Inspectors praise Bedford’s HEART Academies Trust primary schools

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A Bedford primary school has been celebrating after inspectors described it as having “a buzz” and exuding the “feeling that something interesting is going on from the moment you walk through the door”.

Shackleton Primary, off Elstow Road in central Bedford, went through challenging times several years ago with a number of different headteachers over two years, but in 2019 it started to transform for the better after becoming part of HEART Academies Trust.

Inspectors, who have just visited the school, said the “instability and unhappiness” of the past “had changed” and that over the past two years the school has had “strong and secure leadership”.

“The school has improved quickly,” they said. “Leaders have high expectations both for and of pupils. Pupils rise to these expectations and learn the curriculum well.”

Inspectors gave the school an overall rating of “good” and said its teachers had “a strong belief in the power of education to change pupils’ lives”. This, they said, has had a “big impact” on how quickly the school had improved.

As part of the school’s drive to encourage pupils to love books, teachers have instigated a “drop everything and listen” time in which they read to pupils every day. The school has also recently set up the Shackleton Family Zone, drop-in rhyme time, sensory play and story sessions for local families with young children.

Andy George, Headteacher of Shackleton Primary School, said: “The work we have put into ensuring our curriculum is well planned and connective meant that inspectors could help us to look at our next steps of developing an even wider, rich set of opportunities for our children to benefit from.”

The praise for Shackleton Primary comes at the same time as inspectors have given a glowing report to another HEART Academies Trust school, Shortstown Primary School in Cardington in Bedford.

In a recent visit to the school, inspectors said they were impressed at pupils’ knowledge of the human heart and vocabulary.

“Children enjoy learning about others and the world around them,” they said. “Pupils have positive attitudes to learning and like to help each other, especially when someone is new to the school.” Inspectors described the school overall as “good”.

Denise Cottam, Headteacher of Shortstown Primary School, said: “We are pleased with our good result. The report highlights that ‘this is a welcoming school’ and that ‘pupils thrive in the caring and supportive atmosphere’.

“The two-day inspection was challenging, but we are pleased the inspectors recognised the hard work of all staff in supporting the children and the community.  The children were excellent advocates of our school and shared our ethos and values with the inspection team.”

David Morris, Chief Executive Officer of HEART Academies Trust, said:“I am so proud of what both schools have achieved, especially given the challenges they have faced over the last two years. They put children and the community at the centre of everything they do.

“At HEART Academies Trust, we support our schools so that they can give children in Bedford an excellent education and we’re delighted that inspectors have acknowledged this.”