Marked improvement as school is lifted out of special measures

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IT HAS been a difficult year for Hurst Green Primary School - but what a difference a year can make.

When the school broke up for the summer in 2010, it had been placed in Special Measures after Ofsted inspectors branded it ‘inadequate’.

In September, headteacher Neil McDonough arrived at the school with the aim of helping to turn Hurst Green’s fortunes around.

Now, with the support of parents, staff and governors, Mr McDonough has helped lift the school out of Special Measures and laid the foundations for Hurst Green to keep making improvements.

Speaking to the Observer, Mr McDonough said: “We are really, really proud of the amount of progress we have made in such a short time.”

He added: “When a school goes into Special Measures, it usually takes about a year to come out of and four visits from inspectors.

“But we have made it through the process and out of special measures by the third visit from inspectors.”

Following an inspection, Ofsted rates schools from one to five, one being the highest rating and five the lowest.

Hurst Green was rated four, meaning it was ‘inadequate’, and the school found itself in Special Measures in May 2010.

But the school’s last inspection, which took place between June 1-22 this year, showed there had been some major improvements.

The Overall Effectiveness rating at the school has jumped from four to three (satisfactory) with the school’s Capacity for Sustained Improvement leaping from four to two (good).

In fact there is not a single four featured in the new Ofsted report, which is a mixture of two and three ratings, with one area even scoring the top ‘outstanding’ rating - for pupil attendance.

Special Measures were officially lifted last month (June).

And there was further good news for Hurst Green when the results of this year’s Key Stage 2 SATS exams came in two weeks after the latest Ofsted report.

Year 6 pupils made two levels of progress in Key Stage 2 - something managed by just 237 schools nationally in 2009.

Mr McDonough said: “In terms of attainment, the children that took the SATS in literacy, 100 per cent got Level 4 or above and in maths than was 90 per cent.

“That would put the school nationally within the top 20 per cent.”

He added: “We are so proud of what the children have achieved.”

Mr McDonough, who had previously helped turn around a troubled school in Croydon, has now left Hurst Green.

He will be replaced by a new headteacher Graham White in September, who comes to Hurst Green from a school in Bromley.

Mr McDonough said: “My brief was to come in and work with the school and governors and put in places strategies to get this school out of Special Measures.”

He added: “The term leading up to the school going into Special Measures was extremely difficult, but we have come through the other side and have come through with some very strong relationships.

“Parents have been incredibly supportive.

“We have the same teaching team and they have worked incredibly hard.”

And Hurst Green School looks set to continue building on its success, helped in part by the move to the modern new school building in October 2011.

Sarah Maynard, chair of governors at Hurst Green, said the move had not been without its challenges.

She added: “But I think the children are really pleased with it.”

The new building includes an integrated playgroup which Mrs Maynard said will help young children make a seamless transition into school life.

She said: “It gives children much more of a stream-lined start.

“They can start school at two and leave at 11 with the same faces.”

There are also plans to open up the school building to the community, including offering IT classes.

Mr McDonough said: “The idea is to make it a truly community resource and open as often as it can be throughout the year.”

Although Mr McDonough will not be with the school in September, Hurst Green will continue to build on the progress made.

Mrs Maynard said: “Once you have worked out what works and delivers, you want to keep progressing and there are always ways to make it better.

“The children here behave really well and because they do, it means we can offer them so much more and it’s something we are very keen to continue.”