Goodbye Maple Grove, hello Westwood as Ofsted inspections settle the fate of two Fenland primary schools

Maple Grove School, Picture: Steve Williams.

Maple Grove School, Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

A primary school placed in special measures following a poor Ofsted report is to be effectively taken over by a neighbouring school which received a glowing inspection.

Maple Grove Infants School. Picture: Steve Williams.

Maple Grove Infants School. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Maple Grove Infants School, March, is to close this summer and its pupils and staff transferred to Westwood Junior School. It is expected Westwood will become an ‘all through’ primary school.

The news has been broken to staff at Maple Grove where the buildings will remain but the name lost.

Formal consultations begin on Monday.

A county council spokesman said: “All existing children on the junior and infant school roll (with the exception of children leaving at the end of year 6) would simply transfer onto the roll of the new primary school - likely to be called Westwood Primary School.”

Maple Grove School, Picture: Steve Williams.

Maple Grove School, Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

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A Maple Grove ‘whistleblower’ said staff had been cautioned against speaking publicly about the decision.

The whistleblower said: “This closure announcement affects many staff, parents and pupils and the secretive plan to withhold this key announcement until ‘absolutely necessary’ seems to be an outrageous way to handle the situation,” said the whistleblower.

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By lunchtime today the council had issued their statement outlining the proposed changes.

The new school would continue to provide 90 places per year group from reception to year 6. From September 2016 onwards, the school will admit 120 pupils into its reception year as the school is expanded to cope with anticipated demand.

The council said Westwood Primary School would be a split site school, operating over the sites currently occupied by Maple Grove Infant and Westwood Junior Schools.

Early years and childcare provision for 2-4 year olds will continue on the site of the present infant school.

“Proposals for the expansion of the provider’s premises to provide more early years and childcare places will not be affected by this proposal,” said the spokesman.

Ofsted placed Maple Grove Infants School into special measures after inspections in September and November found leadership, quality of teaching, pupils’ achievements and behaviour and safety of pupils inadequate.

School leaders “have let standards fall without intervening to stop this,” concludes the Ofsted inspection.

“They have not done enough to tackle weaknesses in achievement or the quality of teaching. Governors have not fulfilled their roles and responsibilities. They do not hold school leaders to account for the standard of education, ensure that key policies are in place or regularly check the procedures for safeguarding.”

At its last inspection in 2011 the school was rated ‘good’ but has plummeted to ‘inadequate’ in nearly every category. The only light in the report is early years provision where inspectors agreed it “requires improvement”.

Meanwhile a recent Ofsted inspection of Westwood praised it for the improvements made since its last inspection.

Westwood Junior School, which two years ago was told it “requires improvement”, has been rated as “good”, with the quality of teaching and pupils good behaviour highlighted.

Head teacher Gill Thomas and the school’s governors were commended for the “well-led” school.

The inspection team said: “Leaders’ regular reviews of teaching have helped individual staff to improve and are raising achievement.

“Governors both support the school and provide it with effective challenge.”

The school’s close relationship with parents has “significantly” boosted attendance, the report said.

The inspection team added: “Parents express positive views of the school. The school provides well for pupils who require extra emotional support.”

Mrs Thomas said: “We are very pleased that the inspectors recognised how far the school has come.

“This is due to the hard work and commitment of teachers, support staff, governors, and parents and of course our children.”

The council confirmed a consultation into the creation of a new all-through primary school for March would begin on Monday. .

Their spokesman also confirmed “the reason for the proposal is that Maple Grove was inspected by Ofsted in autumn 2014 and judged to be inadequate and requiring special measures. Westwood Junior was inspected at a similar time and judged to be ‘good’ across all areas.

“The proposal to close Maple Grove and extend the age range of Westwood Junior is the only option available which meets the county council’s preference for an all-through primary school (4-11 age range).”

Jobs at the newly created Westwood Primary School will be ring fenced to the staff at Maple Grove Infant School “ who will receive prior consideration when they apply.

“Trade union representatives and staff will be invited to participate in the consultation and will be fully informed throughout the process.”

The new primary school will initially cater for 630 pupils when it opens in September, but this is expected to increase to 840 as the school expands to meet demand.

Two consultation meetings are being held on February 4 – at Maple Grove Infant School at 3.30pm and at Westwood Junior School at 7.00pm. Anyone connected to the schools or their communities is welcome to attend.

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