High-achieving Oxbridge school told to improve

Latest education news from the Newmarket Journal, newmarketjournal.co.uk, @nktjournal on Twitter
Latest education news from the Newmarket Journal, newmarketjournal.co.uk, @nktjournal on Twitter

A Roman Catholic upper school has been told it needs to improve by government inspectors despite being one of the top state schools in the country for students going on to Oxford or Cambridge.

Hugh O’Neill, head teacher at St Benedicts in Bury St Edmunds which takes pupils from the Newmarket and Mildenhall areas, said he was ‘disappointed’ at the overall judgement which remains the same as in an initial report which was withdrawn by the education watchdog last month due to ‘quality concerns’.

Ofsted inspectors then revisited the school and made a number of changes removing references to weaknesses in preparing students for ‘life in modern Britain’ including radicalism and extremism.

Although the inspection team, led by Ian Middleton, reported the school’s GCSE results showed 69 per cent of pupils getting five or more A* to C grades, up 16 per cent on last year, and the highest local authority school sixth form results in Suffolk, it noted that ‘disabled students, those with special educational needs and students with low prior attainment did not make as much progress as others.

“We know that we do a lot of things well at St Benedict’s, and this report certainly refers to our excellent GCSE and A-level results,” said Mr O’Neill.

“There are things which we did less well last year, and the Ofsted criteria are very strict when it comes to gaps in what schools achieve. I suspect we are one of the best-performing ‘requires improvement” schools in the country.

Asked about the revised report, an Ofsted spokesman said the school was initially visited in a no-notice inspection due to the website issue. “While inspectors are paying greater attention to ensuring that schools provide a broad and balanced curriculum, they are also required to take account of the context of the school and the communities they serve,” he said. “Ofsted’s regional director was concerned that in an earlier draft version of the report, insufficient account had been taken of the school’s context so he requested further quality assurance checks to be carried out including a follow-up visit.”