Minister Nick Gibb takes a tour of showcase schools - but still backs Ofsted's criticism of Swindon's education provision

By Ben Fitzgerald - 26 January 2017


Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb MP, has insisted that Ofsted are ‘doing a very good job’ in the wake of blanket criticisms of primary and secondary schools by Ofsted Regional Director Bradley Simmons.

The Minister, who was in town to witness the pioneering approaches taken by Swindon Academy and Nova Hreod, refused to criticise Mr Simmon’s controversial stance, adding that Ofsted have an “important job to do.”

In an open letter Mr Simmons claimed that children in Swindon were being ‘failed at every level’ – despite the numerous examples of excellent work being carried out by Swindon Schools to raise and maintain pupil attainment.

The criticism prompted an angry response from many teachers in the town and led Swindon Borough Council to respond in kind - highlighting Ofsted’s own figures which show 98 per cent of early years settings in Swindon rated as good or outstanding and 92 per cent of primaries rated good or outstanding.

Mr Gibb began his tour at Swindon Academy, where he was introduced to the school’s new Grammar Stream programme which has been established in partnership with Marlborough College.

A total of 30 places have been offered to the most academically able students in year 7 who follow a challenging curriculum which also sees them visit Marlborough College one afternoon a week, study Latin and work an extended school day.

Mr Gibb said: “This is a school that serves an area of high disadvantage but schemes like this will help pupils from disadvantaged background to succeed. There is a real focus on rigour. It will help to provide opportunities for those children who might not otherwise have access to certain subjects and such a challenging curriculum.”

Swindon Academy Principal, Ruth Robinson explained: “There’s a lot of interest in this scheme. We have many different elite programmes running through this school. The Grammar Stream just represents just one of them. It’s important that the children here know that there are many different ways that they can succeed, so we have elite programmes for sports and other areas.”

She explained that the Grammar Stream, which has just taken on its first intake of year 7 students, would allow other children in the school to join at any age if they reach the required standard and places were available.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb visits Nova Hreod Academy
©Calyx Pictures
Picture Rachel Davis

Mr Gibb also visited Nova Hreod Academy which has been able to raise the percentage of pupils achieving 5 GCSEs graded A* to C from 21 per cent in 2014 to 63 per cent in 2016 and under the leadership of Principal Darren Barton, has transformed the culture of the school by introducing a strict discipline policy.

North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson, who accompanied Mr Gibb on the tour said: “I invited the Minister of Schools to showcase some of the best that Swindon has to offer. The two schools that he visited have seen real transition through a combination of a focus on rigour and a drive to ensure that every child has the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

“Swindon has been challenged over its education standards and we all have the responsibility to work together to engage and make sure that every single pupil can succeed.”



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