More improvements needed at ‘happy, inclusive and welcoming’ Eastville school

INSPECTORS have praised an Eastville primary school’s “ambitious” curriculum and caring staff – but say more improvements need to be made.

Ofsted visited May Park in November, for the school’s first full inspection since being taken over by the Excalibur Academies Trust in 2019.

The regulator said pupils’ behaviour and attitudes, personal development and the school’s early years provision were all ‘good’.

However the school’s quality of education and leadership and management needed to improve, leading to an overall rating of ‘requires improvement’.

May Park’s last full inspection in 2018 led to it being put into special measures, after being rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.

‘Nurturing atmosphere and supportive staff’ praised

The three inspectors who wrote the new report, published in January, found much to praise at the school in Coombe Road, which has 534 pupils aged from three to 11.

They said: “This is a happy, inclusive and welcoming school at the heart of the diverse community it serves.”

The inspectors praised the school’s “caring, nurturing atmosphere and supportive staff”.

They said staff build good relationships with pupils and their families.

Children’s behaviour and attitudes to learning had “considerably improved” since the school joined the academy trust, the inspectors said.

They also highlighted the priority given to reading, with a “systematic” phonics programme, extra teaching for pupils who need to catch up and a wide selection of books in the school’s library, which is run by Year 6 pupils and volunteers from the local community. 

They said the Early Years curriculum was “demanding and captures children’s interest”, with activities that “spark children’s curiosity and develop their knowledge and skills well”.

The inspectors said: “The school expects all pupils to do well.

“This expectation is realised in early years, where children learn well.

“However, until recently, the school has not provided pupils in key stages 1 and 2 with a demanding curriculum that builds pupils’ knowledge securely. As a result, many pupils do not achieve well enough.”

Improvements are ‘in their early stages’

Improvements “are in their early stages” and had been hindered by “challenges, such as changes to leadership and staffing”, said the inspectors.

Previous principal Vanetta Spence, who had been at the school since 2019, left last summer to take charge of Montpelier High School.

The inspectors said: “The school has recently designed a more ambitious curriculum.

“Leaders have identified the knowledge and skills they expect pupils to learn. However, the new curriculum is in its infancy, and assessment is still being developed.

“As a result, many pupils have gaps in their learning and do not achieve as well as they should.

“The school has not checked on the impact of the new curriculum well enough.”

The inspectors said some pupils did not attend regularly, “despite the school’s determined efforts”.

‘Commitment, determination and sheer hard work’

Principal Gina De N’Yeurt (above) said: “We have such a wonderful school, where each and every individual plays a vital role in making it the respectful and uplifting place it is.

“We are pleased that inspectors acknowledged the improvements that have been made to date and agreed with the school’s view of how May Park can improve further. 

“Staff and Governors are continuing to work hard to build on this progress to ensure the best possible outcome for pupils.”

Excalibur Academies Trust chief executive Nicky Edmondson said: “This inspection report clearly recognises the commitment, determination and sheer hard work from all of the staff and governors at May Park.

“Ofsted has recognised that behaviour and attitudes to learning, personal development and early years are the school’s real strengths, which is a testament to their collective care and ambition.”

Top picture: May Park Primary School pupils in the school library