The governing body of a Leighton Buzzard school has today written to apologise to parents ahead of Friday's official release of its Ofsted report which will reveal it has plummeted from an 'outstanding' rating at its previous inspection to being put in special measures for being 'inadequate".
Dovery Down Lower School was inspected on October 6-7 - the first time it has been placed under the microscope of a full Ofsted inspection since March 2007 due to its impressive rating at the time making it exempt. However, the controversial exemption system has now been axed and previously 'outstanding' schools are facing compulsory routine visits again.
In his letter to parent seen by the LBO, Ian Haynes, Chair of Governors, said the school would be working hard so that, in time, families would feel proud of Dovery Down once again.
He wrote: "Dovery Down was last inspected 14 years ago and was judged to be ‘outstanding’. This rating reflected the school’s overall effectiveness under the inspection framework in use at the time.
"Until November 2020, the school was exempted by law from routine inspection, so there was a longer gap than usual between inspections. Judgements on our latest report are based on the current inspection framework and also reflect changes that have happened at any point since the last inspection. The overall judgement of the recent inspection was that our educational provision at Dovery Down Lower School is inadequate, and the school is being placed into special measures."
He added: "This is obviously enormously disappointing, but the Governing Board fully accepts the Ofsted inspection findings. Our improvement journey has not happened quickly enough, and the report reflects this."
Mr Haynes said the report, which has been sent to parents ahead of the official release on the Ofsted website on Friday, November 26, shows overall effectiveness of school is inadequate (and requiring special measures) with the following judgements in each area- quality of education (inadequate); behaviour and attitudes (requires improvement); personal development (requires improvement); leadership and management (inadequate); Early years provision (inadequate).
He continued: "On behalf of the Governing Board, I want to apologise to all parents, carers, families, both current and those who have recently left the school, who have received a declining educational provision from the school in recent years. This is not acceptable, and we should not have reached this point. Today, I have two main aims, firstly to inform you of our outcome and more importantly what we will do to ensure the school is brought back to a 'good' rating as soon as possible."
Mr Haynes revealed that due to falling to Ofsted’s lowest rating as a result of being placed in special measures, the school had been instructed to academise.
He said: "Over half of pupils are already educated in academies across the country, and there are some real benefits of joining a multi-academy trust. The Local Authority and the Governing Board are proactively working together with the Department of Education to find a suitable trust to take the school over. Final decisions on this should be made in January 2022, but I would like to reassure you that we have already had some positive expressions of interest from academy trusts.
"I feel confident that an appropriate trust will be appointed/chosen that conserves the uniqueness of Dovery Down, and the school’s character will be a priority too. I also want to reassure you that we have acted immediately to accelerate our improvements in all areas highlighted in the report, on behalf of all governors and staff."
He added that parents would be able to hear more about the plans and meet some key members of the improvement team and ask questions at a parental meeting on Thursday, December 9 at 6.30pm in the school hall.
He said: "Please do take the opportunity to share your thoughts and feelings following this report ahead of the meeting on December 9. I hope that we can work together collaboratively to improve the education for our children."
Mr Haynes also revealed that he planned to step down as Chair of Governors. He explained: "We are aware of where the processes have broken down and are reviewing and removing flawed systems. I have been working closely with the Local Authority following the recent inspections, and actions have already been taken to make rapid and swift improvements in a number of areas.
"However, we recognise that the Governing Board has failed in its statutory duty to hold the school leadership to account. My reassurance about implementing changes alone is not enough to address the concerns shared by Ofsted and the parent body. Therefore, I intend to step down as Chair of Governors as soon as we are able to know what is happening with the school in January. However, to ensure a smooth transition for the incoming chair, I plan to stay on the Governing Board to help the new Chair and Board work through the improvements required and the academisation process.
"I take accountability for failing to hold Leaders to account and have a sincere desire to learn, focusing on each issue, not pointing to blame or fault. Unfortunately for our children, we have failed to give our pupils an acceptable standard of education. As the person responsible for leading the school’s governance, I have not demonstrated the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school. I can only personally apologise to you all."
He concluded that governors were "saddened" after learning of comments made in the Ofsted Parent View survey.
He said: "Going forwards, we hope that you feel better listened to and understood. In time I hope that the families at Dovery Down will once again feel proud of our school, and we have a desire to build bridges and establish greater partnership working with parents moving forward.
"We recognise that rapid improvement is required in certain areas across the school and are ready to work as a team to ensure we make the changes necessary to improve the education for all our children. The most crucial element to all of this is that we are a community – parents, families, and school - and we all need to work together.
"We wish you all to know that we want to embrace communication with you during this time, and my thanks go to Mrs Blessing [deputy headteacher] for the improving channels of communication we have seen so far. Mrs Blessing is continuing to lead and manage the school in Mrs Brewster’s [headteacher] absence.
"Consideration is also being given to create a Parent Voice. This informal group that would be run by parents but has attendance by Parent Governors and School Leaders invites parents to come into school and discuss issues of concern or make suggestions on how the school can improve."
Do you or have you had a child at Dovery Down? What do you think of the report? Email [email protected]