Shropshire Star

Tiny school that was threatened with closure celebrates 'new chapter' and Ofsted praise

A tiny south Shropshire school is basking in the warm glow of praise from inspectors Ofsted as it announces the appointment of a new lead teacher.

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Newcastle C of E Primary School in Newcastle-on-Clun are celebrating their Good Ofsted rating with their new lead teacher Chris Richards pictured at front.

Newcastle CE Primary School was rated Good by inspectors who say that it has a "family feel" and "everyone knows and cares for one another" and is supported by its federation.

The inspectors in their report issued this week refer to recent "turbulent" times when the school's future was put into some doubt, but they say the children were protected from that.

"However, recent times have been turbulent for the school," the report reads. "Leaders have worked hard to ensure that any impact of this on pupils’ learning is minimised.

"Parents and carers acknowledge this too. Staff are positive about the impact of belonging to the federation on their workload and professional development."

The school is now looking forward to starting a new chapter following the appointment of a new lead teacher.

Father of three Chris Richards, the new Key Stage 2 teacher, was appointed in May and will start his new position in September under the direction of Anna Cook, the executive head teacher of the Blue Hills Federation of Schools.

Mr Richards said: “I am really looking forward to September and I have over 20 years of teaching experience, including many years working in a village school with mixed classes."

Two of married Mr Richards' own children are at primary school.

He added: "I love the community feel of small schools, and I feel I can bring an exciting and purposeful curriculum to the school. I am very much looking forward to working with the current staff, parents and children, and to further reach out to the wider community.”

Mr Richards says his hobbies are hiking, reading and cycling and he added: "I love outdoor learning and look to use this as often as possible.

"For example, my current school have just had a wonderful experience at Cardingmill Valley, developing their fieldwork skills around rivers."

The school, which is located in the beautiful Clun Valley near the English/Welsh border, has a pupil roll of just 23 children.

Mr Richards added: “Having a small class will mean that each and every child can have plenty of support and help. Ideally we would like to encourage more children to join. Having seen the school, staff and the surroundings, I’m sure it will be a wonderful place for children to learn.”

With the school having had a successful Ofsted in May, it is now well-positioned to grow its pupil numbers.

Anna Cook, the executive head teacher, said: “Mr Richards is an excellent teacher who has extensive experience of teaching mixed age classes in small village schools.

"He also has experience of leadership and has been very involved in curriculum design and development. Mr Richards is very excited about being appointed and is keen to get involved with the school as soon as possible and he is eager to get to know the children, staff, parents and community, before he starts in September."

Barry Swancott, one of the school’s parent governors, added: “I am delighted at the appointment. When advertised, the post attracted much interest which demonstrates how attractive teaching positions in small rural schools are to teaching professionals.

"Mr Richards will be a huge asset to the school and is, without doubt, just the person to join our team as we move forward.”

In its summary report, Ofsted praised the school for its family feel.

"There is a family feel to Newcastle CofE Primary. Because of its size, everyone knows and cares for one another.

"Older pupils look after younger pupils and are positive role models to them. For example, they play an active role in assemblies to encourage all to take part.

"At social times, pupils from all year groups play happily together. They respect any differences between them. One pupil captured the feelings of others, describing the school as ‘special’ because of how well everyone gets on with each other."

As for being part of a federation, the inspectors said the "pupils benefit from opportunities to socialise and learn alongside other children of their own age.

"This includes going on trips together, participating in sporting competitions and in a choir."

The school leaders were given two aspects to improve on, to ensure that all pupils have access to and read a range of books that are appropriately matched to their reading ability. They have been asked to help pupils acquire a secure and deep enough understanding of the diversity of modern Britain, so pupils are "fully prepared for life in modern British society."

The school will have a new website and Twitter account from September, which will showcase the learning and events taking place.

If you are interested in visiting the school, phone 01588 640260.