Ofsted inspectors visited the school during November to sit in on classes and sample the learning experience.
But their resulting report in which they declared the school’s academic and teaching standards to be ‘inadequate’ has only just been made public.
Somerset County Council, which spends more than £4 million a year on public relations and other publicity activities, tried to gloss over the news with a press release which talked mainly of how an action plan had been put in place to address the Ofsted concerns.
News of Knights Templar’s poor performance was all the more unexpected because it received a ‘satisfactory’ rating when Ofsted last visited in 2004 together with praise for several significant strengths - although the inspectors pointed to a high proportion of pupils who found learning difficult and that standards were below the national average.
The ‘special measures’ status means Knights Templar will receive regular visits from Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools (HMI) and Ofsted’s school improvement division until it is considered to again be providing an acceptable standard of education.
During the monitoring visits, HMI evaluates the standards being achieved, the progress made by pupils, and the quality of education being provided.
It also assesses the progress made in addressing Ofsted’s key issues.
As well as its criticism of academic and teaching standards, Ofsted also said there were several positive aspects of Knights Templar’s performance.
It said pupil attendance had recently improved and was now considered ‘good’.
The behaviour of pupils had also improved from ‘satisfactory’ when the school was last inspected in 2004 to being ‘good’.
Ofsted also praised the good attention the school provided for pupils’ welfare, and importantly, the inspectors recognised that students felt safe and enjoyed school, and they praised the school’s strong Christian ethos.
The headmaster of the 215-pupil school, Keith Atkins, said: “We accept the findings of our recent Ofsted inspection and we are going to work very hard to address our areas for development.
“We are pleased that the caring ethos of our school was recognised, and the children’s spiritual development and behaviour were identified as good.
“As the new head teacher at Knights Templar, I am pleased that our recent improvement and progress has been recognised.
“We will continue to work together as a team to ensure that we keep developing the school.
“I would like to add my thanks to all the parents who have shown their support of the school during difficult times, and I would like to promise them that we will continue to strive to give their children the best possible start in life.”
Key points of the action plan agreed by the school governors and the county education authority included:
- Building on the recognised improvements the new headmaster had made in the short time he had been in post
- School leaders and staff taking significant steps to address the issues raised by the inspection
- Continuing a strong commitment to addressing the issues effectively and swiftly
- Encouraging a positive ethos within the school
- Governors and staff working closely with the education authority to address key issues
The county’s head of schools and achievement, Judith Richardson, said: “I am convinced that the school and the council have put in place appropriate measures to bring about a swift improvement in the school.”
Council education portfolio holder Councillor Gloria Cawood, who is currently overseeing closure plans for a number of small schools in Somerset, said: “We will be working closely with Knights Templar First School to ensure it moves swiftly out of special measures and improves on the areas identified by Ofsted as needing improvement.”