North East Connected

Good school does it by the book

STAFF and pupils proved they are on the same page when it comes to reading after scoring a hat-trick of good inspection reports.

Gurney Pease Academy, part of the Education Village Academy Trust, Darlington, won high praise after an Oftsed inspector recognised the importance it placed on reading.

“Reading is taught well and is a strength of the school,” lead inspector Gill Wild said in her report. “This is because the adults are well trained and school leaders aim to foster a lifelong love of reading.

“Leaders are determined that every child will learn to read. This starts as soon as children start school. In nursery children are surrounded by a language-rich environment.”

She noted that books were taken home to share with adults which helped to develop children’s vocabulary. Phonics began in reception class and were taught daily. Pupils who were struggling to keep pace were given extra help so they could catch up quickly. Teachers read to pupils every day and books were chosen to spark pupils’ interests and support their learning in the wider curriculum, she noted.

Principal Alison Sinclair said she was delighted with the report from the very first line which said: “Valuing each child as an individual is at the heart of this inclusive and welcoming school.”

Mrs Sinclair praised her reading team, comprising phonics lead Sarah Jardine, English lead Kerry Cooper and early years lead Jo Gartland, for their efforts with children and in training all staff.

“Their work has been vindicated by this good report,” she said. “Our core subjects of reading and maths have come out as real strengths of the school. Our maths lead Simon Heritage designed the maths curriculum and the inspector was really impressed with what she saw.”

Mrs Sinclair said she was particularly pleased with the third successive ‘good’ for the 209-pupil school because it came against a backdrop of the pandemic and the transference of learning to online during the lockdowns for children aged two to 11.

“The inspector recognised that this school is a family and one where we look after each other,” she said.

“The children love coming to school and are very happy here. I’m really proud of my committed staff who support each other well. It hasn’t been easy during the pandemic and remains challenging as we continue to deal with the impact of COVID, but our report shows what can be achieved when you work together as a community.”

Pupils were also praised by the inspector for their good behaviour, being polite, respectful and friendly to adults, as well as their confidence, resilience and strength of character. They also knew how to look after their physical and mental health and how to keep safe.

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