Two north Northumberland schools defend under-performing test results

Maria Wilson, headteacher of St Paul's RC Primary School, Alnwick, and Gary Parnaby, headteacher of Shilbottle Primary School.Maria Wilson, headteacher of St Paul's RC Primary School, Alnwick, and Gary Parnaby, headteacher of Shilbottle Primary School.
Maria Wilson, headteacher of St Paul's RC Primary School, Alnwick, and Gary Parnaby, headteacher of Shilbottle Primary School.
Two headteachers have defended their primary schools after recently-published league tables showed they had under-performed in the National Curriculum tests (SATs) this year.

Both Shilbottle School and St Paul’s RCVA School, Alnwick, were named among the 364 mainstream primaries in England that fell below the ‘floor standard.’

In September, the Government revealed the Key Stage 2 attainment and progress scores schools had to achieve to avoid falling below the floor.

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St Paul's headteacher Maria Wilson.St Paul's headteacher Maria Wilson.
St Paul's headteacher Maria Wilson.

Schools are considered to be under-performing if less than 65 per cent of pupils reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, or if they fail to make sufficient progress in the three areas.

However, it was also reported that the floor standards will be calculated this year solely for the Department for Education to identify schools that might benefit from support.

Therefore, for schools which are not judged inadequate by Ofsted, the consequence of being below the floor will be only that an optional offer of support will be made.

Shilbottle Primary was rated as outstanding by Ofsted at its last inspection in March 2009, and St Paul’s was rated as good in October 2017.

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Gary Parnaby, headteacher of Shilbottle Primary School, was prompted to write to parents on Friday after both schools were identified in a national newspaper story.

He said: “As you will be aware, our school featured in a national tabloid in an article referring to the worst schools in the country.

“Whilst we have received an overwhelming amount of much appreciated supportive messages from parents, understandably some of you may have concerns regarding the article.”

As the story related to just one performance measure, the results of the end of Key Stage Two SATs, Mr Parnaby set out all of the current data, which gave a much rosier picture of the school.

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“As the data shows, there are definite areas of strengths and areas for development which we are already addressing,” he said.

“As a school we work extremely hard, with the help of parents, to support these children through their first set of externally marked tests, both in class and in after school sessions. However, the first maths paper (children sit three maths papers) proved to be particularly challenging for the children.

“Since our data was released we have made several changes to our practices, one of which is highlighting the importance of children acquiring a sound and rapid knowledge of their multiplication facts as early as possible with time dedicated to this each day.”

Headteacher at St Paul’s RCVA Primary, Maria Wilson, said: “The statistics from last year’s Key Stage 2 results were disappointing but I am confident that this group of children had received an excellent education which develops the whole child, were happy and well-prepared for their successful transition to high school education.

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“Ofsted rated St Paul’s as good in last year’s inspection. This year, the school was judged to be good and the Catholic life of the school was rated as outstanding by the Education Department of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. Our children are happy, confident and nurtured in a caring Christian ethos of St Paul’s School. There is more to a school than can be shown by one year’s statistics from national testing.

“Ofsted are recognising this and in 2019, changes will move Ofsted’s focus away from headline data to look instead at how schools are achieving these results and whether they are offering a curriculum that is broad, rich and deep.

“We are determined as a school to achieve improved outcomes as quickly as possible. We have put in place a variety of measures to ensure this happens quickly and effectively. We continue to appreciate the trust and support from our school community who have shown great understanding of the complex changes and challenges that have faced the school in recent times and that we are a Good school.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the ASCL school leaders’ union, said: “Schools will be glad to see the back of the floor and coasting standards which the education secretary has himself described as confusing and intends to replace.

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“These complex performance measures are based entirely on data which, in primary schools, boils down to the results of SATs taken by Year 6 pupils over one week each May after seven years of education. They cannot possibly tell the whole story.”

of a school and far too much weight has been placed on them.”