School that told pupils they were better than results is rated inadequate by Ofsted

A headteacher whose praise for pupils in a post-exam letter went viral has failed to win the hearts of Ofsted inspectors, who have graded the school inadequate.

Rachel Tomlinson, head of Barrowford Primary School in Lancashire, had 15 minutes of fame last year after telling her pupils that they were more “special and unique” than key stage 2 exam results.

But after a no-notice visit to the school in July, inspectors concluded that Ms Tomlinson’s decision to prioritise pupils’ wellbeing ahead of attainment was one of the school’s “serious weaknesses”.

Ofsted gave the school its lowest rating for poor teaching and results. Just three years ago, Barrowford was rated good.

The watchdog was particularly critical of the school’s teaching saying: “Staff expectations of what pupils can achieve are not high enough. Some staff do not give enough attention to teaching the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics.”

Last year, Ms Tomlinson was praised by teachers around the world for her heartwarming letter to 11-year-olds who had just sat their KS2 exams. She wrote: “The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you – the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do.”

But Ofsted inspectors were concerned about the assessment results for children aged 7-11. Their report says: “Staff do not ensure pupils complete work to a high standard. In some classrooms, there is very little direction set for pupils on how to do their best or celebration of what they have achieved. Some pupils told inspectors that ‘no one minds if we don’t do our best work’.”

In her message to pupils back in July 2014, Ms Tomlinson wrote: “The scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything. So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.”

In May this year, another inspirational school letter went viral, telling pupils taking Sats that they were “special and unique”.

The missive, from Buckton Vale Primary School in Cheshire, urged pupils to remember that tests could not show they were “smart” and that there were “many different ways of being smart”.

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