Changes fail to hinder progress

Staff and pupils at Whittingham First School celebrate their Ofsted success.
Staff and pupils at Whittingham First School celebrate their Ofsted success.

A north Northumberland first school, which has experienced significant changes over the past few years ,has received good marks in two recent inspections.

Whittingham Church of England First School has been rated as good with outstanding features by Ofsted and outstanding by the Church of England Anglican and Methodist Schools inspectorate (SIAMS) after being visited by inspectors from both in March.

With 58 pupils on its register, the village school replaced two of its three teachers in 2013 and was delighted to promote Belinda Athey to headteacher in 2011. During that time, the school has continued to flourish, increasing pupil numbers and building on its excellent reputation.

The Ofsted report said that the school has ‘good leadership and management of teaching, and good governance’, while also paying tribute to the work that had been done since the last inspection, adding that ‘the school is improving quickly towards its goal of being outstanding’.

It is not yet outstanding because ‘the quality of teaching does not yet bring about outstanding achievement for all pupils’ and ‘results in the phonics screening tests (letters and the sounds they make) are not as good as they might be for some groups of pupils’.

However, the positives far outweigh the areas for improvement, with key findings including that ‘the ambitious vision and inspirational leadership of the headteacher motivate staff and pupils to constantly give their best’ and ‘pupils’ behaviour is exemplary’.

The SIAMS report stated that Whittingham First School ‘is outstanding at meeting the needs of all learners’.

The inspections were the first for Mrs Athey as headteacher, although she has taught at the school for almost 18 years. She is understandably delighted with the results, saying: “The changes we’ve faced as a school over the last three years have been significant, but the support and dedication demonstrated by the staff, governors, parents and children have been, without doubt, exceptional.

“Even within Ofsted’s new vigorous framework, the inspections specifically highlighted that the school continues to make rapid improvements and is well on the way to achieving an outstanding status across the board.”