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First choice of primary school has just gone into special measures. How bad is this is?

(55 Posts)
Chocolatestain Sat 21-Jan-17 14:52:26

We have recently submitted our application for DS to start school next September (the deadline was Jan 15th). We live in the countryside, pretty much equidistant between two schools, one of which is a more of a village school while the other is on the edge of a large conurbation. We liked both when we looked round and I made the decision to put the village school first based on a slightly easier journey and the fact that it was in the village and seemed to have more links with the immediate community (Carol services in the village church, for example, even though it's not a CofE school).
I found out yesterday, through other mums at a pre-school group, that the school has just been put into special measures by Ofsted. Apparently it was in the local paper on Monday, the day after the application deadline (although I believe Ofsted published the report on the 11th). The main issues seem to be with the head and senior management not following through with recommendations from a previous inspection and a general lack of coherence in school policy on various issues. The most worrying aspect was that incidents of bullying were not being acted upon by the head. The head has now gone (although it's not clear if she was sacked or resigned) and a deputy head from another local stool is stepping in temporarily. The school is going to be turned into an academy and a new head appointed.
I'm now panicking that I've completely messed up by choosing this school over the other one and don't know what to do for the best. Three of the mum's at the pre-school group are primary teachers and they all said not to worry as the school will now be very closely monitored and have to improve. One of my concerns is that I don't know much about academies (and don't particularly agree with the privatisation of the state school system in principle) so really have no idea what sort is school DS may now be going to. Also I don't know if appealing to the local authority to change my choices after the deadline is a viable option. If it is possible I'm guessing all the other parents in our position will also be doing it.
I'd be really grateful for any information about academies and how schools tend to fare when going through this process so I can make a decision about whether to sit tight or fight tooth and nail to get DS into the other school.

admission Sat 21-Jan-17 17:52:51

Trying to change your admission preferences now is fraught with danger. The LA will see any request to change as a late application so you will go to the back of the queue and will only be offered a place after everybody else. That could be at your new preference school but it is much more likely to be at another school, which could be any where.
You would in my opinion be better to stick with your current preferences. The likelyhood will be that you will get your first preference at the school that has just gone into special measures. If you want after the initial allocation of places, you can ask for a place at the new preferred school and see if there are any available. It might be possible to go to appeal but the probability of a successful outcome is low, especially as panels will not see the Ofsted inspection result as having any weight in an appeal.

It is true to say that the village school will now have a substantial amount of pressure put on it to improve. As it appears that a significant issue was the senior management it might be that with new and better management the school will improve rapidly. As far as being an academy is concerned, I would be less concerned by this than whether my child was going to get a good education.

prh47bridge Sat 21-Jan-17 18:00:53

Turning a school into an academy is not privatisation. Academies are in the charitable sector. The school will be run by an academy trust which is a charity. They will be funded directly from government and will take on many, but not all, of the responsibilities of the LA.

The evidence available suggests that most, but not all, schools improve more rapidly after conversion to academy status. The evidence for primary schools, however, is more limited than for secondary schools. Primary school academies have only been around since 2010 whereas secondary academies were introduced in 2000. The majority of secondary schools are academies but only 1 in 5 primary schools.

You can ask your LA about changing your preferences but it is unlikely they will agree. Unless they have lots of spare places elsewhere they still need to allocate some pupils to this school and it hasn't fundamentally changed since you submitted your application. Yes, it has now gone into special measures but the reasons for Ofsted's decision will have been around for some time. It is still worth a try if you are concerned.

Doodle2907 Sat 21-Jan-17 18:07:29

Do you happen to live in the south west? This sounds very much like a school my nieces and nephews go to...

Chocolatestain Sat 21-Jan-17 19:09:46

Thank you for your replies, they've been really helpful. I think the best plan will be to sit tight for now and enquire about remaining places at the other school after they've been allocated. If we do end up at the village school it certainly isn't terrible - as I said, we liked it when we looked round and it has a good reputation - so with improved management could turn out to be absolutely fine. And on the plus side, Ofsted were happy with the Early Years teaching, so there are no issues with the reception class.

Yes, Doodle, we do live in the South West - between Bristol and Bath to be more precise.

Doodle2907 Sat 21-Jan-17 19:21:38

That is the same school! I don't have primary aged kids yet, oldest is 2 but a few of my nieces and nephews went/go there and my SIL is on the pta. Honestly, despite the ofsted review I would 100% still send my kids there (probably won't end up doing so as we're looking to move...). I've been to loads of school plays and the carol concerts and sports days etc - I think the school has all the makings of an outstanding school, it just needs a good head. So if you are stuck with it, seriously don't worry too much! My older nieces have ended up at an outstanding secondary school and are doing well despite having gone through primary with the rubbish head.

