Bid to improve failing school standards at Frome school

By Daniel Mumby - Local Democracy Reporter

21st Nov 2022 | Local News

An "inadequate" primary school in Froome is to become an academy in a bid to improve standards.

Christ Church Church of England First School, which lies on Feltham Lane in Frome, was rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted inspectors in February and was placed into special measures.

The school lies a stone's throw from three major housing developments, which will eventually deliver 248 new homes either side of the B3092 The Mount.

Somerset County Council has now confirmed the school will become an academy early in the new year, becoming part of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Academies Trust.

Inspectors delivered a damning verdict on the school in February, describing it as "a school in turmoil" where "too many pupils are unhappy and not safe".

The inspectors described the pupils as "unruly", stated that pupils with special education needs or disabilities (SEND) "frequently wander around or choose not to join in with lessons", described the staff as "exhausted" and having "low expectations", and criticised the "volatile" atmosphere during their visit.

They also found pupils' knowledge of England and maths was "far behind where they should be", the curriculum was "poorly planned" and there were reports of bullying of which staff had not been made aware.

A monitoring visit in late-September acknowledged that some improvements had been made, pointing to a new safeguarding policy and a change in head teacher, but Ofsted chose to keep the school in special measures since many of these improvements were "in their infancy" and could not therefore be properly assessed.

Since the Academies Act 2010, all 'inadequate' or 'coasting' schools (as determined by Ofsted inspectors) have to become academies, joining multi-academy trusts in a bid to improve their performance.

Somerset County Council confirmed on Tuesday (November 15) that the school would become part of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Academies Trust, which already runs a number of schools in Bath and the surrounding villages.

Elizabeth Smith, the council's service manager for schools commissioning, said: "Trade unions representing staff working in Somerset schools have been consulted about the proposals.

"They will be seeking assurance that all employer responsibilities in respect of staff transfers and more general staff consultation requirements are met.

"The academy will receive the equivalent level of funding per pupil [directly from the DfE] to that which it would receive from the council as a maintained school."

There are currently 131 academies in Somerset, of which 90 are converter academies, where the schools' governing bodies have decided to seek academy status (rather than it being ordered by the DfE).

A total of 36 Somerset academies are sponsored, whereby an existing trust or similar organisation takes over the running of an under-performing school in order to raise standards.

The most recent school to convert to academy status was Lydeard St. Lawrence Primary School near Taunton, which joined the same trust in October.

In addition to its Ofsted issues, Christ Church School faces the challenge of having to accommodate potentially hundreds of new pupils in the coming years from three new housing developments which have been approved nearby.

Mendip District Council's planning board approved plans in February to allow David Wilson Homes to build 249 homes across two sites either side of the B3092, and approved plans for a further 70 homes by Wainhomes in July.

Both developments will contribute towards creating a new pedestrian crossing on the B3092, allowing pupils a safe route to school from the new homes via Dragonfly Close.

The school will officially become an academy and join the multi-academy trust on 1 January.

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