Letters to the Editor, Friday, April 5
COUNTY UPPER : NO WAY IS SCHOOL ‘INADEQUATE’
My two sons are pupils at County Upper School and I find the recently published Ofsted report deeply confusing, as do my boys, as it is full of internal contradictions. How can a school where ‘most pupils are rarely absent’ be the same school where ‘pupils do not feel safe’? Surely pupils who don’t feel safe would have a high absence rate.
The report is full of such contradictions. My sons travel quite a distance each day to attend County Upper, rising at 6.30am, home no earlier than 5pm and never have I ever had a problem with their attendance, in fact quite the opposite, being sent home by the teachers on a couple of occasions for being too ill to continue at school but they refused to stay at home. Now does that sound like pupils who “do not feel safe”?
Being a confirmed sceptic, my radar starts working when something doesn’t make simple sense and, with a little investigation, I think I’ve found the reason why. According to The Times on Friday, the Government told Ofsted in December to visit schools rated Outstanding (these are schools not inspected as frequently as other schools) and check their safeguarding. During January, Ofsted inspected 46 such schools and none of them, not one, retained their Outstanding rating!
To me, that seems a more like Ofsted being ‘responsive’ to its political masters, rather than truly finding problems!
I have many friends working in Suffolk schools and I’m told that safeguarding decisions are always judgement calls. The published report by Ofsted does not say what the alleged failures in child protection referrals are, but since the school has immediately commissioned an external safeguarding audit, which found nothing of concern, my fear is the inspectors in this case were looking for something to allow them to keep their 100 per cent record of being tough on Outstanding schools.
Given how amazing so much of what the school does is, was safeguarding their only way of meeting their target and downgrading County Upper?
It is deeply unfair that Mrs Neale, her amazing team and the pupils at County Upper have been caught up in this and, indeed, punished because of it. There is simply no way County Upper School can be called ‘Inadequate’!
In conclusion, may I say, I have added my letter of complaint to the numerous others passed onto Ofsted, my particular concern being the way in which my children were treated during this time by inspectors at the school.
I await their answer with interest.
Deeply concerned parent
Name & address supplied
COUNTY UPPER IS A FANTASTIC SCHOOL
I read with dismay the recent ruling by Ofsted on the overall effectiveness of County Upper.
Why dismay? In my dealings with the school over the past five years, I have had nothing but admiration for the way the staff reach out to students of all abilities and from all backgrounds to give them the very best opportunities to learn and develop as young people.
The diverse extra-curricular opportunities are second to none, and the dedication of staff to see each child do their best cannot be faulted. Given the remarkable ‘added value’ the school gives to every student – as demonstrated so clearly in its GCSE and A-level results – it is, in my opinion, the best State secondary school in Bury St Edmunds, if not Suffolk!
In terms of safeguarding, my sixth-form daughter made the following comment as soon as she read the report (perhaps putting into practice the ‘rigorous intellectual enquiry ... high-level discussion and debate’ Ofsted noted in this apparently inadequate school’s students): “How can Ofsted say ‘pupils do not feel safe on the school’s site’ but then also comment ‘pupils are rarely absent, behave exceptionally well, are considerate and show respect for all’? Surely if pupils don’t feel safe, they wouldn’t come to school, they wouldn’t enjoy school and they wouldn’t get the high grades County Upper is well known for. It just doesn’t make sense!”
I agree wholeheartedly with her. More than that, in the Ofsted parents’ survey, 95 per cent of parent respondents said their children were happy at the school (Is that bad?) and 96 per cent said their child feels safe in school. What percentage does Ofsted need to confirm that the students feel safe? Or are the inspectors not interested in parental opinion? In which case, why ask?
My daughter also had the opportunity to speak to Ofsted during the inspection as part of a group of pupils. When she came home that evening, she was upset. I was so concerned by my daughter’s experience that I went to the Ofsted website to complain.
