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The last Ofsted inspection was carried out in February 2020.
Letter from the Chair of Governors
As you are no doubt aware the school was inspected by Ofsted just before half term; this was our first Inspection under the new framework and all the staff have been working very hard over the last 6 months or so to implement all the new changes to the curriculum and adapt to the new inspection focus. The Inspection has come when we are part-way through our journey, with our final phase of planned implementation of the curriculum changes scheduled for the summer term. Whilst aspects of the inspection were considered to be good, we received an overall grading of ‘Requires Improvement’; we are of course very disappointed with this as we do not think it adequately reflects Willow Tree and its many strengths. We will of course take on board the comments and issues highlighted by the Inspectors and continue our commitment to ensure that our pupils have the best possible experience during their time with us.
As, under the new framework, Ofsted reports are now shorter and focus particularly on areas for development, we have produced a summary of the feedback given by the Inspectors to Senior Leaders. There were many positives that the Inspectors identified, some of which are included in the report but others that were included within a very detailed feedback session with our Senior Leadership Team at the end of the inspection. For balance, as the final report is brief and focused on development areas, and to ensure that the strengths identified during the Inspection are recognised, we felt it was important to share these with you.
Overall the Inspectors found that our pupils are happy and feel well cared for. Willow Tree is described as inclusive, friendly and where everyone is welcome, and that children understand the need to be respectful, responsible and active citizens. Children describe feeling safe and say that they enjoy learning. Children’s personal development is identified by the Inspectors as a specific strength.
A strength of the school is reported to be the children’s ability to talk about learning and knowledge. Children specifically talk about learning being fun and work given to children helps build their knowledge. Children are polite and show respect to each other, and the use of co-operative learning structures are having a good impact to develop this. Children talk about how they are expected to behave well in school and any incidents of bullying or prejudiced and discriminatory behaviour are dealt with quickly and well.
Detailed feedback from the Inspectors in relation to the quality of education, referred to the school curriculum having coherence and structure. The curriculum is considered to be adapted well for children with SEND and it was found that all children are well included in lessons and are given opportunities to achieve the best possible outcomes. It was specifically stated that SEND provision and inclusion needs celebrating. Teaching assistants observed showed enthusiasm for reading and were confident in the teaching phonics.
In terms of personal development, this was an area the Inspectors separately rated as good. Specific strengths include recognising that the school is friendly and welcoming to all, and equality is embedded throughout the school. There is good pastoral support in place for children, and it was recognised that children are active and mentally healthy and know how to keep themselves safe.
With regard to leadership Ofsted identified subject leadership is at an early stage of the cycle for developing the school curriculum and specific curriculum team roles; mentoring and coaching are in place to facilitate this and this will continue to be a focus as we move forwards. It was also noted that Leaders within our school are swift in reaction and make changes where necessary, quickly.
In terms of phonics, this has previously been a strength in our school. There was a slight drop in the Phonics Screening Test results in 2018, but the 2019 results were disappointing. Much work has been done by SLT, our phase leaders and staff to address this over the last 6 months and we have new systems and new teams in place to ensure that our phonics delivery is strong. We are pleased to confirm that the latest internal data shows excellent progress in Years 1 and 2. Phonics remain a school priority for focus.
Finally, regarding our Early Years provision, strengths were recognised within nursery which is great. Reception has unfortunately had to deal with a member of staff leaving at Christmas and the class changes this brought with it. We fully support them in ensuring that as we move forward a strong and effective curriculum is in place across all our early years provision.
We are very proud of our staff and all that they do to make Willow Tree a happy inclusive school. We will continue to work with SLT and the whole school community to build on the good work to date and ensure that our pupils continue to feel safe and that they thrive in our care.
With best wishes
Dr Jane Beasley
Chair of the Governing Body