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An inspector has praised the ‘decisive and effective’ leadership of the headteacher of Hilgay Riverside Academy.

She said the school near Downham Market – part of the Riverside Federation – was on a ‘clear upward trajectory’ as a result of Sarah Turner’s leadership and management.

“The headteacher has focused well on improving the quality of teaching in the school. She has an excellent understanding of what constitutes good teaching and learning. Her expectations of herself, her staff and her pupils are very high.

“Although she has only been in post for a little over a year, there is already demonstrable impact of the actions she has taken,” said the inspector’s report.

She also highlighted the support given to the school by the Diocese of Ely Multi-Academy Trust (DEMAT) – which runs the school – and praised the behaviour and welfare of pupils, but concluded overall that the academy required improvement.

“The multi-academy trust supports the school very well. It provides effective support and challenge that is helping to move the school forward rapidly.

“A lead officer from the trust visits the school every term to ensure that the school is moving in the right direction. There is clear evidence that these actions are having a positive impact on the school’s development,” said the inspector.

She also noted that although the governing body had been through a ‘very challenging time’ a good mix of skills and experience had now enabled them to be fully effective. DEMAT had found and appointed an experienced and successful chair to lead the governing body, she added.

The report said pupils’ behaviour was good and that they liked coming to school. “Pupils are polite, respectful and well mannered. Where the quality of teaching is better, pupils’ behaviour is exemplary, and they show excellent attitudes to learning,” it added.

The inspector found the quality of teaching was improving, and that relationships between staff and pupils were strong. “Teaching staff know pupils well and are now better able to meet pupils’ individual needs. This is starting to have a positive impact on the progress pupils make,” she said.

The school’s early years provision was assessed as requiring improvement, but the report said that relationships between adults and children were positive. “The children behave well in the early years. They persevere with activities, maintaining their concentration, for extended periods of time. The children learn the school’s rules quickly and follow them well,” it added.

The school was encouraged to improve the quality of teaching, further develop the curriculum and ensure all early years staff have the knowledge and understanding necessary to teach early reading and writing skills effectively.

Headteacher Sarah Turner said: “I am pleased that Ofsted have recognised our journey of improvement and praised the good leadership, as well as the pupils’ behaviour and welfare. Although the report is in agreement with the school’s self-evaluation, we recognise that further work is needed to raise pupil outcomes, and we are committed to achieving good judgements in all areas in the next inspection.”

DEMAT Chief Executive Andrew Read added: “This report on Hilgay underlines the importance of a whole community approach to system leadership – in this case through the Riverside Federation and the wonderful leaders, staff, children, parents and volunteers who work in our much valued rural and Fenland schools. Given that that DEMAT is so personally and professionally committed to such communities, I am delighted that our contribution has also been recognised. Together we now need to strive to deliver a ‘good’ overall, thus meeting our own – and the government’s – ever-rising expectations of our hugely important small schools.”