Inspectors praise Brighton primary school under threat of academy conversion
Education watchdog Ofsted said that those running Moulsecoomb Primary School had taken effective action to educate pupils during the pandemic.
The praise followed a monitoring “visit” and was published as staff at the school, in The Highway, Brighton, went on strike.
They walked out in protest over plans to force Moulsecoomb Primary to convert from being a local authority maintained school to an academy.
Today (Thursday March 25) the regional schools commissioner is expected to decide which of three “multi-academy trusts” will become the sponsor under the new arrangement.
The three organisations understood to have expressed an interest in running the school are the Pioneer Academy, the Chancery Education Trust and Schoolsworks Academy Trust.
The school became the subject of an “academy order” after Ofsted rated it inadequate following an inspection in April 2019.
The official watchdog’s latest findings were published on Tuesday (March 23), after inspector Julie Sackett led a remote visit.
Ms Sackett and a colleague carried out the remote inspection by watching recordings of online lessons and speaking with head teacher Adam Sutton, governors and a Brighton and Hove City Council official.
She also looked at responses to Ofsted’s online questionnaire, Parent View, including 10 “free text” responses and 24 staff questionnaires.
She said “Curriculum development is a high priority for the school. Ofsted’s monitoring inspection of the school in February 2020 identified significant weaknesses in the curriculum.
“Pupils were not learning well enough as a result. Leaders sensibly refocused improvement plans to address these weaknesses.
“However, their work has been hindered by the pandemic. For example, training to support leaders in securing improvements has been unavoidably postponed.
“Work to ensure that curriculum plans set out precisely what pupils will learn in each year group continues to be a prime concern for school improvement.”
She praised the school for taking “swift action” in response to the coronavirus pandemic to ensure that all pupils could learn at home.
All pupils learning remotely had a laptop, internet connection and paper learning packs where needed.
Ms Sackett wrote: “Leaders are absolutely committed to doing all they can to ensure that every pupil engages with learning during the current lockdown.
“They act quickly if they have any concerns about pupils’ wellbeing, contacting parents and following the school’s safeguarding procedures if required.
“Strong relationships with parents have helped leaders to support pupils and their families very effectively.
“For example, weekly calls, texts and home visits mean that vulnerable pupils continue to benefit from valuable academic and essential pastoral support during this uncertain period.”
During the recent lockdown, the school provided a wide range of reading, writing, maths and topic activities and daily phonics for younger children.
The report said that teachers carefully considered what the children had at home to ensure that most pupils were able to complete their home learning activities.
Four-fifths of the school’s 226 pupils had remote lessons during the most recent lockdown from early January to Monday March 8.
Half of the school’s most vulnerable pupils and almost all of those with an “education, health and care plan” continued to attend school.
The report said that staff were familiar with pupil’s needs and had continued to provide targeted support during the pandemic for those who needed it most.
Labour councillor John Allcock, a former chair of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee, said: “This is Moulsecoomb Primary’s second very positive monitoring report from Ofsted in as many years which demonstrates the school is working very effectively with parents, carers, the community and the council towards becoming a ‘good’ school.
“I’m really pleased to see the hard work of the school being recognised despite the challenges of the pandemic and this further calls into question any validity whatsoever in the argument for academisation.
“It is a mystery to me why the Conservative government hasn’t backed down on this yet. The entire community is clear in its demand that Moulsecoomb Primary stays within the Brighton and Hove family of schools and, yet again, Ofsted has acknowledged the improvements the school is making.
“There is no justification whatsoever for forcing academisation on Moulsecoomb against the expressed will of pupils, parents, carers, staff, unions, politicians across the political spectrum and the community at large.
“Once again, I am calling on the Secretary of State to revoke the academisation order on Moulsecoomb Primary School immediately.”
Green councillor Hannah Clare, who chairs the Children, Young People and Skills Committee, vowed to continue the fight to prevent the school becoming an academy at a meeting on Monday March 8.
She said that 96 per cent of parents had voted against converting the school into an academy.
After the strike yesterday, staff who belong to the National Education Union (NEU), the GMB and Unison are expected to walk out again on Wednesday 28 April and Thursday 29 April.
The unions said that if the trusts looking to take over Moulsecoomb Primary School withdrew from the process, the further strikes would be called off.