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Willowbank Primary School celebrates ‘good’ Ofsted rating

Inclusive and nurturing school moves from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ in its latest inspection


Staff and pupils at a Devon primary school are celebrating the results of its latest inspection by Ofsted. Following its inspection in January, Willowbank Primary School in Cullompton has been judged ‘good’ in all areas.


Over two days inspectors met with staff, pupils, trustees and a member of the parent council. They also observed lessons and looked at pupils’ work.


In the report published today, Ofsted noted how much pupils enjoy attending the school, which it described as welcoming and inclusive. Inspectors recognised the strong emphasis the school places on supporting pupils’ social and emotional wellbeing and how this resulted in happy pupils. It highlighted the range of clubs on offer and opportunities for pupils to take on formal roles within the school, and noted pupils’ positive attitude to their learning.


Inspectors praised the strength of the school leadership and the high expectations leaders have for all pupils, particularly those with special educational needs and/or disabilities. The report also highlighted the school’s well-designed curriculum, particularly in reading and mathematics.


Sophie Hillson Head of School at Willowbank Primary School said: “I’m extremely proud of the strong team of dedicated and skilled professionals we have built here at Willowbank. Together, we have created a high-quality offer of education that meets the needs of our community and that our pupils and families very much deserve. This report is fantastic outcome for our wonderful pupils and gives well deserved recognition to them and the whole school team.”


Willowbank Primary joined the First Federation Trust in September 2018. Prior to joining, it had received two consecutive ‘requires improvement’ judgements from Ofsted and was experiencing further challenges. Post academisation, the school embarked on a rapid journey of improvement, successfully implementing rigorous school improvement strategies.


Membership of the First Federation Trust family gives member schools access to a large support network. The trust provides opportunities for support, development and challenge. It has ensured staff at Willowbank are able to develop their knowledge and skills by providing them with opportunities to undertake various training programmes and courses. In more recent years, Willowbank has in turn been able to offer its support and expertise to other schools.


Paul Walker Chief Executive of the First Federation Trust said: “This report and the good judgment is testament to the unwavering commitment, hard work and dedication of everyone at Willowbank Primary School. The whole school community can be proud of this achievement and look forward to continued success in the future.


“Our trust is committed to working together to provide the best possible education for all and it is rewarding to see our ambitions for all pupils reflected in the report.”


Sophie Hillson added: “I feel so proud of what we have achieved here at Willowbank. We have all worked incredibly hard and it really was an honour to share the results of this work with the inspectors. As described in the report, Willowbank is welcoming and inclusive and we work hard to ensure all pupils know they are cared for, valued and appreciated. One pupil, when speaking to one of the Inspectors about our school said, ‘Everyone is welcome here, we are an open door to anyone.’ For me, as Head of School, creating that belief and environment is one of our greatest successes.


“It really has been a whole team approach and I would like to thank all of the staff at Willowbank, every one of our pupils and their families, and also the First Federation Trust for their support.”


Comments from the Ofsted inspectors included:


‘Pupils enjoy attending this welcoming and inclusive school. They describe the school as a fun place to be … They talk confidently about the way in which everyone accepts one another for who they are.’


‘Pupils are happy and feel safe ... Leaders place a strong emphasis on supporting pupils’ social and emotional well-being. As a result, relationships between staff and pupils are positive.’


‘Leaders have high expectations for what all pupils can achieve, particularly those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). Leaders have created a curriculum that is designed well. They have carefully considered what pupils need to know and when they need to know it.’


Leaders are ambitious for what pupils with SEND can achieve … Staff know pupils well. This is particularly the case for pupils with social and emotional needs who attend the learning hub, known as the ‘Willow Branch’.’


‘Leaders and staff have high expectations for pupils’ behaviour and conduct.’


‘Pupils have positive attitudes to their learning. They behave well in lessons and during social times.’