Disadvantaged pupils at Rye Community Primary School are ‘falling further behind their peers in reading, writing and mathematics’, according to a highly critical report from Ofsted.
The education watchdog, which rated the school as ‘inadequate’ in a report released earlier this month, also raised concerns about the quality of assessment and teaching at the school, particularly the quality of its maths teaching.
Inspectors also criticised the use of the school’s specialised pupil premium funding, which is intended to improve outcomes for disadvantaged children (who make up two-fifths of pupils at the school).
According to Ofsted approximately £220,000 of this funding had been used to supplement general staffing instead of its intended use.
The inspector said: “Those responsible for governance have not challenged senior leaders about the school’s effectiveness. In particular, inspection evidence demonstrated that former governors and former and present trustees did not know enough about: the accuracy of assessment information; pupil premium spending; the quality of teaching; and provision for pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities.”
School leadership was rated as ‘inadequate’ overall, although inspectors noted that the new board of trustees at Rye Academy Trust – appointed three months prior to the inspection visit – had very recently begun making improvements.
The trust – which also runs Rye College and the soon-to-closed Rye Studio School – says it is taking action to address Ofsted’s findings.
Chair of trustees Stephen Ward said: “Whilst the overall grade is disappointing, trustees and leaders understand what needs to be done. We have a framework in place to address the areas for improvement, building upon much of the excellent work and good practice already being carried out by our staff and pupils.
"The timing of our Ofsted visit came after we ourselves had recognised the need for improvement and we have already made changes which are having an impact. We are confident about being able to demonstrate the impact of these changes when Ofsted return to our school.”
Ofsted’s recommendations are set against financial troubles at the trust, which has seen it required to merge with another trust.
Speaking to the Observer this week, CEO Tim Hulme described the merger as “the last piece of the jigsaw” to securing the future of the trust. He said he wanted to reassure parents that the merger with the Kent-based Aquinas Church of England Education Trust is a positive step.
He said: “Whenever parents hear that another trust will be forming part of the community I think there is always cause to feel some concern, but I would like to reassure them and say that we’ve elected to form part of the Aquinas Trust through a proper process. We’ve elected them because of their values, which are very, very consistent with Rye Academy Trust values around children and familes. That’s uppermost in this new trust’s mind. While they are a faith-based trust this isn’t going to become a faith-based school. This is about children and families and offering life-changing opportunities.”
Mr Hulme said the merger could also see investment in the trust’s schools.
He said: “For a trust of our size it’s really, really hard. On a £6m budget this year we’ll just about break even or maybe make a small surplus of £10,000 or £15,000. That doesn’t allow you to invest in new resources, in new books and new pencils, new arts equipment or computers.
"When technology and teaching resources are changing we need to part of a bigger trust where we can attract inward investment. We’ve stablised Rye Academy Trust but this is about building something that is sustainable for the next 100 years.”