(I'm a teacher by they way, so I do have some clue as to what I'm talking about, I'm not just a random fan of the school... ha!)

Chocolatestain Sat 21-Jan-17 21:55:28

Thank you, Doodle, that is very reassuring to hear. I'm also glad that DH and I haven't completely lost our powers of judgment as we both liked the school and were very impressed by the confident, articulate year six pupils who showed us round.

MrsMulder Sat 21-Jan-17 22:07:33

A school near my sisters went into special measures 2 years ago, had loads of input and recently got good with outstanding features. If you got a good feel for the school I would stick with it, I am sure it will turn itself around quickly. The school my ds goes to is outstanding but not had a proper ofsted for years! God knows how it would fare now, he is happy though so so am I

bojorojo Sat 21-Jan-17 22:35:06

I bet the report says more than you are saying. Grade 4 (Inadequate) is not given just on the basis of unsatisfactory senior management or not following up on improvements required last time - useless those improvements were because it was dire last time.

You really cannot judge a school by a carol service and a sports day! Parents never seem to realise that Ofsted will forensically look at the progress of the children, the quality of teaching, the quality of leadership and whether the lessons are stretching the children as well as catering for special needs. I would be surprised if a school in SM was full of children who are making excellent progress. Parents probably like its cosy village feel and don't judge the progress of their children very well because they don't know how well other schools do. Therefore they are shocked when it is not as good as they think.

Yes, a lot of this is down to the Head, but expect a rocky road if the new Head has to acquire better teachers, and really get down to monitoring the quality of teaching and assessment. If it is becoming an academy I suspect it has failed before.

If the larger school has spaces and is not oversubscribed you could get in.

smellyboot Sun 22-Jan-17 08:10:57

Do not panic. Its v good that there are not concerns re early years so you have time to assess situation more. It's likely that the school will get lots of help to improve and it will be sorted before it effects your DC.
Not all outstanding schools are brilliant overall. School is also about all the social aspects too - very important

Chocolatestain Sun 22-Jan-17 09:27:22

I hear what you are saying, Bojorojo, but it was rated good at the last inspection four years ago and is still achieving above average results in English and literacy so is not that dire. Obviously there was a lot more in the report but I wanted to try and keep it brief, however a lot of the issues raised did relate back to poor leadership.

Anyway, it looks as if there isn't much I can do until places have been allocated. Thanks everyone for your input

Toomanywheeliebinsagain Sun 22-Jan-17 09:44:05

SM schools are v closely monitored. It will soon be obvious whether they are making progress and on way out. There first inspection will be well before your child starts

prh47bridge Sun 22-Jan-17 09:47:19

From the clues on this thread I think I have identified the school involved, although the OP refers to the head as "she" whereas the head appears to be/have been male. Its last Ofsted was indeed Good. However, it has had six full Ofsted inspections since 2005 and was rated inadequate in three of them, satisfactory (which is now known as "requires improvement") in two and just one good rating. This is the second time it has been in special measures and it has also previously been given notice to improve. It is certainly disappointing that, after the current head took the school from inadequate to good in two years, they have now presided over a return to an inadequate rating.

Looking at the 2001 report it appears that this school has had problems for many years. Previous reports are not available but the 2001 report talks about the school having improved, although it is clearly still very poor. The LA has clearly failed to produce any sustained improvement in this school so I am not surprised that it is now being turned into an academy.

Chocolatestain Sun 22-Jan-17 10:31:37

I'll clarify, the school is The Meadows in Bitton. Not sure which one you are talking about prh47bridge, but the head was most definitely a woman and has been there since 2008.

prh47bridge Sun 22-Jan-17 12:40:24

Ah. Another school locally (but nearer Bristol) has also just gone into special measures and seemed to match everything you said apart from the sex of the head. The Meadows has a far better history than the school I found. Three of the last five Ofsted inspections rate it good but there are indications in the 2009 report (which only gives a satisfactory rating) that there had been problems since the 2006 report. However, the latest report is pretty damning, suggesting that complacency had set in and that the head had lost the confidence of the staff. A new head may be able to turn things round quickly.

Apologies for getting the wrong school.

If it is becoming an academy I suspect it has failed before

That is no longer the case. Since the Education and Adoption Act 2016 became law, any school going into special measures or requiring significant improvement automatically becomes an academy. There is no longer any discretion. The Secretary of State is required to make an Academy Order by law.

