Harpenden Academy ‘requires improvement’ following Ofsted inspection just days after it opens its doors

"There was a real sense of injustice among the parents," after Ofsted inspectors arrived days after

"There was a real sense of injustice among the parents," after Ofsted inspectors arrived days after pupils started at the new premesis. - Credit: Archant

A primary school, which has been run out of three different premises since its founding in 2012, has been dealt a blow after an Ofsted inspection concluded that it ‘required improvement’ just days after pupils moved onto a brand-new site.

The Harpenden Academy (formerly the Harpenden Free School) was said to be in need of improvement in five of the six categories for which it was inspected - scoring ‘good’ only in the ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ category.

Inspectors visited the school on September 17 and 18, just eight days after pupils moved into the new premises on Vaughan Road, and in a report published earlier this month (5) said:

* Some pupils make less progress than they should

* Not enough emphasis is placed on basic literary and mathematical skills

* Time in lessons is not used to ensure pupils are challenged or work hard

* Pupils do not have sufficient time to practise handwriting, spelling or grammar.

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Despite the criticisms of the school - many of which were echoes of the school’s previous Ofsted report from November last year - inspectors said that staff had handled the move to the new, purpose-built premises well, adding that “pupils now have an excellent environment in which to learn and play”.

Principal Marissa Davis, who has been in charge of the school since August last year, said that despite the verdict, the school was in a strong position to make progress.

She said: “It was day eight for the children. That was quite hard because we moved in and were literally still unpacking boxes when the inspection came.

“The timing for us was sad. We were still working out all the routines – so the most important thing for us was transition.”

Marissa added that the focus for the school was the children’s welfare. Teaching, she explained, was not the number one priority immediately after moving onto the purpose-built site.

She said that the inspection’s timing was a source of “frustration”, and said staff had “thought very carefully about those first two weeks and worked out what was the most important: the children.”

Susan Legott, chair of the school’s PTA, said the timing of the inspection roused “a real sense of injustice among the parents”, adding: “A lot of the parents are confident that good teaching will follow.”

Ruth Penfold, events coordinator of the PTA, said: “With a third new students, just nine days in the school and 11 new teachers, it was bound to get a critical Ofsted report - any school would.”

Despite the school’s string of critical Ofsted reports, data collected on parents’ satisfaction via parentsview.ofsted.gov.uk is overwhelmingly positive, with 96 per cent saying they would recommend the school to another parent.