Staff at a Melton primary school have been told they are on the right track to hauling it out of ‘special measures’ - the lowest rating inspectors can give.
The Grove Primary School was criticised in its last Ofsted review, in July 2017, with a damning report which found ‘it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school’.
It was the latest in a series of poor ratings which has seen the school be the only one in Leicestershire never to have rated at least ‘good’ since the Ofsted system was introduced more than a decade ago.
But things are changing under head teacher, Steve Nash, who took over after the ‘special measures’ rating, and who has overseen an marked improvement in standards among teachers and governors and in pupil behaviour.
Inspectors have been making short interim assessment visits to the school and their latest report indicates The Grove is on a clear upward performance curve.
Mr Nash told the Melton Times: “We are aiming for a ‘good’ rating and I am confident we will get there.
“It will take a lot of hard work but I am sure we will achieve it.
“I am proud of the children and the staff and the work they are doing.”
The main deficiencies in that poor 2017 Ofsted report centred on teachers not delivering a good enough level of education, a lack of strong leadership from the governing body and too many instances of children behaving badly in school.
Something clearly had to be done to arrest the decline and Mr Nash pressed ahead with a complete shake-up of the way the school was being run.
“We’ve had a turnover of staff and we now have good teachers in every class and better teaching practices,” Mr Nash explained.
“The children now know what we expect of them.
“As soon as they walk through our gates they are aware of the really clear expectations we have of how they should behave.
“We brought in a few new governors because that was highlighted as an issue when we went into special measures.
“The governors have been really good in supporting me and also challenging me.”
John Lawson, the inspector who visited recently for an update, was full of praise for the way pupils had behaved and the environment teachers had nurtured:.
He wrote in his report: “Staff are creating an increasingly caring and respectful culture and ethos in the school.
“Pupils have much more positive attitudes to learning and enjoy coming to school.
“Pupils themselves recognise their school is a better place to learn. They are positive about their teachers. It is ‘happier and joyful’ some said.
“They said improvements to learning and behaviour in the school mean ‘it makes you want to come to school’.”
Mr Lawson said pupils had told they felt safer and that bullying was rare and it was dealt with quickly by teachers when it did happen.
He wrote: “The formerly high number of fixed term exclusions has reduced considerably.
“There have been no permanent exclusions in the current academic year.”
The inspector said there were still negative educational issues for teaching staff to work on but he highlighted the improvements made in reading, writing and maths by children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
He praised the new strength of leadership and said teaching standards had markedly improved. adding: “Parents who spoke with the inspectors were positive in all respects and demonstrated their awareness of improvements made by making comments such as, ‘it’s like a different school now’.”
The Grove Primary School is part of the Mowbray Education Trust of schools, which also manages the town’s John Ferneley College, Brownlow Primary, Sherard Primary and Oasis Pre-school, as well as primary schools at Ab Kettleby and Somerby.
The Grove, which has around 160 youngsters on roll, has traditionally faced bigger challenges than most other schools in Melton because many of its pupils are drawn from some of the more deprived areas of the town.
But staff hope the changes being made will give the children a much better opportunity to make a success of their lives than they would have expected to have had back in the summer of 2017.
Mr Nash added: “Our percentage of disadvantaged pupils is much higher than the national average and compared to other schools in Melton Mowbray.
“I was deputy head at Brownlow Primary School in Melton for four years and I’ve always found teaching rewarding but it is even more rewarding when children improve at a school like The Grove where expectations are not as high.
“Parents have been really positive about the changes I have brought in.
“I am always really open with them - I am available to talk when the children arrive in the morning and again at the end of the school day when they leave.
“We are on the right track as a school now and hopefully our next Ofsted report will see us move out of special measures.”