New Caldicot school gets poor marks

Free Press Series: MUST DO BETTER: Inspectors have criticised standards at the £7m Dewstow Primary School, under headteacher Gillian Bray MUST DO BETTER: Inspectors have criticised standards at the £7m Dewstow Primary School, under headteacher Gillian Bray

A MULTI-million pound Caldicot primary school which opened a year ago has been placed only one category above special measures by the inspectorate Estyn.

The 230-pupil Dewstow Primary School, formed when Green Lane Juniors and West End Infant schools merged at a cost of around £7 million, was criticised by Estyn after inspectors found that the writing skills of most pupils are under-developed; pupils’ Welsh second language skills are limited; and teachers’ expectations of pupils are often too low.

Despite "ample resources", both current performance and prospects for improvement were described as "adequate", as opposed to "unsatisfactory", "good" or "excellent".

But inspectors admitted it was too early to evaluate many aspects of the newly created school, including the impact of the recently formed senior management team.

"This school is in need of significant improvement," said the report. "The school will draw up an action plan which shows how it is going to address the recommendations. Estyn will monitor the school’s progress about 12 months after the publication of this report."

The significant improvement category is one of five available to inspectors, ranging from excellent practice case study (the best), to local authority monitoring, Estyn monitoring, significant improvement, or special measures (the worst).

Seven-year-old pupils at Dewstow do not perform well when compared with pupils in the family of similar schools, the report said, according to data from the end of the Foundation phase, and recommendations made during a previous inspector of Green Lane junior school have not progressed sufficiently.

But the inspectors found there was a general trend of improvement over four years at the school; the number skills of most pupils are developing appropriately; most pupils feel safe in school; staff provide a broad and balanced curriculum; and most teachers use a variety of teaching strategies to meet the needs of most pupils.

Pupils’ behaviour has improved since moving to the new school and there have been no exclusions in the past year, but the most recent attendance figure of about 93 per cent is below the local authority and Wales averages.

Prospects for improvement are "adequate" because the head teacher provides clear and effective leadership; leaders have been very successful in establishing a primary school ethos; communication is good throughout the school; there are good plans for developing literacy and numeracy; and there are strong partnerships with parents.

Estyn recommended that the school raise standards of pupils’ writing skills and Welsh as a second language, as well as teachers’ expectations of what pupils can achieve.

A spokesman for Monmouthshire council said: "We are delighted that Estyn has highlighted a number of very real strengths with the newly opened Dewstow school.

"The creation of a brand new school is far more than the bringing together of the pupils and staff – along with the construction of brand new innovative school buildings. We’re glad that the report acknowledges this and we will be working to ensure that the action points that they raise are acted upon."

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