Following its most recent Ofsted inspection in October this year, Bantock Primary School in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, was adjudged to have continued in being a ‘good’ school. But with the inspectorate’s report suggesting that an imminent Section 5 inspection could see that outcome convert to ‘outstanding’, headteacher Harvey Sarai is looking forward with real optimism.
“Our last inspection was in October 2016, and this October our Section 8 inspection suggested we continued to be a ‘good’ school,” Sarai told The Leaders Council.
“However, Ofsted indicated that there was enough evidence of improved performance to suggest that we could even be ‘outstanding’ if the inspector were to carry out a Section 5 inspection now. Thus, our next inspection will be a Section 5 inspection.”
The positive findings in the latest Ofsted report were widespread. The inspectorate indicated that Bantock Primary School pupils were very proud of their school, relished learning and recognised its importance, and were always ready to participate and support each other in lessons.
The watchdog also noted the cohesion between school leaders, staff and governors in working together to help each and every pupil shine, with extra-curricular activities carefully planned to promote development. School leaders were also adjudged to have successfully developed an effective curriculum for all pupils, helping them acquire knowledge and develop skills across all subjects. Vocabulary, phonics and guided reading were all earmarked as top priorities to ensure pupils were equipped with sufficient mastery of the English language.
Bantock Primary School teachers were also praised for their ability to adapt lessons to meet the needs of individual pupils. Support for SEND pupils was deemed effective, and safeguarding was credited for its focus on contemporary issues, such as instructing pupils on how to remain safe online. Staff remain vigilant for any sudden changes in a pupil’s demeanour, acting quickly to support pupils and their families, while the close relationships established between pupils and teachers enables the children to share any concerns with adults that they trust.
According to Sarai, nothing that Bantock Primary School is currently doing is new. What has changed in her view, is that the new Ofsted framework and the collective experience of the education sector overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic means that the school is finally being given due recognition for all that it does.
“Bantock Primary has a very unique school context, this translates into unique challenges requiring creative solutions,” Sarai explained. “We are a school that thrives on research outcomes and are excited when an aspect that is implemented leads to desirable outcomes. This hasn’t changed, regardless of the changing landscape, who we are and how we work has remained the same. We are still the same school, although we are probably even better at it as we continue to learn and refine.
“So, what has changed between 2016 and 2021, I ask myself. There is a new Ofsted framework with a ‘mindful’ reliance on external data, but with a greater focus on how the curriculum is adapted and prioritised, how the school community was supported through Covid, and relationship education.”
Both for Sarai personally and the school at large, overcoming all of the challenges associated with the pandemic was a sizeable task.
“Covid-19 undoubtedly affected how we operated. For me, it felt at times like I was operating two schools and no amount of explanation could describe the journey. The emotions I could use to describe the difficult part of the journey were of frustration, exhaustion, anxiety and more.”
However, persistence was the key to Sarai and Bantock Primary’s enduring success, as it has always been, and in the headteacher’s perspective, the school has emerged from the previous two years stronger than ever before and is gaining the recognition that it has long merited.
“At the same time as I was experiencing these difficult emotions, I endeavoured to revert my thinking and hence my emotions,” Sarai continued.
“I did this in order to continue well in the role that I am dedicated to…and my emotions transitioned more to those of mindfulness, empathy and resilience.
“But I ask, could it truly be, given what we have seen in our inspection, that Covid-19 has actually led to improved practices, systems and procedures? Could it be that the change the Ofsted framework allows schools like mine to SHINE?
“Could it really be, that we are finally being ‘seen’ for everything we have always done?”