OverScentedFanjo Sun 22-Jan-17 12:49:49

I think my cousins children go there. They are happy with it and have primary school teachers within the family.

Our school is becoming an academy and is requiring improvement.

Interesting the see that they have to become an academy by law ^^ we haven't been told this, but it's all cloak and dagger at the school.

bojorojo Mon 23-Jan-17 13:55:42

I too found the school and read the report - I found the correct one before it was named on here!!!

Clearly a new Head is happening, but reading the report, the Governors have performed poorly too. They need to change as well. Hopefully this will happen with the school becomming an academy.

Where I am a Governors, the Learning Trust (formerly LA) inspects all schools periodically and gives them a green light, amber warning or red light (dire problems). They do not pull their punches! It then works with the schools (red and amber schools get more time) through a school improvement partner and the governors to addres the problems.

The LA must have known the Head was pants here! And the Governors and school improvement partner should have been aware due to performance management. Performance management in this situation should have been overseen by an educational professional looking at the evidence to ensure the governors understood the shortcomings. I wonder if the Governors were training in Performance Management? Some schools/Local authorities are so lax in this it is unbelievable. Some Governors are useless too, but with robust evidence showing this Head was failing, they could have removed her. It takes a while, but it is for the good of the children in the end. It must have been a horrendous place to work! It can only get better as there are decent foundations. Maths also needs to improve, so this will be addressed quickly one would assume.

Basicbrown Mon 23-Jan-17 19:38:38

My DD's school went into special measures when she was in reception (now Y3). The truth is that it was a difficult couple of years ahead until things settled down. If your DC hasn't started yet then I'd try and get into the other school. It's true dd's school is OK now but that's 3 head teachers and a hell of a lot of pain later. I didn't move her because she was happy, but starting with that if you have the choice not to is a different situation imo.

PerspicaciaTick Mon 23-Jan-17 19:50:51

Special Measures can be very positive, the turning point after which things improve.
When we were looking for secondary schools in 2015, one of the local school options went into special measures at Easter. They were taken out of special measures in the October of the same year and autumn 2016 were assessed as "Good". It has taken a lot of work and there has been upheaval for staff, but the pupils seem to have coped very well with the transition.
I realise it isn't the same as a primary school - but hope you find it helpful.

littlenicky61 Mon 23-Jan-17 19:59:46

My childs primary school went into special measures having coasted on its outstanding ofsted from many years ago .I was worried as it was changed into academy but it was actually the best thing . New management loads of new ideas that are working . School has had loads of money spent on it theres more clubs tesults are up and kids and staff are happy. Its not alwsys a bad thing when this happens and with the right head and management they can turn a school round pretty quick

phlebasconsidered Mon 23-Jan-17 20:02:51

There is currently no evidence at all to suggest academisation helps. In my experience ( in two primaries that have been forcibly converted) it was the exact opposite. The first is still in SM, and the academy trust has all but abandoned it. One year group has had supply teachers for almost three years. In the other, the SLT is almost perpetually vacant, staffed only by such interim that they can scrape up from their other academies. Results are going down.

This particular academy chain has a lot of schools over 3 counties. You'd think the sun shone out of its bottom to listen to them and the government, but the truth is very different. They seem to be doing slightly better in their secondary schools, but only slightly, and only if you don't mind unqualified teachers.

If the school was RI, I would stay. If it's becoming an academy, I'd stick with the eyfs as it seems good, but look to move for year 1. I moved both of my children from our academy. I'm glad I did.

And teaching in an academy has been soul destroyi tying.

WhirlwindHugs Mon 23-Jan-17 20:09:26

DDs school went into special measures a few years ago (hopefully just about to come out) the new staff are brilliant and imo we are now seeing a big difference in teaching standards.

Not everyone is happy obviously, a lot of families have left. I understand why as it's not been an easy process but we had limited options so have just had to make the best of it really.

user1484226561 Mon 23-Jan-17 20:12:01

The evidence available suggests that most, but not all, schools improve more rapidly after conversion to academy status. by expelling all the difficult pupils

PerspicaciaTick Mon 23-Jan-17 20:13:29

Sorry that should have said "when we were looking for schools in 2014". Not sure where the time has gone.

phlebasconsidered Mon 23-Jan-17 20:17:55

Oh yes. It's amazing how many difficult ( expensive) students were basically hounded out. Much cheaper without them. And don't even get me started on accountability. My academy chain even got rid of parent governors. The complaints procedure isn't worth the paper it's written on.

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