Once failing Sheffield school now shows the way forward

Headteacher Donna Faley with pupils at St Thomas More RC School in Grenoside which has been praised by Ofsted
Headteacher Donna Faley with pupils at St Thomas More RC School in Grenoside which has been praised by Ofsted
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A Sheffield primary school has been held up as a shining example by inspection watchdog Ofsted – after it turned itself around in the space of just 18 months.

St Thomas More RC Primary at Grenoside was found to be failing when it was checked by an inspection team early in 2012.

But on their return last summer the school was instead rated good.

St Thomas More was the only city school singled out for special attention in the Ofsted’s first annual regional report, covering Yorkshire and the North East.

The findings made grim reading for Sheffield families with more than 40 per cent of city pupils studying in schools rated by the watchdog as failing or requiring improvement.

In primary schools more than 30 per cent of youngsters fell into the same category.

But Ofsted pointed out their new tougher approach meant the city now has a higher percentage of schools rated good or outstanding than ever before.

St Thomas More headteacher Donna Faley said she started work at the school soon after it was placed in special measures, being appointed full-time principal in October 2012.

“I previously worked at St Catherine’s Primary in Burngreave and a key part of our success has been our close partnership with that school, the Hallam diocese and the local authority,” she said.

“We were able to make rapid progress through a rapid overhaul of the existing practices through the introduction of different methods and a new pupil assessment system.

“The staff received training for their professional development and we brought in a really rigorous monitoring process to improve teaching and learning.

“We also planned the children’s work more effectively and tackled underperformance through a system of appraisals,” Donna said.

The effectiveness of the governing body was also improved so they could hold the school’s senior staff to account.

“The biggest thing was the dedication and commitment shown to the school by staff, governors and parents - we all worked together as a team,” Donna said.

“It was hard work and they were challenging times and at first morale was a little low. But that all changed when staff saw that the children were making real progress.

“Our aim now is to be rated outstanding at our next inspection. The landscape of education in Sheffield is really changing at the moment and expectations for schools are very different to what they once were.

“We hope what we have achieved here can inspire and motivate others to follow a similar path,” Donna added.

Coun Jackie Drayton, Cabinet member for education, said St Thomas More was under enormous pressure to become an academy after it was judged as inadequate but had worked hard to overcome its problems.