PARENTS angered at the negative publicity Buckfastleigh Primary School has attracted since going into special measures, have been expressing their support for its beleaguered head, Bob Freshwater. Mother Zoe Pedrick, who has two daughters aged five and seven at the school, said: 'I think it is totally wrong. I am so angry about it. We have started a petition of parents who don't want Mr Freshwater to resign.' Parent Cathy Veasey, with two daughters aged nine and 11 at the school, has so far collected 83 signatures. 'Probably half the population of the school will support him,' she said. The first name on the petition was Tina Rowe's. She has a seven-year-old at the school and a three-year-old at the pre-school. 'I think he deserves a chance to put things right. He's been there for 12 years. He's a lovely guy,' she said. James Castle, who has a seven-year-old daughter at the school and a son at the pre-school, said: 'To get rid of Mr Freshwater would upset the children and upset the whole balance of the school. Most of the people we spoke to in the school feel the same way. It's just one or two who think he should go,' he said. Jim Veasey said he thought that Mr Freshwater was being made a scapegoat. 'I don't like the way he is being rail-roaded out of the school. I'd like to give him an opportunity. I'd like him to carry on as headmaster.' Mr Veasey said some of the responsibility for any problems lay with Devon County Council. 'I do believe Devon County Council have a lot of blame on their shoulders. I believe Bob is being made a scapegoat.' Karen Davey, who has a son aged eight at the school, said she was also collecting signatures. 'I think Mr Freshwater deserves to be treated with a bit more respect. Personally I think he is doing a good job.' But Mrs Davey thought that too much stress was put on the SAT results. She said: 'Not every child is clever and Ofsted is pushing that every child should be at its standard and not every child is at that standard.' Last month the school received a disastrous Ofsted result, in which it was judged 'inadequate'. In their report, the inspectors said: 'The school does not offer its pupils an adequate standard of education because a significant proportion do not make sufficient progress in their work.' They said that average ability pupils were underachieving and that standards at the end of Year 6 in maths and science were 'below average'. Teaching needed to be improved and pupils needed to be given work that was 'suitably challenging and interesting'. Teachers' assessments of how pupils were doing were 'not sufficiently accurate'. Leadership and management was also deemed 'inadequate'. The two areas where the school was judged satisfactory were in personal development and well-being, and care, guidance and support. Childrens' personal development and well-being were said to be 'satisfactory'. They said that most pupils grew in confidence while at the school and enjoyed using their initiative. Any bullying had been dealt with effectively through the school's behaviour policy. After the report was made public, Mr Freshwater went on sick leave. Some parents have called for him to resign. Celia Lebbon, whose twin grandsons attend the school, said she was amazed when she heard of the poor report. 'The school has done really well for the boys. They were at Dartington, but there wasn't the discipline or the structure.' Mr Castle and wife Angela moved down from Saddleworth four years ago to give their children a better quality of life. He praised social and moral aspects of the school, saying it was free of many of the behaviour and integration problems found in some schools in Yorkshire. 'My children really enjoy going to school. In my opinion, if they enjoy it, they will learn,' he said. Mrs Pedrick, who helps out at the school, said both her children were happy and that the teachers were 'fantastic'. She queried whether the Ofsted report really gave a fair picture. 'On the national news, Ofsted admitted that they've put a record number of schools into special measures and they actually said it wasn't due to school standards being lower but the way they have changed their inspections.' Figures published by Ofsted of schools in special measures for autumn term 2006 showed an increase from 208 to 243. In the same period, the number of schools given 'notice to improve' rose from 312 to 367. In a written statement they said: 'Ofsted has been clear since a new inspection framework was introduced in September 2005 that we have raised the bar of expected performance for schools because what was considered good 10 years ago would not be considered good any longer. 'Parents want good schools for their children and schools should aspire to be good or better.' A Devon County Council spokesman said that an action plan was being in place to improve standards. Literacy and numeracy consultants and science advisors are going into the school to work with teachers.
Head ‘is made the scapegoat’
Friday 9th February 2007 12:00 am