While it is absolutely correct that schools which are letting their pupils down receive a great deal of column inches in The Bucks Herald, it is only right that when they are back on track we celebrate this appropriately too.
Both schools have very different stories to tell – but both demonstrate that with the right leadership and support, it is possible to turn failure into success. In doing so they have increased the life chances of 800 children (and who knows, it might even increase the disgracefully low pass rate of Aylesbury youngsters in the 11-plus).
The shock decline into special measures of Bedgrove Junior, located in a relatively affluent part of town, should act as a warning to all headteachers and governors. However, it has taken just two years for it to be graded as good with outstanding elements. Inspectors describe the ‘buzz’ around classrooms as children yearn to learn – such contrast to the criticism of youngsters’ behaviour from 2013.
Although Elmhurst’s previous Ofsted was not as critical as Bedgrove’s, its achievement is no less spectacular.
Its numbers of disadvantaged children, those with special educational needs and those who don’t speak English as a first language, are all higher than average – presenting many complex challenges to teachers. However, Ofsted stated that, despite these issues, youngsters make good progress and are well prepared for secondary school.
There is one common denominator at both schools, and that is the pivotal role their headteachers have played in driving improvements. Gwen Tong (Bedgrove) and Rachel Lee (Elmhurst) are highly praised by Ofsted for their leadership. Mrs Lee had a ‘remarkable first year of headship. She leads with vision, fortitude and humility’, says Ofsted. Mrs Tong ‘is committed to ensuring that all pupils make the best possible progress in all aspects of their development’ and also takes effective advantage of extra money received for disadvantaged pupils, spending it on one-to-one sessions and out of hours classes.
Buckinghamshire would do well to keep hold of these two talented individuals.