What did I find? Ofsted does not offer an avenue for parental complaints. Instead, I had to write to the headteacher and ask her to pass on my concerns, which I did immediately after the inspection. I have had no response from Ofsted.
So how can Ofsted rate this amazing school so poorly?
Can I reassure anyone considering County Upper as a destination for their children, it’s a fantastic school. My children have been fortunate to enjoy the varied curriculum and outstanding mentoring, and to benefit from a dedicated team of professionals who are second to none.
Thank goodness those Ofsted inspectors who focused on teaching and learning worked that out for themselves!
Parent of a student at County Upper
Bury St Edmunds
OFSTED SYSTEM THAT IS ‘INADEQUATE’...
As a parent of children at County Upper I read the latest Ofsted report with an increasing sense of alarm at the clear inadequacy being revealed – inadequacy in Ofsted’s inspection system! I would be very surprised if anyone who knows the school, and has seen the amazing work and commitment shown by the staff, could possibly accept that County Upper and its leaders are ‘inadequate’. Indeed, anyone who gets past the ﬁrst few paragraphs in the report will see that even Ofsted recognise the amazing teaching, learning and outcomes for the pupils. The superlatives keep on coming: ‘inspiring teaching’, ‘rigorous assessment’, ‘exceptionally wide variety of enrichment activities’, ‘excellent provision in the sixth form’ ... and all, apparently, from an ‘Inadequate’ school. Surely this is a contradiction and not the definition of an inadequate school! As for pupils not feeling safe on the school site, I can report that my children, all their class mates and their friendship group have absolutely no idea what that is all about. They have never heard anyone say they don’t feel safe at school. I had thought that Ofsted was a good thing in helping parents understand how good schools are. But on the evidence of this report, I now have my doubts.
Name and address supplied
MESSAGES OF SUPPORT FROM COMMUNITY
The staff and leadership at County Upper School have been gratified by the huge number of overwhelmingly positive messages of support they have received from all sections of the community since the publication of the recent Ofsted report.
The picture of the school painted in the report is not one they recognise. They are confident in the ability of the school to keep their children safe and provide an outstanding education.
There are clearly other agencies which have raised concerns regarding a handful of children and we are working with these agencies to understand and address the concerns they have.
Chair of the Trust
County Upper School
RURAL AREA, NOT A HOLIDAY RESORT
We do not live in ‘Costa del Fornham’. We do not live in a resort.
The proposed installation of 70 holiday lodges on the golf course of the Suffolk Hotel in Fornham All Saints is both wholly inappropriate and unacceptable.
It will be a blot on the landscape of this rural, village community.
Fornham All Saints
CHARGES MEAN PARK NOT OPEN TO ALL
Re the car park charges at Ickworth Park. What a shame it is that the park is not open to all anymore.
As a child I used to go on a regular basis to the park with my grandad. We would drive out in his Austin car and drive well into the park, and pick a suitable spot to stop. Sometimes we would picnic and in the autumn we would gather the chestnuts.
Other times I would go with my parents down to the lake. We would spend the day swimming in the lake and eating sandwiches. Many families used to enjoy the park. I have very happy memories of this.
Lady Bristol used to ride through the park on her horse, and was always very friendly, I think she would have been sad today with all the restrictions.
You can no longer park where you wish, you have to park in the car park. Here’s the sting: the car park cost is a whopping £10. So you need to be quite well off to afford that.
Perhaps with a well loaded car of children it’s worth it, if you’re intending to spend an amount of time there, but for a lone person on limited means, that’s steep.
I grew up on the Howard estate and the park was a lovely place in the countryside to spend time and learn about nature. It saddens me greatly that this is no longer available to all.
Surely by reduced parking you will bring more people in, therefore making enough money to keep the car park maintained, and many more children and adults would get to enjoy this beautiful resource on our doorstep.
If we want people to care about the countryside and conservation, surely it needs to start with access to the countryside.