Joining an academy trust is key to transforming inadequate primary school in Hunslet says chair of governors

Being part of a smaller scale trust is going to be key to transforming the status of a primary school in Hunslet says its chair of governors.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 4:45 am

Hunslet St Mary's was deemed inadequate at an Ofsted inspection in December 2018 and, in line with government policy, needed to convert to an academy.

Part of the issue it had was that with it being a church school it had to be a 'sponsored' school and join a trust that met with the approval of the Diocese. It was in fact the Diocese of Leeds which approached The Collaborative Learning Trust about the school joining the Trust as its ethos fitted with the direction it wanted the school to take.

As of February 2020, the newly named St Mary's C of E Academy, has been working with Prince Henry's Grammar School at Otley and Bramhope Primary School, who are the two other partner schools within the trust, to transform the fortunes of the school.

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Pupils at St Mary's C of E Academy in Hunslet

Paul Tranter, chair of governors, told the Yorkshire Evening Post that having three schools working together with very different backgrounds would be beneficial for all and the rewards were already noticeable even in the few weeks that sat between formal take over and the implementation of the first national lockdown last year.

The previous chair of governors stepped down and an interim executive board was installed, external support was drafted in to support the headteacher and the leadership team to focus on areas that Ofsted has judged inadequate, a specialist maths teacher was employed and the expertise and experience of teachers from other schools were called upon to share ideas and best practice.

He said: "It is about supporting the school to make the improvements that are required. Drawing on teachers from other schools was probably the key thing that was missing and one of the reasons it was graded inadequate. They weren't looking outside of the school enough to understand if what they were doing was good.

"The school had lots of really positive aspects, some really good teachers and a positive atmosphere from children - staff just needed the right direction and support.

"We are keen that we have diversity of schools in the Trust. Prince Henry's and Bramhope are north west Leeds and relatively affluent, St Mary's is a more diverse community and more socially deprived, but, if all schools were the same we would not get the same breadth of diversity and inclusion."

He said that the benefits were starting to show but then the country was placed into national lockdown. A new headteacher is set to take up post in September and Mr Tranter says the key tasks will be to assess strengths and weaknesses within the school but also to address the impact that lockdown has had on pupils and learning.

He added: "It is planned for the new head coming in to assess strengths and weaknesses and where people need additional training or can step in and take additional responsibilities.

"There has been a lot of talk about catch up and we have seen some negative impacts because of time spent out of school. So, a big part is individual assessments of children, where they are and where they should be and what interventions we can put in place. Clearly, that will be different for St Mary's having access to that broad skillbase within the trust."