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County council criticised by Ofsted over inspection of Abingdon's Fitzharrys School
OXFORDSHIRE County Council has been criticised by Ofsted after a visit to a school judged to have “serious weaknesses”.
Fitzharrys School, in Northcourt Road, Abingdon, was given the judgment in October, but when inspectors returned last month it was praised for the work it had done.
But while Fitzharrys was told there was “a determined focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning” and its school improvement plan “tightly focused”, inspector Christine Raeside said the local authority’s statement of action was “not fit for purpose”.
A statement of action sets out what a Local Education Authority will do to help a school with serious weaknesses.
She said: “It is not always clear enough in setting criteria or in establishing milestones for success against a tight timetable.”
Headteacher Jonathan Dennett put the lack of clarity down to the quick turnaround required for providing the statement of action.
He said it had been updated and now matched Fitzharrys’ own planning.
He added: “We have had good practical support in school prior to the Ofsted report and particularly since then – the statement of action is one thing, actions that are taking place is another.”
A local authority school improvement officer is working with Fitzharrys on a weekly basis, while an advisory teacher who is a specialist in maths is working part time until the end of the academic year to strengthen teaching in the subject – an area highlighted by Ofsted.
Ms Raeside said there were “early encouraging signs of improving attainment” in maths. The school has also entered into a two-year partnership with the “outstanding” rated Faringdon Community College, a designated leader in education.
Mr Dennett said this involved senior and middle leaders from both schools working together, with Fitzharrys staff visiting Faringdon and Faringdon staff visiting Fitzharrys.
Schools which are judged to have serious weaknesses face a full re-inspection within 18 months and will have three monitoring inspections during that period.
Mr Dennett said he was “very pleased” by the comments from the monitoring report and described the atmosphere in school as “buzzing”.
He said: “It is a really happy, purposeful place that’s focused completely on teaching and learning.”
Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said the judgment had been made using an earlier version of the council’s statement for action.
He said: “The statement is now in the process of being updated in conjunction with the school.
“It was the previous gaps in detail in the earlier version of the statement for action which led Ofsted to rule it as being unfit for purpose, rather than the proposed course of action offered to help improve the provision of education at the school.
“It was deemed matters such as the timings in the original statement for action around specific dates against actions and outcomes were not clear enough.”
Cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley was disappointed but said it had been rectified.