Praise for school which lost its headteacher to illness


Leaders at a school whose head teacher died almost three years ago have been praised by Ofsted for their work during ‘a difficult period of transition’.

Patricia Longmire, head of St Mary Magdalene Catholic Primary School, in Hastings Road, died in August 2013 and her role was taken by Véronique Vanderschelden.

Following a short inspection of the school in January, Miss Vanderschelden told parents she was delighted to have been informed St Mary’s had maintained the ‘good’ rating achieved by Mrs Longmire in September 2010.

During his visit, inspector Clive Close spoke to staff, parents and children, observed lessons and watched how the youngsters conducted themselves.

In his report, Mr Close praised the sense of purpose at St Mary’s as well as the behaviour of the children and the “clear improvements” made since the last inspection.

He said: “The leadership team has maintained the good quality of education in the school since the last inspection. Since your appointment as substantive headteacher you have moved the school forward. Prior to this, the long period of time you undertook in the role as acting headteacher allowed the school to stabilise after a difficult period.”

Regarding the children, he said: “The behaviour and conduct of pupils are excellent. They display a very mature attitude to learning and show great respect for staff and the school as a whole. They were confident and keen to tell me about their work.”

Sylvia Cousins, chair of governors, said she and her fellow governors were “delighted” with Mr Close’s judgement.

She added: “The whole staff, under the effective leadership of Véronique Vanderschelden and her team, have worked extremely hard in recent years to achieve this outcome, pulling together through a very difficult period following the illness and death of our previous headteacher, Trish Longmire.

“Our focus has always been on serving our pupils well and we now hope to build on this success to become an ‘outstanding’ school in the near future.

“Our school is a happy, welcoming environment, with a clear sense of purpose and a tangible community spirit. We are glad that this has been recognised and commended in the Ofsted report, which praises especially the pupil’s behaviour and attitudes to learning.”

In a letter to parents, Miss Vanderschelden wrote: “The last three years have been challenging for our school community following the illness and death of our previous headteacher, Trish Longmire.

“I would like to thank my staff and governors for their dedication, commitment and relentless effort to make St Mary Magdalene School a good place to be.

“I am also grateful to all parents and carers for their valuable and greatly appreciated support and encouragement over the past few years. I strongly believe in working in partnership with families as it is the key to a successful education for our children.”

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