing the same with maths. We are already taking steps to reorganise the department – they seemed to think this was the first we were aware of it,” Mr Taylor said.

He was particularly cross at the failure to acknowledge the improvements the school had achieved in the past six years, when exam results had gone up progressively each year.

“I’m proud of the school and the things it has achieved. We are getting better and better every year.

“And Ofsted will be made aware of our views,” he added.