Diocese of Portsmouth

    Ventnor primary school could be given a fresh start

    17 March 2016

    Bishop Philip and Bishop Christopher at the formal opening of St Francis Catholic and C of E Primary School

    A Ventnor primary school could be given a fresh start as an academy.

    St Francis Catholic and C of E Primary School in Ventnor could become an academy after the Church of England and Catholic dioceses and the local authority agreed a joint response to a disappointing Ofsted report. The government would need to formally agree this course of action before any change to academy status takes place.

    Inspectors placed St Francis Catholic and C of E Primary School into ‘special measures’ after visiting the school for two days.

    They had concerns about the school’s leadership and teaching, and pupils’ progress. But they praised the pupils’ behaviour, which was generally well-mannered and supportive.

    St Francis School has already acted upon priorities for improvement listed in the report, especially a reference to improving safeguarding arrangements. This related to technicalities in the policy, and to new requirements in training to prevent extremism and radicalisation - rather than the safety and wellbeing of children.

    Because the government expects that all schools placed into ‘special measures’ become academies, the Church of England’s Portsmouth and Winchester Diocesan Academy Trust (PWDAT) has offered to sponsor the school. It currently sponsors three academies, and the diocesan team support a further 17 academies in Bournemouth, Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight.

    The Catholic and Church of England dioceses will work together to improve pupils’ progress and attainment, whilst maintaining the existing religious designation.

    The Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Christopher Foster, said: “We were disappointed to hear that inspectors had placed the school in ‘special measures’, but we recognise that this can provide a new opportunity for the school to be re-launched as an academy.

    “Our academy trust already sponsors a number of other academies, and has been successful in helping to raise standards and improve teaching. We’re confident that the trust could deal with the issues addressed by Ofsted. The most important thing for us is to make sure that these children are given the best possible education.

    “We’re conscious that parents also chose this school for their children because of its Christian ethos. This is also the best way to preserve the Christian ethos of the school, given the expectation by the government that the school should become an academy.”

    The Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Philip Egan, said: “I am naturally disappointed with the Ofsted findings, and the school staff, governors and families will be in my prayers as they take in this difficult news.

    “We have been working closely with our colleagues in the Church of England diocese for many years. We can see the opportunities that becoming an academy within the PWDAT can bring, if it becomes the academy sponsor of St Francis School.

    “We are confident that in partnership with the trust, which already has experience of helping schools in similar positions, we will be able to support St Francis to improve academically, and that it will continue to uphold the strong Christian ethos upon which it was founded.” 

    Councillor Jonathan Bacon, Leader of the Isle of Wight Council, said: “The Isle of Wight Council has been working together with representatives of St Francis Primary School and we hope that its conversion to an academy, supported by both dioceses, will provide the best outcome for the school, its pupils and their families.

    “The Ofsted report for St Francis was understandably disappointing, especially at a point in time where there are currently no inadequate schools on the island.  There were eleven when the partnership with Hampshire began and this demonstrates excellent progress and overall improvement of the island school system. However, we will continue to work with the school as required, as they seek to implement the improvements needed to provide the best possible education to their pupils.”

    The Ofsted report was made available to parents on March 17. They have been invited to a meeting at the school on Wednesday 23rd March to discuss any concerns.

    The report said that the school’s leaders, including its governors, had not been effective in improving pupils’ achievement and teaching. Expectations of what pupils can achieve are too inconsistent, and attendance is not monitored carefully enough.

    But it also praised the new consultant headteacher and acting head, who are working well to raise expectations among staff. The school’s recently-reviewed curriculum is broad, balanced and enhanced by enriching activities. The school uses its unique environment and heritage well, and pupils enjoy visits and visitors.

    The school has numerous clubs on offer, including sports, cookery and chess clubs. The inspectors were impressed with the relaxed start and end to the day that its before and after-school clubs provided.

    St Francis has seen a consistent improvement in attainment at both Level 4 and 4b+ in the combined measure of reading, writing and mathematics at Key Stage 2 over the last three years and in 2015, produced attainment results that were in line with the national average.

    The report also said pupils’ spiritual and moral development is strong, and special events such as a multi-faith week help to build respect, tolerance, equality and diversity.

    St Francis School was originally created in 2010 as the second joint Catholic and Church of England school on the Isle of Wight. It was formed by the merger of one Catholic school and two Church of England schools in Ventnor, and moved to its current site in December 2012. The purpose-built school caters for 320 pupils aged between four and 11 in modern classrooms, with a modern sports hall and playing fields next door.

    The school has been without a permanent headteacher since last year. But an experienced headteacher from Summerfields Primary School in Newport was seconded to work as acting headteacher last term and it still supporting the current acting headteacher this term.