OFSTED inspectors visited the Gateway Primary Free School on 21st and 22nd February. Whilst a number of strengths were identified in the report, overall, inspectors judged that the school ‘requires improvement’.
The Gateway Learning Community CEO, Kevin Sadler said: ‘We are obviously disappointed with this judgment as we promised our young people better.
Like many schools in Thurrock and more widely, we are struggling to recruit and retain teachers which impacted on our results last year and prompted this inspection. However, the inspectors recognised the strengths of the current teaching team and agreed with the school that results for current pupils [but year 6 in particular] at the end of the year will be considerably higher than last year’.
He went on to say that, ‘After much reflection and with a heavy heart, our Head of School, Thom Martin has decided not to continue in the post’. An acting Head of School is now in place with the school and the wider GLC working hard to ensure that every child has the opportunity we would all wish for them.
The report acknowledges that during this year the school has established a ‘rigorous and effective system for assessing the progress that pupils make’. Inspectors go on to say that the school has ‘recently introduced more regular analysis of pupils’ progress in reading, writing and mathematics in Year 2 and Year 6′ and that ‘school assessment information demonstrates that pupils in these year groups are now making stronger progress.
In English, inspectors want the school to provide more opportunities for pupils to ‘meaningfully edit and re-draft their work to build their stamina and resilience in writing’.
They said that ‘the teaching of early reading is systematic and effective. Adults question pupils well to ensure that they practice their sounds. Results in Year 1 phonic screening check have risen over the previous two years, but are currently still below the national standard’. Inspectors stressed that teachers should ensure that pupils’ letter and number formation is correct and that their handwriting improves.
Inspectors were pleased with the provision in Early Years and judged it to be ‘good’ overall. The report says that ‘from often lower starting points at the beginning of Reception Year, children make good progress and rapid gains in their learning. In 2016, the proportion of children who left the early years having reached a good level of development was broadly in line with national expectations. This academic year, the proportion of children on track to reach a good level of development is above the national expectations for their age’.
Inspectors thought that pupils are ‘well mannered, polite and respond well to the wealth of praise and rewards they receive’ and judged behaviour to be ‘good’. However, they judged that pupils personal development required improvement saying that ‘pupils do not routinely take pride in their work’ and are ‘not provided with enough opportunities to take risks in their learning to develop their resilience’.
The report acknowledged that the free school’s senior leaders ‘supported by other leaders from the GLC are changing systems and structures to hasten the pace of change’. As a result, ‘there is now evidence to demonstrate that pupils are making better progress’.
The report refers to the national difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers when it says that ‘owing to the frequent changes, leaders have focussed on ensuring that teachers have high expectations of behaviour. In this they continue to be successful. However, pupils’ progress has not been quick enough or consistent enough and requires improvement’. Whilst the report praises the ‘passion’ of senior leaders, inspectors said that leadership requires improvement as outcomes for all pupils are not yet good.