Milton Keynes school left reeling by 'Inadequate' Ofsted rating

A primary school judged to be 'Outstanding' in most areas has been shocked to receive an overall Ofsted rating of 'Inadequate' this week.

By Sally Murrer
Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 3:27 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 4:13 pm

Fairfields Primary opened five years ago and had its very first Ofsted inspection earlier this year.

This week the report was published and staff and parents alike were horrified to see the school had been judged as Inadequate overall.

This is despite being judged as ‘Outstanding’ in three out of the five categories assessed and ‘Good’ in the quality of education it offers.

Fairfields Primary opened in 2017

One parent said: “It’s the strangest Ofsted report I’ve ever seen. We really don’t know what to think.”

The school has already tried to challenge the “factual accuracy” of the bad rating and issued a formal complain to Ofsted. However, the inspectors have upheld their judgement.

The category in dispute was safeguarding and the academy-run school was criticised for failing to effectively pass on concerns, sometimes serious ones, to other agencies involved in keeping children safe.

"This has left some children at risk of har," stated the Ofsted report.

"Governors and trustees have not been quick enough or sufficiently tenacious in identifying these issues."

But it added: “Nevertheless, pupils feel safe at school. They are knowledgeable about the school’s safeguarding systems, including whom to go to if they have a problem.”

This week the school’s head Matthew Shotton has reassured parents that children are safe and the school takes its safeguarding of pupils “extremely seriously”.

He said Ofsted’s comments related to procedural matters relating to “a small number of isolated cases” and the level of detail in which they had been reported to outside agencies. The cases have now been reviewed and rectified immediately where necessary, he said.

“We want to reassure our school community that despite these procedural issues being highlighted, the report confirms the school has a strong culture of safeguarding, and that the pupils feel safe at the school.”

Otherwise, the Ofsted report can only be described as exemplary. The pupils’ behaviour and attitudes were rated as Outstanding, with inspectors commenting on the childrens’ “exceptional” behaviour and “highly positive culture” among staff.

The report states: “Pupils behave exceptionally well, both in lessons and at breaktimes. There is a highly inclusive ethos in which pupils understand and celebrate their differences. They demonstrate this in their thoughtful behaviour towards one another.

"Bullying or any form of unkindness is very uncommon and dealt with effectively. Citing the school’s ‘creed’, one pupil told us, ‘We respect each other regardless of gender, race or background.”

Pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities are well supported. Among all the children, reading is particularly strong with children learning to read quickly under the “exceptional” teaching of the subject in Reception.

“Pupils enjoy attending this vibrant school where there is a strong focus on community. They are enthusiastic about their learning in a wide range of subjects.

"They feel encouraged by their teachers to be curious and ask questions,” states the report.

One parent told Ofsted: “The staff at Fairfields are just amazing! They show so much love, care and support to the children and go above and beyond every day.”

The report said school leaders’ actions were driven by their vision to be the “beating heart of the community”.

It added: “They have been successful in engaging parents and carers, who fully support the school and recognise its significant strengths.”

The school was also rated as Outstanding in its early years provision as well as pupils’ personal development.

Mr Shotton told the Citizen: “We have already invited the Ofsted inspectors back into the school so they can see the actions we have taken and for us to be given the opportunity to achieve the Ofsted rating we deserve from our first five years as a school.”

Marilyn Hubbard, Chair of Trustees at Inspiring Futures through Learning, which runs the school, said: “We feel Fairfields Primary School is an outstanding school and we are naturally disappointed by this one aspect that has prevented Fairfields from being rated as such

"We are pleased that Ofsted inspectors recognised a wide range of positive areas, including three of the five key areas rated as ‘Outstanding’.

“Despite the report finding the school is mostly ‘Outstanding’, the inspector offered an opinion on a small number of isolated cases related to safeguarding and the level of detail in which he felt they could have been reported on to other agencies.

“The school and Trust acted swiftly to resolve any matter regarding to safeguarding. It is important to add that there are areas in the Ofsted report that are positive towards safeguarding and confirm the strong culture of safeguarding and care for our families that the school demonstrates.”

He added: “When we received the draft report, we took the decision to challenge the factual accuracy of the report and issue a formal complaint around the manner in which the inspection took place as we feel this led to an incomplete inspection. Ofsted upheld their judgement challenge and we respect this decision as part of the process.

“The Trust will continue to support the school as it maintains its strong reputation with staff, pupils, parents and the community and is recognised as the excellent school it is in the months to come.”

Fairfields opened in 2017 as is a brand new purpose built school in the heart of the rapidly growing Fairfields development, which is part of the West Expansion Area in Milton Keynes.