'Rapid improvements' at Somercotes infant school, say Ofsted inspectors

“Rapid improvements” are being made at a school for young children in Somercotes, Ofsted inspectors have acknowledged.

By Richard Silverwood
Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 1:29 pm
Ofsted inspectors accept that improvements are being made at Somercotes Infant and Nursery School.
Ofsted inspectors accept that improvements are being made at Somercotes Infant and Nursery School.

Somercotes Infant and Nursery School, which has 122 pupils aged three to seven on its books, has been inspected by the education watchdog for the first time since opening in its current guise in 2017.

And although it received an overall rating of ‘Requires Improvement’, Ofsted did accept that the school was going through a period of transition.

"The school is improving,” said the inspectors’ report. “Parents and carers have noticed the positive changes in school.

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"As one parent commented, leaders have turned the school around.”

Somercotes is now a sponsor-led academy run by the Sheffield-based Learners’ Trust, which is responsible for several schools in Derbyshire and south Yorkshire.

Ofsted pointed out that since the school joined the trust, “there have been significant changes in staffing, leadership and governance”.

The executive head teacher is Helina Kirkup, who took up the post in January 2021, while the day-to-day head is Sarah Gray.

In four of the five categories of the inspection, the school was rated ‘Requires Improvement’, while it was ranked ‘Good’ in the area of personal development.

"Most pupils feel safe and enjoy going to school,” said the report. “They like the rewards they receive for good behaviour, and they enjoy the clubs the school has to offer.

"Teachers help pupils to develop their resilience and perseverance, and pupils understand how to stay safe online.”

The inspectors accepted there had been “significant improvements in the behaviour” of children and that bullying was rare. But behaviour was “sometimes unkind” during lunch breaks, and leaders needed to come up with “effective strategies” to deal with this.

Nevertheless, the school’s safeguarding arrangements were praised, with leaders understanding when families needed support. “All staff are vigilant for signs of abuse,” the report added.

The Ofsted inspectors said “leaders think carefully about how they can support pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities”, giving extra help to them.

However, pupils’ understanding of other faiths and cultures was “not sufficiently developed”. Leaders needed to “ensure that pupils have a well-developed understanding of diversity, so they are well prepared for life in modern Britain”.

The inspectors said children at Somercotes enjoyed listening to and sharing books, and also visiting the school library.

However, the current system for teaching early reading did not ensure that pupils learned to read quickly and fluently. Therefore, a new phonics programme, which was in the pipeline, needed to be implemented and “used consistently by all staff”.

The report also pointed out that improvements were needed in the way the curriculum was planned, so that pupils gained secure and important knowledge of each subject, and learned it in the correct order.

Despite the ‘Requires Improvement’ rating, the inspectors pinned their faith in those in charge at the school and the trust, whose chair is John Rutherford.

The report said: “Leaders’ actions are bringing rapid improvements. They know their school well and know what the next steps are to continue to improve it.

"The trust is supporting leaders, and staff say that leaders are supporting their workload and wellbeing through this period of change.”

In response to the Ofsted inspection, Mrs Kirkup issued this statement: "'We are pleased with the outcome and feel that it reflects the continuous hard work and improvements the school has made since our previous inspection.

"As a team, we are already working hard on the areas of improvement identified by Ofsted.

"We were thrilled that Ofsted recognised the focus of our work and judged personal development as ‘Good’. We believe that children will only learn if they are happy in school and behaving appropriately.

"We are now looking forward to the next stage of our journey and will continue to ensure that the children remain at the heart of everything that we do.”