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The 'outstanding' Kent schools to have dropped to low grades following Ofsted inspections

Five schools in Kent which have held "outstanding" Ofsted ratings for years have dropped to the two lowest grades following reinspections this year.

Under previous laws, schools awarded with the education watchdog's highest rank were legally exempt from regular inspections.

Head teachers were allowed to wait years before opening up to regulators again, with some schools' most recent evaluations coming way back in 2006.

But the law changed in 2020, meaning all schools must be regularly assessed.

Ofsted has therefore regraded 18 of the county's top nurseries, primaries and secondaries.

Out of the 18, only four have kept their outstanding rating - Allington Primary, Herne Infant & Nursery, Lady Boswell's Voluntary Aided Primary and Ramsgate Holy Trinity Primary.

Nine schools have fallen one step down the ladder to "good", while four have dropped to "requires improvement".

Allington Primary School is one of the few to keep its outstanding rating
Allington Primary School is one of the few to keep its outstanding rating

Temple Ewell C of E Primary School in Dover was the only previously outstanding school to be given with the lowest possible "inadequate#2 grading.

This is the full list of the 18 outstanding schools - and the rating they received upon reinspection:

  • Allington Primary School - Outstanding
  • Herne Church of England Infant and Nursery School - Outstanding
  • Lady Boswell's Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School - Outstanding
  • Ramsgate, Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School - Outstanding
  • Bodsham Church of England Primary School - Good
  • Callis Grange Nursery and Infant School - Good
  • Cranbrook School - Good
  • Dane Court Grammar School - Good
  • Leybourne, St Peter and St Paul Church of England Primary Academy - Good
  • Rainham Mark Grammar School - Good
  • Saltwood CofE Primary School - Good
  • Sandgate Primary School - Good
  • The Skinners' School - Good
  • Barnsole Primary School - Requires Improvement
  • Borden Church of England Primary School - Requires Improvement
  • Weald of Kent Grammar School - Requires Improvement
  • Westmeads Community Infant School - Requires Improvement
  • Temple Ewell Church of England Primary School - Inadequate
HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman
HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman

Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “Regular inspection gives parents confidence in the quality of their child’s school.

"Exempting outstanding schools deprived parents of up-to-date information. It also left a lot of schools without the constructive challenge that regular inspection provides.

“The exemption was a policy founded on the hope that high standards, once achieved, would never drop, and that freedom from inspection might drive them even higher. These outcomes show that removing a school from scrutiny does not make it better.”

Nationally, 80% of the 308 outstanding schools to be reinspected did not retain the top grade. The majority were judged to be good, while about a fifth were rated requires improvement or inadequate.

When selecting schools for inspection, Ofsted prioritised those that had gone the longest without a survey. On average, the schools examined had not welcomed inspectors for 13 years.

Temple Ewell C of E Primary School in Dover is now rated 'inadequate'
Temple Ewell C of E Primary School in Dover is now rated 'inadequate'

Dover's Temple Ewell was graded inadequate despite failing in just a single category - leadership and management.

Ofsted’s concerns centred largely on poor record-keeping, including in safeguarding.

During their visit inspectors said that while all school staff were “aware of risks that pupils might face and how to report concerns”, the school did not maintain clear and comprehensive records.

Temple Ewell Primary head teacher Angela Matthews
Temple Ewell Primary head teacher Angela Matthews

Following the report's publication last month, head teacher Angela Matthews said: “We will do everything we can to address Ofsted’s concerns.

"Ofsted rightly flagged that our record-keeping needs to improve.

“We take their comments very seriously and have immediately taken urgent actions to address them.”

Borden Primary School
Borden Primary School

Borden C of E Primary in Sittingbourne was last inspected way back in 2008, when its current eldest pupils would not even have been born.

It was reformed as an academy in 2011, yet was only reinspected this June by Ofsted officials.

