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Teachers 'borrowed' in inspection week

Questions have been asked about the tactics of a Barnsley primary praised by OFSTED. Warwick Mansell reports.

A school which borrowed two teachers to get through its inspection has received a report noting a vast improvement in its teaching.

Milefield primary, in Barnsley, used two stand-ins loaned from nearby primaries because of a chronic shortage of supply staff in south Yorkshire. They covered a single post at different times alongside eight permanent teachers.

The local National Union of Teachers secretary is now calling for an explanation from the local authority, after the inspectors pronounced their verdict.

Pete Bevis told The TES: "I have never heard of schools actually borrowing staff from other schools. This raises a number of questions, not least whether the Office for Standards in Education was made aware of the situation from the start. Other schools are bound to ask 'if one school can do this, why can't we?" But Heather Scott, Barnsley's assistant director of education, said the school's move had come about only because of a chronic shortage of supply staff in the area, made more acute by a flu outbreak during the inspection in February.

The school had one all it could to fill the gap after a teacher had fallen ill on the Friday before the inspection. Ms Scott said the school would have told OFSTED that the two teachers had been "borrowed". But it was likely that at least one of them would have had their teaching inspected, she admitted.

Although the inspection report did note a dramatic improvement in teaching, this was not out of step with the rest of its findings, which highlighted better management in a school making improvements on many fronts. Nine teachers were inspected. Ms Scott added: "I don't think what happened had an effect on the outcome of the inspection. Inspectors not only observe teachers teaching, they look at pupils' work and talk to pupils.

"The report was a fair reflection of the hard work that's been put in at the school."

Alison Wilkinson, head of Milefield, said she had been advised not to comment. She said: "The LEA is handling this. I've nothing further to add."

An OFSTED spokeswoman said it was up to headteachers to make inspectors aware if they had supply teachers on their books. For the purposes of this inspection, the "borrowed" teachers would have been treated as supply teachers.

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