Education minister's family school 'failing'

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The Independent Online

The school attended by Schools Secretary Ed Balls' children has been placed in special measures, inspectors said today.

A critical Ofsted report described Grazebrook Primary School in Stoke Newington, north east London, as "failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education".

The children of Mr Balls and his wife, Treasury Minister Yvette Cooper, number among the school's pupils.

Today's report concluded that the overall effectiveness of the 460-pupil school was inadequate.

"Her Majesty's Chief Inspector is of the opinion that this school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education," the report said.

Grazebrook's leaders, managers and governors came under fire for failing to take sufficient action over health and safety concerns and for not reacting quickly enough to address falling standards in maths and science.

The inspection, which was carried out on March 12 and 13, found that "too many areas of improvement from the last inspection have not been addressed and a number of key judgments indicate the school's overall effectiveness has declined".

The last inspection report for Grazebrook described the school as "good".

The report, published by Ofsted in 2004 after an inspection in September 2003, said: "Grazebrook is a good school and has improved rapidly over the last two years since the last inspection (September 2001).

"When last inspected the school had many areas needing improvement. It has made very good progress and has become a school with secure strengths on which to build for the future."

According to the report, Grazebrook is larger than most primary schools and the proportion of pupils from minority ethnic groups is much higher than average, as is the proportion for whom English is not their first language.

On a scale of one to four, with one being outstanding and four inadequate, inspectors placed the overall effectiveness of the school at level four.

Of the remaining areas of inspection, effectiveness of the Foundation Stage; care, guidance and support; and leadership and management were also graded at four.

Achievement and standards; personal development and well-being; teaching and learning; and curriculum and other activities were assessed as being at level three (satisfactory).

Inspectors identified concerns about risk assessment and "significant hazards" around the school, including climbing bars next to the playground used by the older pupils that were deemed unsafe but "no attempt had been made to secure them or make access difficult".

"At the last inspection, risk assessment procedures were identified as a main weakness," the report said. "This failure to ensure the health and safety of the children in its care represents a major failing by the school's senior leaders."

Inspectors said that teaching is satisfactory and that, of the lessons seen, half were good.

The report also said many pupils enjoy school, talk with interest about their lessons and are positive about the school's friendly ethos.

The majority of parents and carers who responded to a questionnaire were positive about the school, although more than a third of them expressed a range of concerns, according to Ofsted.

But inspectors criticised the school for failing to adequately address the issue of working more closely with parents, which was identified in the previous inspection report.

In a letter to pupils dated April 25 explaining the findings, inspector Robert Lovett said: "We think that while your school has made some improvements, it should be doing much better."

Mr Lovett explained that more inspectors will visit the school to see if progress is made in areas identified in the report as needing to be improved.

An Ofsted spokesman said monitoring of schools in special measures is carried out "in proportion to the risk and extent of the school's failure to provide adequately for its pupils".

"Ofsted makes the first monitoring visit to schools in special measures four to six months after the inspection that placed the school in this category," he said.

"Inspectors continue to make regular, normally termly, monitoring visits to the school until it is removed from special measures or it is re-inspected after two years, whichever comes sooner.

"The decision to place a school in special measures is not taken lightly and is only done as a result of careful weighing up of all the evidence gathered before and during the inspection.

"A key part of the decision is whether, on the basis or recent past and current performance, the leaders of the school have the capacity to address the issues the school is faced with."

In terms of the decision over Grazebrook Primary School, the spokesman said: "Inspectors found that standards are declining at the school and are below average. The leaders and managers of the school are not setting challenging targets to raise standards and are not providing clear enough direction to ensure improvement.

"The partnership with parents is not as effective as it should be. Care, guidance and support are inadequate and systems for promoting children's safety and well-being are weak."