Last summer saw Ofsted visit a Suffolk School with 30 pupils. Inspectors judged Monks Eleigh 'inadequate.' Parents, students and staff are rallying to try to save their school which has lost coincidental pupil roll with summer leavers and low recruitment. As a result the Board of Governors resigned and the Council is considering closure.
Loyal parents said they did not think the Ofsted report recognised enough positive aspects of the school. A temporary head has been appointed who offers a potential lifeline. Governors resigned to enable a county interim executive board of "experts" to assume responsibility. The school has been part of a federation with another local school. Only in the spring an Ofsted team visited and judged it as good with some outstanding features so the new report has shocked everyone.
The contrast so shocked Year 3 Henrietta she wrote to Michael Gove. She explained she had been unhappy at her previous school but really settled at Monks Eleigh. She judged her Maths. work harder and enjoyed free reading options. She is sad some of her friends have gone and asks how an inspector can say such things about the school when they said it was so good earlier.
Milburn School in Cumbria also had a good report from Ofsted in January 2013 but a year later was again visited. It awaits its report. It, too, is in a two-school arrangement, but informally. The day inspectors chose was when the pupils attend the other school for PE and other lessons, their teacher likewise. Inspectors obliged this to be changed- which seemed wrong at the time.
Milburn has lost pupils due to historical mismanagement problems, with two regular staff on permanent sick leave and tensions affecting everyone, the Head leaving in the summer, similar concerns affecting governors. Someone even inserted an amendment of a personal nature into the school's Wikipedia entry. Under an entirely new Chair and Board of Governors only from October, when the shared Headteacher arrangement also started, the school has made good progress towards rectifying matters clearly amiss but others would have been very evident to inspectors. The current staff are both supply teachers. A recent report by a consultant called in by the new Chair of Governors saw the teaching and other steps taken so far as positive for the school's life and work.
The fear remains that by immediately taking the hard line of insisting the normal timetable involving PE at the other school be changed inspectors may have under-valued what had been done in such a short time. Staff faced planning a different day at very short notice. NASS believes this is not usually allowed and the school has protested to both Ofsted and contractors while the report is being finalised.
Cumbria has been very supportive of the post-October actions which have well addressed related planning along the lines officers suggested. Nor has it raised the prospect of closure despite very low roll. All is still to play for. Much hangs on the eventual report.
Ofsted has again failed the entire Local Authority, including 15 secondary schools, eight of which have been placed in special measures. Both the cases we report here indicate an ever tougher stance by Ofsted and that itself may reflect growing relationship problems between the Chief Inspector and the Secretary of State- the need to be seen to be absolutely pursuing "standards"- now with the removal of Baroness Morgan as Ofsted Head seen as intensifying particular political views.