Primary school drops to 'inadequate' Ofsted rating five years after 'Good' score
Matthew Smith, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Google
A Welwyn Garden City primary school has been given the lowest Ofsted rating after inspectors said children were “not receiving an adequate education”.
Watchlytes Primary School was given an ‘Inadequate’ grading following an inspection in late September which found that vulnerable pupils had not received enough support to attend school and achieve.
The school was last inspected by Ofsted five years ago, when it received a ‘Good’ rating.
The latest report said pupils don’t have access to an ambitious curriculum to meet their needs, and the current curriculum doesn’t help pupils to build depth of knowledge in a wide range of subjects.
Ofsted’s inspectors Cindy Impey and Daniel Short also raised concerns that not all pupils who need extra support are able to make good progress.
“For too long, the most vulnerable pupils have not received the support they need to help them attend school and achieve well.
“Not all pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) get the support they need to make at least good progress from their starting points.
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“In addition, pupils who struggle to read do not receive the necessary support to catch up quickly. These are often the most vulnerable pupils.”
The school’s governors said that had already started working with the leaders and staff to act on the regulator’s findings.
Since Watchlyte’s 2016 inspection, the school has had two temporary headteachers, with the current headteacher Alan Gardiner in post since 2018.
The inspectors said some of the weaknesses from the last inspection had been addressed, including in the early years, where children are moved into Reception ready to learn.
They added that pupils are happy and feel safe at the school, and pupils enjoy physical education and appreciate the extra-curricular activities on offer.
Pupils also say that bullying does not happen, most parents and carers are happy with what the school provides, and staff say they are proud to work at the school.
However, the inspectors had concerns that there is no development plan in place to support further school improvements, and that curriculum plans for “most subjects lack coherence and clarity”.
“Leaders cannot articulate a strong vision. Leaders cannot demonstrate that they have the capacity to improve standards at Watchlytes.
“This is because leaders have not identified precisely what the school needs to do to help improve the quality of education.”
Inspectors added: “Chosen schemes for English and mathematics are better sequenced.
“However, teachers do not teach in line with leaders’ intentions. Leaders have allowed teachers too much freedom to choose what they want to teach.
“As a result, pupils do not deepen their knowledge and understanding in these subjects.”
The report also notes that “until recently” pupils with special education needs and/or disabilities have not had their needs identified quickly enough, but that pupils with speech and language needs now receive precise support.
The inspectors also found leaders’ systems for supporting pupils’ positive behaviour and poor attendance are weak, and the systems do not support disadvantaged pupils to attend school at the time. It adds that pupils’ attendance is not high enough and this is having an impact on achievement.
The inspectors’ recommendations included a need to identify key priorities to improve, and to implement a more specific curriculum for all subjects.
The report also notes that Herts county council (HCC) had provided recommendations that had not yet been implemented.
The leaders and those responsible for governance will also not be allowed to appoint early career teachers before the next monitoring inspection.
In response to the report, the school’s governors said they were disappointed with the findings, but they had already started to address the inspector’s concerns.
Chair of governors Alex Graham said: “The school governors have acknowledged the areas which need addressing and have already, since the inspection, begun working with staff to implement the recommendations contained within the report.
“The governors will continue to work closely with the local authority.
“The governing body and the teaching and support staff want to assure all of our parents and carers that the safety, security and enhanced learning remains our primary focus.
“A school is automatically issued with an Academy Order when it is judged inadequate by Ofsted and will be sponsored by an academy trust.
“Which academy trust the school will join is determined by the Regional Schools Commissioners.
“The local authority has a legal obligation to facilitate the transfer and the governors will work closely with them through this.”