Bolton’s primary schools have earned a huge gold star for effort as they continue to drive up standards in the classroom.
At the end of the academic year 2015/16, an impressive 96 per cent of the borough’s primary schools are rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
In national league tables, this places Bolton as the 19th best performing borough for primary schools out of a total of 152.
And as Bolton is currently performing better than both the England (90 per cent) and North West average (93 per cent), education chiefs are justifiably delighted with this achievement.
Bolton Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Schools, Safeguarding and Looked After Children, Cllr Ann Cunliffe, said: “We are so proud of our primary schools in Bolton. Too often we hear about our borough being compared unfavourably to other areas, so it’s a refreshing change to be able to celebrate a genuine achievement gained through hard work and determination by our primary schools.
“This past year we’ve seen some real improvements in the quality of provision of primary education and to be able to say that 96 per cent of our schools are rated good or better is such an accomplishment, especially when compared to smaller or more affluent local authorities. It’s testament to the hundreds of dedicated staff working in those schools.”
Between September 2015 and July 2016, a number of the borough’s 98 primary schools were inspected by Ofsted.
Eight schools improved from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’; six schools remained ‘good’ and a further six schools moved from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’. An additional school retained its ‘outstanding’ judgement following a monitoring inspection.
One of the most recent schools to be inspected by Ofsted was St Thomas’ CE School of Halliwell, which received a ‘good’ rating with ‘outstanding’ features in September from ‘requires improvement’ two years ago.
Headteacher Abigail Wright said: "This is a tremendous achievement and one that the school community truly deserves. We have embraced changes with enthusiasm, driven by the determination to provide the very best possible teaching and learning opportunities for all pupils.
"We have a team of dedicated staff, governors and parents and have received unwavering support from the Diocese and Local Authority. Most importantly, we should recognise the achievements of our delightful, hard-working and very talented children, who are an absolute credit to the school.”
Also improving from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ is Castle Hill Primary which was inspected by Ofsted last November.
Headteacher Sarah Curley paid tribute to her governors, teaching and support staff, past and present, who have all contributed to the school’s improvement over the past few years.
She said: “The staff commitment is so strong at Castle Hill and our progress hasn’t happened over night. We deliver outstanding practice to secure our good results and it’s been a huge team effort over a period of time. We have a really positive community around us and we all work hard for these superb children.”
Moving up from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’ is Moorgate Primary, which was inspected in January.
Headteacher Debbie Hopwood attributed her success to teamwork. She said: “I have an amazing team. They all buy into the same core values and ethos of the school, and we try to make learning the best it can be.
“Our motto is aspire, achieve, sparkle. We are in it for the children and to make the best impact we possibly can. We genuinely really like children and want the best for them.”
Mrs Hopwood added that as Ofsted inspection criteria are always changing it keeps her and her team on their toes: “They raise the bar frequently. But we don’t just work for the inspection. We do it week in, week out and, as a senior leadership team, we are continuously looking at the criteria to see how we can improve.”
Also rated as ‘outstanding’ in June was Eatock Primary in Westhoughton, which headteacher Ann Flannery credits to quality of teaching and a highly creative curriculum.
She said: “The quality of teaching has improved over time and this has impacted on progress and attainment. Recently, we were in the top 100 schools in the country for English and Maths.
“We also have a high focus on learning outside the classroom and this was recognised within our inspection. We have a large wildlife area and since I became headteacher seven years ago we have developed two outdoor classrooms and an outdoor stage. We take our pupils out of the classroom to experience different things, and incorporate lots of trips to the ballet, theatre and art galleries.”
Bolton’s primary schools have made steady progress over the last seven years and have shifted from below the national average in 2009 with only 57 per cent of schools rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ (England 66 per cent) to their current position of 96 per cent (England 90 per cent).
They’re the second best performing borough in Greater Manchester and second in a comparison table of statistical neighbours, which takes into account similar characteristics.
Deputy Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr Linda Thomas, said: “The progress our primary schools have made in recent years is nothing less than outstanding. It is clear from this that in Bolton we are very fortunate to have some of the best teachers around, who are truly dedicated to the children they teach.
“As a local authority and a borough we continue to strive for success and help prepare our young people for a bright future.”