It was given the 'requires improvement' status despite being graded ‘good’ in four of the five inspection categories.

The school says it is therefore "puzzled" by the rating, with academy trust chief executive David Whitehead labelling the situation "incredibly frustrating" and "frankly unjust".

He has made a formal complaint to Ofsted about the quality of the inspection process and conduct of the lead inspector, yet it has not been upheld.

In a letter to parents, Mr Whitehead said: “Sadly, this inspection fell very far short of what is acceptable.

“The only area the school received ‘requires improvement’ for was leadership and management. The inspector, in her feedback, explained that this was due to two pieces of information missing from the ‘My Concern’ online safeguarding system which were subsequently located within half an hour and shared with the lead inspector.

David Whitehead, CEO of Our Community Multi Academy Trust, which runs Borden Primary
David Whitehead, CEO of Our Community Multi Academy Trust, which runs Borden Primary

"Despite the temporarily missing information the school was still adjudged to be ‘effective in safeguarding’ in the report, which is entirely correct, but of course leads to further puzzlement as to why leadership and management is still regarded as requires improvement.

“The outcome is incredibly frustrating, as is the quality of the report as it does not give an accurate picture of the school.

"We find the report to be incredibly muddled with anecdotal quotes and not enough evidence of findings to provide a clear focus on the areas for improvement.”

Mr Whitehead continued: “As a trust we are fully committed to ensuring that our schools provide the very highest level of care and education for all of our children.

"Secondly, we will be continuing to raise our concerns with Ofsted. I would not want any other schools to go through this experience.”

Westmeads Community Infant School's Ofsted rating has dropped from 'outstanding' to 'requires improvement'
Westmeads Community Infant School's Ofsted rating has dropped from 'outstanding' to 'requires improvement'

Like Borden, Westmeads Community Infant School in Whitstable has been stripped of its outstanding status and fallen down two rankings.

The Cromwell Road primary - which caters for 157 children aged five to seven - was given Ofsted's top rating when it was last assessed in October 2007.

But inspectors have since found issues with its curriculum and a lack of subject knowledge among teachers.

Speaking this summer following the reinspection, Westmeads head Kirsty White says efforts to boost teachers' knowledge have been "hugely successful".

School governors added: “We have absolute confidence in Ms White’s leadership of the school and are both grateful and impressed by the improvements already so very evident."

Weald of Kent head teacher Elizabeth Bone resigned after Ofsted's latest inspection
Weald of Kent head teacher Elizabeth Bone resigned after Ofsted's latest inspection

While Westmeads has continued confidence in its head, the Weald of Kent Grammar School has gone through a change in leadership following an Ofsted downgrade.

Elizabeth Bone resigned from her position in September amid ongoing concerns about a bullying culture at the Tonbridge school.

Following an inspection in April, Ofsted detailed that a "significant number" of students were concerned about bullying, stating: "Many pupils do not feel able to talk to adults in school about their worries."

The report came after an inquest heard 16-year-old Taliyah Dahdi, from Hildenborough, took her own life last August after suffering social isolation and bullying at the school.

Prior to being replaced by acting head Sophie Clark, Ms Bone said: "While there are certainly positive aspects of the report to be proud of, we are disappointed with the overall outcome of the inspection.

"We are committed to upholding the best possible behaviour standards and reporting procedures, and have been continuing to work hard with our students, teachers and staff and parents and carers to introduce a number of initiatives to support this."

Barnsole Primary School lost its top rating
Barnsole Primary School lost its top rating

Five years after being hailed an outstanding school, Barnsole Primary in Gillingham was reinspected in November last year.

Quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, leadership and management, early years provision categories were each rated as requiring improvement.

Surveyors said: "The curriculum is not yet consistently in place in all subjects. Leaders are clear about what they are aspiring to but they are not there yet and there is more to do. There are many initiatives and approaches that have only recently begun."

Barnsole was approached for comment but did not respond before publication.

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