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Stowmarket High School head Dave Lee-Allan says Ofsted framework was used 'very bluntly' as he expresses disappointment over inspection result





A headteacher has said he was 'disappointed' over the outcome of a recent Ofsted inspection, describing the scores as 'harsh'.

Headteacher of Stowmarket High School Dave Lee-Allan said while there was much in the report that was complimentary, 'it is the numbers that matter and we fell short of where we expected to be'.

The education watchdog has graded the school 'requires improvement' following an inspection on January 19 and 20.

Stowmarket High School has been rated 'requires improvement' by Ofsted. Pictured is headteacher Dave Lee-Allan. Picture: Mecha Morton
Stowmarket High School has been rated 'requires improvement' by Ofsted. Pictured is headteacher Dave Lee-Allan. Picture: Mecha Morton

Requires improvement was the judgement for overall effectiveness, as well as the sub categories of quality of education, behaviour and attitudes and leadership and management, while personal development was deemed good.

The school was also judged to require improvement overall following an Ofsted inspection in 2018 under the previous inspection framework.

The latest report says there are issues with some pupils’ behaviour, with these students playing truant from lessons and sometimes disrupting the learning of others, and leaders are only just getting to grips with the problem.

Some teachers have not got to grips with the best way to teach pupils or check what they know, which means pupils do not make sufficient progress in some subjects, and some teachers do not support the needs of pupils with SEND (special educational needs and/or disabilities) well enough, the report says.

The report also says too many pupils are persistently absent.

However, inspectors mentioned that leaders have made inroads into some of the issues, including attendance and support for pupils with SEND, but added more work is necessary for pupils and parents to see the benefit.

Dave Lee-Allan, headteacher at Stowmarket High School. Picture: SuffolkNews
Dave Lee-Allan, headteacher at Stowmarket High School. Picture: SuffolkNews

Positives in the report included: that pupils have a good understanding of diversity and how others are different from themselves; when bullying occurs, it is sorted out; the curriculum offer for pupils has improved; pupils experience a range of trips and clubs; and they take on a range of responsibilities, such as being anti-bullying ambassadors.

Mr Lee-Allan, who became head of the school in 2015, said in a blog on the school website: "I am disappointed with the result.

"Those of you who know me well will know my opinion of Ofsted, and this inspection has done nothing to change my opinion, however, they are who they are and their judgment matters to some.

"I think the scores are harsh, and although there is much in the text of the report that is complimentary, it is the numbers that matter and we fell short of where we expected to be.

"I have to own the judgement, and demonstrate to my staff, students, and parents that I can immediately get on with making changes that will continue to improve the school. So that is what I am doing – working with all my staff, school committee and trust.

Ofsted found Stowmarket High School to require improvement
Ofsted found Stowmarket High School to require improvement

"We missed out by a narrow margin, and the application of an Ofsted framework written before the pandemic was used very bluntly.

"I must factor the judgements into the development plan for the school. That is what I am doing, and looking at the resources at my disposal, timeframes and skill sets to make the improvements that Ofsted has asked for.

"The hardest of those is probably attendance – across the country attendance has fallen since Covid and whilst we are at the national average, Ofsted has to set improving that as a target. I understand that need – I just don’t accept that schools deserve the blame for it.

"I put the snapshot into context amidst the swathe of improvements we have made, the improvements in our student numbers, the significantly improved curriculum, our continued work on improving SEND provision, our work on student mental health, our ambitious plans for the future and the support the vast majority of our school community give us. For that support, my heartfelt thanks."

The Ofsted report said: "Many pupils enjoy their time at Stowmarket High School. Most pupils are well behaved. They have a good understanding of diversity and how others are different from themselves. Racist or homophobic language is not tolerated by pupils or staff."

It says leaders’ approach to personal development is a 'strength of the school'.

The report said: "A high quality personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education curriculum teaches pupils well about a range of topics. The school’s ‘inspirational futures’ approach to careers, for instance, ensures pupils are ready for their next steps.

"The headteacher, supported by the trust, has strengthened leadership across the school."

The report says leaders' chosen approach to behaviour is not understood or used consistently well by some staff and, in addition, some staff do not feel leaders support them well enough to deal with poor behaviour.

And despite a range of thoughtful approaches, like the oasis centre, to support pupils with their emotional needs, some pupils are still absent too often, it continues.

The report also says inspectors discussed the impact of the pandemic with leaders and have taken that into account in their evaluation of the school.

The school in Onehouse Road has 873 students on roll.