Dereham school in a class of its own

Kathryn CrossA Dereham infant school has kept its outstanding Ofsted status - and become the first in Norfolk to get top marks since a new more rigorous inspection system was introduced.Kathryn Cross

A Dereham infant school has kept its outstanding Ofsted status - and become the first in Norfolk to get top marks since a new more rigorous inspection system was introduced.

Toftwood Infant School has 287 three to seven-year-olds and was described by inspector Ruth Frith as 'an outstanding school where the excellent care for each child lies at the heart of its work.'

She added: 'Pupils flourish within this vibrant, friendly and supportive environment in which opportunities and experiences ensure pupils achieve exceptionally well.'

Pupils' attainment was noted for being significantly above average with results of Year 2 national assessments the highest for several years. The curriculum was praised for making a very positive contribution, and because the children enjoy the work they behave exceptionally well.

The inspector noted that the teaching is highly effective with staff setting high quality targets so children are very clear about how to succeed. The needs of vulnerable pupils are identified quickly and their progress and well-being are carefully monitored.

Many children enter nursery and reception with below average abilities but make such significant gains in their learning that by Year 1 most are working within the early learning goals.

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The leadership of the school, under headteacher Joanna Pedlow, was highlighted as one of the main reasons for the school's success. The inspector said: 'She shows outstanding commitment to the pupils, their families and the local community and, together with the deputy headteacher and other staff, is instrumental in maintaining the very strong inclusive ethos.'

Mrs Pedlow, who was also celebrating her 40th birthday on Monday, said that the grading was particularly pleasing considering the much tougher criteria they now have to meet.

She said: 'Since the inspections changed in September it has made it much harder to reach good and outstanding, it is much more vigorous. There is pressure on everyone when Ofsted comes but a lot of pressure when you are outstanding to maintain that over three years.

'We have worked hard to keep moving forward and I know everyone has worked to the best of their ability.'

She said the key to their success was looking forward and not relying on what you have always done in the past.

'We looked at the data, talked to staff and gave everyone a leadership role. Each teacher leads a subject so our curriculum is always developing and we plan for every subject.

'We have high expectations of our staff and children and have built up good relationships with the parents.'

She said the recognition for nursery and reception was particularly pleasing.

'The inspector said that the junior schools that receive these children are very lucky,' she added.

'I can't describe how pleased I am for the staff and children to get the outstanding report again. The children want to come to school and want to learn and we are all working towards the same goal that every child should be the best they can be with the care, support and guidance at the heart of what we do.'

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said just six other schools in Norfolk had achieved two outstandings in a row but Toftwood was the first under the new inspection criteria. The only other establishment to receive an outstanding since September was the Eastern Area Pupil Referral Unit.