'Failing' school up to standard

Estelle Maxwell

Estelle Maxwell charts Crook county primary's path from despair to recovery

The first primary school in Britain to be branded a failure by the Office for Standards in Education has been released from intensive care and told it is now working to acceptable standards.

Crook primary school in County Durham was unofficially informed that it had been removed from the special measures list earlier this month by HM inspectors from OFSTED. The decision was made public by the Department for Education and Employment this week.

The move was greeted with relief by staff, the governing body, and the local authority. It ends almost two years of constant monitoring by HMI and the local education authority.

The original report, published in 1993, was highly critical of nearly every aspect of the school and concluded there was "very considerable underachievement". Standards of pupil achievement were equal to or above national averages in only just over a third of the lessons they observed. Verbal skills, numeracy and literacy were below national norms, it said.

The latest inspection report shows the quality of teaching and pupil attainment have improved. The leadership and management of the school, which was weak and adversely affected pupils' achievements, is now strong and effective.

Inspectors found standards of achievement and quality of pupil learning were now satisfactory or better in more than three-quarters of lessons. The quality of learning in reception classes was good in almost half of those observed.

They said the quality of teaching - described as unsatisfactory in 60 per cent of lessons in 1993 - was now sound or better in more than three-quarters of lessons and at key stage 2, it was good or very good in almost half.

"The teachers' knowledge and expertise has increased significantly and most lessons are taught effectively," the report said. "There is a clear sense of purpose to the work and the staff work effectively as a team. The staff and governors have worked hard and made significant progress to improve the quality of education provided."

It said the school now provided a broad and balanced curriculum which met the statutory requirements of the national curriculum and RE. It also had a good system for planning work in the long, short and medium term. Pupil behaviour, which had been "unsatisfactory", was now good and the children's spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, which had been criticised, was now satisfactory.

"There have been significant improvements in all those aspects of the school criticised in 1993," the report concluded.

However, the inspectors said the school must maintain the priority it gives to literacy and numeracy, continue to raise standards of pupils' achievements, stabilise staffing and develop teacher knowledge and expertise.

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