Ofsted success for village school

The Priors School
The Priors School
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Staff, pupils and parents at The Priors School are celebrating after an Ofsted inspection rated their school as ‘good’.

The school, in Priors Marston, had at its last inspection in 2013 been described as ‘requiring improvement’.

This time around the free school was rated ‘good’ across the board.

In their report the inspectors praised the school for improving its teaching leading to a rise in achievement, the involvement of the governors and their oversight of the school, high quality help and guidance for pupils with special educational needs leading to “good, and sometimes outstanding, progress”, and the behaviour and attitude of pupils.

The report says: “The headteacher and governors are ambitious for the school. They have made good progress in tackling the areas for development identified by the last inspection and the school is well placed to improve further.

“Leaders have established a culture in which good teaching flourishes and pupils are expected to behave well.”

Adding: “Teachers work collaboratively as a leadership team. They have ensured that the curriculum promotes pupils’ achievement well and reflects their abilities and interests.

“Parents show their appreciation in commenting on curriculum evenings they attend. They talk about how their children are inspired in their reading and writing.”

The report also highlights work the school does in ensuring pupils’ wellbeing: “The school’s work to keep pupils safe and secure is outstanding. As a result parents, staff and governors are very confident that the pupils are safe and well cared for both in and out of school, for example on school visits.”

Headteacher Gary Murrell said: “When we were inspected last we were in the transition to becoming a free school, and there was building work going on so it wasn’t exactly ideal.

“One of the things we’ve focussed on is improving children’s writing and the quality of teaching.

“So the children now write for different audiences and they really enjoy it.

“We’re extremely excited by the ‘good’ rating – it’s a reflection of the hard work of the staff, the governors and pupils.

“It’s a strong ‘good’ report but it follows upon the work that has been done to improve teaching. The teachers now focus on their targets because we are all here to enhance the educational experience of the children and improve their attainment.

“The report said that maths is good, but we’re looking to improve that. We’re also starting a wildlife garden and a gardening club too.”

The school has an interesting history – 166 years ago the villagers were given the school by the fourth Earl Spencer, great great grandfather to the current ninth earl, and that was when the original school building went up. The school was taken over by Warwickshire County Council. But in 1995 the council said the small school was not viable and decided to close it. Villagers and parents campaigned to keep the school, which led to it reopening in 1996 as an independent school run by a charitable trust with just 12 pupils. Annual running costs averaged £140,000, which had to be raised by the villagers and parents. However, in 2011 the Priors School became one of the first ‘free schools’ under the coalition government, meaning it kept its independence from the county council, but now gets money direct from the Government. This allowed the school to build a new wing, which was opened in March 2014. It now has 71 pupils, mostly from Priors Marston and Priors Hardwick, but also from surrounding villages and further afield too.