'No stone left unturned' during virtual Ofsted inspection at Preston academy says head

Fulwood Academy is determined not to let the pandemic get in the way of learning but needs to do more to help pupils with reading according to Ofsted.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 3:45 pm

Fulwood Academy on Black Bull Lane, Preston, achieved good feedback after a virtual two-day Ofsted inspection in February but improvement is still needed.

Ofsted carried out a virtual monitoring visit while in-person inspections are suspended due to COVID-19.

During remote visits, Ofsted notes that the ‘range of evidence available to inspectors is narrower’ than it would be for normal inspections but Fulwood principal Dave Lancaster said: “This virtual inspection was just as challenging as a normal one.

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Fulwood Academy principal David Lancaster, photo: Neil Cross

“No stones were left unturned.”

Schools, such as Fulwood, that are rated ‘inadequate’ and placed in special measures by Ofsted, usually have ‘monitoring visits’ to check their progress.

Feedback from Ofsted shows a marked improvement on the academy’s full inspection in February 2019.

Ofsted recommends that the academy ‘strengthen further the teaching of reading’ to help pupils that are behind.

A total of 34 staff left the school since Ofsted’s last visit in October 2020.

In this time, 19 new staff were hired including the principal, vice-principal, assistant principal and a director of science.

Principal Lancaster said: “We are absolutely delighted with the nature of the report.

“While Ofsted are unable to make an overall judgement, like Good, because of the type of inspection it was, the inspection team were able to conclude that we are taking effective action in all that we are doing.”

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The school was commended for highlighting gaps in its pupils’ knowledge following the first national lockdown and subsequent school closures.

Ofsted said that principal Lancaster and the school ‘are adamant that the pandemic will not derail the momentum of curriculum improvement’ and ‘teachers ensure that pupils are able to revisit prior learning and take on new learning’.

The school has been told that it needs to do more to help students with reading.

“What is most pleasing is that the inspectors noted that we were not going to use Covid-19 as an excuse,” Mr Lancaster said.

“There is no shying away from the fact that the pandemic has provided a unique set of challenges, but we believe that we should always be pushing for the very best for our students.”

“We have challenged ourselves not just to do the minimum, but to try everything possible to ensure that no child is disadvantaged because of the issues that they have faced over the last 12 months.”

The school was praised for ensuring that those learning at home had the same access to lessons that they would in school.

For example, a ‘virtual hall’ allows children to take drama lessons even if they are learning from home.

Vulnerable children who are learning from home are in daily contact with the school and are following their usual timetable according to the body.

Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) has been ‘much-improved’ according to the report and these pupils learn the same curriculum as their peers.

During the most recent lockdown, Fulwood provided a food bank for parents and door-to-door stationery delivery.

A survey of parents on Ofsted’s ‘Parent View’ portal shows that 89% of parents would now recommend the school.

This is more than double the 40% who said they would recommend the school in 2019.

According to the majority of parents surveyed, the school dealt with bullying ‘quickly and effectively’. The school previously had a bullying problem but 93% of the surveyed parents agreed their children feel safe at the school.

Of the surveyed parents with SEND children, 69% agreed that they were getting the support they needed but 11% strongly disagreed with this statement.

Joan Dean, chairwoman of the Dunstone Education Trust, said: “At every level, the Fulwood Academy family has worked tirelessly to support our community – educationally, pastorally and practically.

“It is great that we’re seeing our students making real strides in their academic learning, but for students to make real progress we must continue to ensure that they are happy and confident learners.

“I raise my hat to the staff and students at the school and also thank again our families who continue to support Fulwood in all we do”