'˜Outstanding' school is leading resort fightback

A proud headteacher today issued a rallying cry to other mainstream schools after Ofsted awarded Blackpool's first '˜outstanding' rating for more than seven years.

Thursday, 24th March 2016, 3:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th March 2016, 3:07 pm
Pictured is headteacher Andy Mellor with Robyn Connell, Eden Robinson, David Cunningham and Alex Lloyd

St Nicholas CE Primary in Marton was rated ‘outstanding’ in every category – just two years since it was told it must improve.

Inspectors lavished praise on staff, governors, pupils and parents following a visit earlier this month.

It is the first time a mainstream school in Blackpool has been given the top rating since Westcliff Primary in January 2009, with many resort schools being slammed by Ofsted since.

Andy Mellor, headteacher at St Nicholas, today told The Gazette he hopes this is the breakthrough Blackpool needs in proving mainstream schools can flourish.

He said: “If St Nicholas Primary can go from ‘Requires Improvement’ to ‘Outstanding’ in such a short space of time then other schools can too.

“There are schools in Blackpool close to being outstanding and this should really act as a catalyst to get ourselves back on the map as a town and start bouncing back.

“We get hammered so many times from outside and after a while you tend to believe what people are telling you.

“But Blackpool schools can be among the best in the country and it can happen, if you get it right Ofsted will recognise it. There is so much good practice in the town.”

David Barnes, vice chairman of governors, said: “It makes the point there are good and outstanding schools in Blackpool and that the reality is nowhere near the negative perception that some people have. Schools need to believe in themselves and this shows what can be achieved.”

It comes after Sir Michael Wilshaw, HM Chief Inspector, Ofsted, described the standard of secondary schools in Blackpool as “dire” just months ago with Highfield High and South Shore Academy – two schools in St Nicholas’ catchment area – receiving particularly damning Ofsted reports.

Primary schools have tended to fare better but have still been criticised in the past.

A team of inspectors visited St Nicholas Primary, on School Road, on March 1 and 2 and rated it ‘outstanding’ in leadership and management, quality of teaching, learning and assessment, personal development, behaviour and welfare, pupil outcomes and early years provision.

It said staff and governors had worked “tirelessly” to secure improvements from its previously poor inspection, teachers and teaching assistants were “highly effective”, “resilient” pupils were proud of their school and behaved “impeccably”, they were well prepared for secondary school, enjoyed an “exciting” curriculum, reception-age children made a “flying start” and parents were overwhelmingly positive about the school.

Mr Mellor, whose leadership was described as “ambitious” and who had taken a “careful and measured” approach to improving teaching, said: “We are absolutely delighted by the report and the feedback we have had from parents since we told them the outcome of the inspection has been really positive.

“They believe we are an outstanding school and this is just rewards for all the staff who have worked so hard with so much commitment to getting us from where we were.

“Very few schools go from ‘Requires Improvement’ to ‘Outstanding’.

“It’s not been a particularly nice journey to go on but we have made it and I couldn’t be happier.”

Mr Mellor said a strengthening of the senior leadership team and a change in mindset has helped the school complete – in Ofsted’s words – a “remarkable” transformation.

He added: “We have made staffing changes, brought in an assistant headteacher and promoted from within, but they weren’t just shipped in to get us out of the previous rating. These people have huge ability and it is up to us to bring that out of them.

“We also tried to instil a growth mindset and a resilience – the children know if they make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. We have a sign up that reads FAIL - which stands for ‘first attempt at learning’.

“They have no fear in making mistakes, we encourage them to take risks and they know they will be asked questions and to explain their answers.

“But if they make a mistake, so what? They are learning all the time and that makes them more resilient, which has already been highlighted as low across Blackpool among children at Key Stage 3.

“And yes, I firmly believe that is why behaviour among pupils is so good.”

Mr Barnes added: “This is testament to the hard work of the headteacher and all the staff and it’s been a phenomenal jump. It’s been a learning curve for everyone and I am so proud of everyone.”

Ofsted added St Nicholas CE Primary needed to enhance pupils’ achievement in writing and cultural diversity.

Park School, which caters for pupils with learning difficulties, is also rated outstanding by Ofsted.