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Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne ‘requires improvement’, according to latest Ofsted inspection

A once “outstanding” school with more than 1,000 pupils on the roll has been told it must do better after inspectors downgraded it yet again.

Fulston Manor School in Brenchley Road, Sittingbourne – which looks after 1,340 youngsters – has dropped from “good” to “requires improvement” after a visit by education watchdog Ofsted.

Fulston Manor School, Sittingbourne
Fulston Manor School, Sittingbourne

In the report published on Friday, January 12, most areas looked at by the inspection team – including behaviour and attitudes, personal development, leadership and management, and sixth-form provision – were all rated as “good”.

But the quality of education was graded as “requires improvement”, with too much focus on preparing pupils for exams alone, giving the school an overall rating of “requires improvement”.

The school was rated “outstanding” in May 2011. After it converted to an academy, it was rated “good” at inspections in 2014 and 2017.

But it has been six years since Ofsted visited, and this time the team found things to work on.

Head teacher Susie Burden said the school was “proud” of being found good in four areas but acknowledged summer GCSE results “were disappointing” and said the school was “working hard to address this”.

Fulston Manor's head Susie Burden
Fulston Manor's head Susie Burden

The inspection, which took place on November 14 and 15, found that while “staff want pupils to achieve well” pupils “do not currently learn as well as they should, because the curriculum is not taught consistently well”.

The focus of the curriculum “is too often linked to preparing pupils for GCSE examinations, rather than prioritising the knowledge needed to become life-long learners of the subject”, the report added.

The inspectors said: “Checks on learning during lessons do not routinely help teachers to adapt future teaching so that knowledge is built on and gaps are addressed.

“Consequently, pupils do not develop secure enough knowledge of the subjects that they study.”

Meanwhile, the support for disadvantaged pupils, which includes SEND students, was found to be “variable”.

The inspectors stated that staff “are not always clear about how to help these pupils or how to check that any extra support making a difference”.

“Not all disadvantaged pupils catch up with their peers quickly enough”, the report added.

Ofsted said for the school to return to a good status it “should ensure that curriculum planning routinely focuses on the vital knowledge that pupils need to be successful learners of their subjects”.

Inspectors found the quality of education ‘requires improvement’. Stock image
Inspectors found the quality of education ‘requires improvement’. Stock image

Mrs Burden said: “We are continuing to improve our quality of education and have already put into place rigorous, evidence-informed strategies to rapidly address improvement areas.

“We are particularly focused on enhancing our reading programmes and promoting the importance of daily school attendance.

“The report specifically commends our curriculum for its broad range of subjects on offer and comments on the happy, safe and welcoming school Fulston is.

“This is a kind school committed to providing a safe, welcoming and friendly place to learn. Pupils are happy and safe. Leaders have high expectations for pupils’ behaviour and conduct.

“Relationships are strong and supportive. The culture of celebration, reward and pride is evident. Pupils feel they are part of the Fulston family.

“The school offers a broad range of subjects, which exceed the requirements of the national curriculum and the sixth form curriculum offer is extensive and bespoke.

“Teachers are well equipped to deliver the curriculum and have secure subject knowledge.

“Relationships are positive and kind. Instances of bullying, racism and sexually inappropriate behaviour are very rare.

“Leaders’ actions are leading to improvements in attendance, particularly persistent absentees.

“The sixth form is highly regarded and is a popular destination. Year 13 students have developed high levels of independence, understanding and knowledge retention.

“This prepares them very well for the future and pastoral support is particularly strong.”

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