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School completes long journey from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’

A village primary school that saw pupil numbers plummet after being branded “inadequate” has now rated good in an Ofsted report, after what its head has described as “a real journey”.

Astbury St Mary’s Church of England Primary School received the good Ofsted rating following an inspection that took place last month – six years on from receiving the lowest grade possible.

In January 2017, a year into new head teacher Pip Blythe’s tenure, her school was issued an inadequate Ofsted rating, which saw worried parents pull frantically pull their children from St Mary’s.

“The last six years to this inspection has been a real journey,” she said.

“To go up two grades is a real achievement and I’m feeling really proud of the work that we have done as a school, because the last Ofsted report had a huge impact.”

When the school first received its inadequate rating more than half of the school’s 120 pupils left, with only 52 remaining.

Since then, St Mary’s numbers have steadily increased with 86 students studying there currently.

In February 2019, the school became part of the Chester Diocesan Academy Trust, something that Miss Blythe felt was the turning point for the school’s success as it was able to offer St Mary’s the support to make the changes that was needed.

Miss Blythe continued: “After that report we had a real focus and we made lots of improvements to the curriculum to English and math, and the wider curriculum, science, geography, PE and so on.

“The other thing we’ve done is open a pre-school, in April 2020, and it’s helped meet the needs of parents.

“As well as that, training for staff has been key to our progress, and now that we have this good grade it acts as a rubber stamp which parents look for.”

However, despite the school’s recent score Miss Blythe has questioned the ethics behind Ofsted’s one-word ratings, referencing the death of Ruth Perry, the head teacher of a primary school in Reading who took her own life after she received an inadequate rating.
“I’ve been in that situation and know how that feels,” she said.

“I have now lived that journey from inadequate to good. It’s a shame that schools live in fear of Ofsted. It’s something that shouldn’t be feared but it does have a very big impact on schools – staffing, the budget, everything.

“I understand that there needs to be some way of recognising the work that is done in our schools, but I do think the way that schools live in fear of Ofsted isn’t right, and there needs to be trust.”

Shortly after the inspection Miss Blythe paid a visit to Newbold Astbury cum Moreton Parish Council to inform them that it was nearing its class target numbers.

Carlton Evans, clerk of Newbold Astbury cum Moreton Parish Council, added: “We were all delighted to hear the news, the councillors were really pleased with it and some of them have, and have had, children within the school.

“We’ve been very pleased by it we were lucky enough to have the head teacher come and speak to us six weeks ago and she talked about all the progress that has been made, it was a really good.

“It wasn’t a surprise because we knew that Pip wanted the inspection to happen – it’s very positive.”

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