Transformed Corby school celebrates first ever rating of 'good' from Ofsted

The school was visited by education inspectors in June, having previously been inadequate
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A school in Corby is celebrating after turning its fortunes around and being graded as ‘good’ by Ofsted for the first time.

Exeter – A Learning Community was visited by the education watchdog in June after a decade which saw it judged as ‘requires improvement’ in 2014 and then ‘inadequate’ in 2016.

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But during the most recent visit inspectors recognised the school’s early years provision as ‘outstanding’ with all other areas rated as ‘good’.

Hannah Crawford, Jennifer Doherty and and pupilsHannah Crawford, Jennifer Doherty and and pupils
Hannah Crawford, Jennifer Doherty and and pupils

School bosses say this is the first time that Exeter school has been graded as ‘good’ overall by Ofsted since the watchdog began inspecting schools in 1992, and at any point in the school’s 70-year history.

It was the first inspection since Exeter joined the Inspiring Futures through Learning (IFtL) multi-academy trust in 2019.

Jennifer Doherty and Hannah Crawford, who were appointed co-heads of school in April, said: “At Exeter, we love our school, our children and our community, and we are passionate about what we do. So having worked here since 2009 and 2015 respectively, we are absolutely thrilled with this Ofsted outcome, which sees the school formally move from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’.

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“Every day, we work hard to achieve a positive difference for the children entrusted in our care, and this is recognition that we are getting it right.

Governor Iain Peden, Jennifer Doherty and pupilsGovernor Iain Peden, Jennifer Doherty and pupils
Governor Iain Peden, Jennifer Doherty and pupils

“Going forward we are encouraging parental representative leadership across the school, and their influence will help drive Exeter to become the primary school of choice for our community.”

The report said leaders “have worked tirelessly to improve the school,” are “ambitious for all pupils” and “committed to removing any barriers that prevent pupils from experiencing success”, and that “as a result of leaders’ persistent pursuit of excellence, the school has been transformed”.

Other comments in the report included:

- “Leaders have developed an ambitious curriculum. It has been crafted with care to identify the key knowledge and skills that pupils should acquire from early years to Year 6.”

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- “Leaders ensure that staff have the skills they need to teach effectively. Teachers explain new learning clearly to pupils. They routinely check that pupils remember prior learning.”

- “Classrooms are calm and purposeful. Pupils know how they are expected to behave in lessons. They listen closely to their teachers and engage well in their learning.”

- “In the early years staff demonstrate high levels of expertise. They provide children with countless opportunities for purposeful learning.“

- “Early reading is prioritised. Staff are trained to ensure they have the expert knowledge they need to teach phonics well.”

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- “Leaders are determined that pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) will receive the support they need to succeed. Teachers make effective adaptations in lessons so that pupils with SEND can access the curriculum.”

- “Relationships between adults and pupils are warm. In class, pupils show respect for their teacher and each other.”

- “There is a strong safeguarding culture in the school. Leaders have established well-organised systems to keep pupils safe.”

However the school still has some things it needs to improve. The report noted that some pupil behaviour is not ‘consistently strong at playtime and lunchtime’.

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It said: “A small number of pupils are unkind and do not show respect for their peers. This stops some other pupils from enjoying these social times.

“Leaders must continue their efforts to ensure that the good behaviour of pupils in lessons and around the school is duplicated at other times of the school day and that pupils make good choices about how they should behave at all times.”

Co-executive headteachers Melanie Saunders and Matthew Shotton said: “A significant amount of hard work has gone into turning Exeter school around as we have sought to address the diverse needs of the community and create a sense of belonging for children.

“Our moral compass as senior leaders has always been to make a difference to more pupils.

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“We have put firm foundations in place, and Ofsted’s reflection that ‘children in the early years get off to an exceptional start to their education’ is testament to that.

“We would like to pay tribute to the commitment of teaching, and non-teaching, staff to the journey at Exeter. They have strived to be the best for the children and adaptive in their teaching to ensure progress and increase opportunities, shown a real dedication to the school’s values and trauma-informed practise to create a safe place for children to learn, and worked really hard to develop positive relationships with parents/carers.

“Lots of Exeter colleagues have been through numerous Ofsted inspections before and have stayed here for the love of the children. We could not have achieved this outcome without their loyalty and commitment, knowing how tough it was to get to where we are today. For them, and our wider community, they have finally got the validation they deserve.”

Adrian Francis, chair of the local governing board at Exeter – A Learning Community, said: “This is a truly excellent Ofsted report which everyone connected with our school should be proud of.

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“I would like to thank everyone who has worked tirelessly to improve Exeter, and look forward to supporting the school to work on the areas identified for continued development.”

Sarah Bennett, chief executive officer of IFtL, said: “We are delighted with the result, but most importantly of all, of course, is that the children, families, and staff of Exeter have an opportunity to celebrate and be proud of all the hard work undertaken since 2019.”

To read the full report visit the Ofsted website.

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