Ofsted praises primary school leaders despite government plans to axe them

Mackie Hill Primary School is set to become an academy, despite overwhelming opposition from parents and staff.
Mackie Hill Primary School is set to become an academy, despite overwhelming opposition from parents and staff.

Ofsted has strongly praised the current leaders of Mackie Hill Primary School, who are set to be replaced when the government forces it to become an academy.

The education regulator said that acting headteacher Jayne Elliott has "brought much needed stability" and "secured rapid improvements" at the school, after it was placed in special measures in December 2017.

Ofsted acknowledged that parents have backed the school's current leadership/Photo by Lee Ward

Ofsted acknowledged that parents have backed the school's current leadership/Photo by Lee Ward

Ofsted's report, which followed a two-day focused inspection last month, backed the overwhelming view of parents that the school has made substantial progress since it was taken over by nearby Kettlethorpe High in January 2018.

But despite the opinions of the watchdog and parents, the government confirmed its intentions to convert the school into an academy last week.

School leaders say they remain hopeful of overturning the decision before it takes effect during the summer.

In their report, inspectors said: "The unwavering positivity and determination shown by the acting headteacher and deputy headteacher have been crucial in gaining the support of staff, parents and carers.

"The measured, yet tenacious, approach from senior leaders has been successful in securing some rapid improvements to the quality of teaching, learning and assessment."

Ofsted also acknowledged the strength of feeling among parents, describing them as "overwhelmingly supportive" of the current leadership arrangements.

Among the specific areas where progress was highlighted were the quality of pupils' writing, the involvement of governors and behaviour.

The report added: "Leaders have introduced higher expectations of pupils' conduct and their attitudes to learning.

"This has led to a reduction in behavioural incidents. Training for members of staff, delivered by specialists, has ensured that pupils' conduct around school is generally calm and orderly.

"Pupils are well mannered, holding doors open for others and saying 'please' and 'thank you' as a matter of routine."

In response to the report, acting head Mrs Elliott said: "We’re immensely proud and happy with the levels of progress that have been made.

"We’ve got brilliant support from the community and from parents, who’ve really got on board with the decisions we’ve made for the school."

It is now hoped that the results of this inspection may eventually lead to the school being taken out of special measures and given an improved Ofsted rating.

Kettlethorpe head teacher Tudor Griffiths described the findings as "positive" news, and said the secondary would continue to support Mackie Hill for as long as the partnership remained in place.

MP Mary Creagh, who has argued strongly against the academy order, will visit the school on Friday this week to discuss the issue.

Mr Griffiths said: "The report's a very strong endorsement of the levels of progress that have been made over the three terms the schools have been working together.

"We know there’s work still to do, but there’s nothing in the report we weren’t aware of.

We will continue to support the school and we hope there's sufficient time to prove that we’re making a positive difference."

The New Collaborative Learning Trust, which runs sixth form colleges in Pontefract, Bradford and Doncaster, has been lined up to run Mackie Hill despite having no previous experience of primary education.

It has yet to speak publicly about its plans for the school.