Reading is the key to Colman Infant School’s “outstanding” Ofsted report, headteacher says

Colman Infant School pupils and head teacher Nick Southgate celebrating an "outstanding" judgement i

Colman Infant School pupils and head teacher Nick Southgate celebrating an "outstanding" judgement in its latest Ofsted report.Photo by Simon Finlay. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

An infant school which has a 'constant and productive buzz' has been rated 'outstanding' across the board by Ofsted inspectors.

Headteacher Nick Southgate said reading was the key to Colman Infant School's success, which has raised children's abilities in reading, writing and maths to two terms ahead of the national average, despite having below-average skills when they start.

He said: 'For us, it's recognition of the good work that had been going on here for a number of years. We had judged ourselves 'outstanding' and it's fantastic to have that validation from Ofsted.'

The report, due to be published later this week, says outstanding teaching in all classes leads to rapid progress in pupils' learning. It also says that the pupils love to learn, and their behaviour in lessons, on the playground and around the schools is 'excellent'.

The inspectors, who visited the school in Colman Road, Norwich, on April 1 and 2, wrote: 'Pupils find their lessons inspirational. They say they love to learn because 'it is so much fun'.

'They love the challenges their teachers carefully plan for them and are eager to get busy in lessons so they can learn new things and develop new skills.

'They are very proud of their success in lessons and aspire to do even better. These attitudes are instilled from the day pupils begin school and contribute to their outstanding progress.'

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Asked about the academic success of his pupils, Mr Southgate said: 'The key is the reading. It all links back to that. If you can get that right, you can see improvement across all areas.

'It's about being very focused, very quickly. Our youngest children start reading from three weeks after they begin at the school. It's about maximising every moment you have with them.'

The report praises teachers for making sure pupils can practise and develop their reading, writing and maths skills in work away from English and maths lessons.

Mr Southgate said: 'We want to have a creative curriculum, so it's very topic based. If you give children skills which you can spend a small amount of time on, you can free up time to do a lot of creative things and then children can respond and you can do interesting things with them, rather than slogging away at things that are not very interesting for them.'

Four of the school's 178 pupils are deaf, and the report said they make 'good progress', are included well in lessons and say they love to come to the school.

The report praised headteacher Mr Southgate as 'an excellent leader', and noted that Norfolk County Council has used his skills as a local leader of education to support three schools which are not making good progress and that he has received positive feedback from them and the council.

The report praised the school's atmosphere, which the headteacher attributed to 'stability and working together over time'.

He added: 'You have got a group of teachers who have worked together over time and developed a shared understanding of how you do things. That does not happen quickly. It's about that consistency that you are able to achieve if you have got a good, stable team.'

Tina Jeczalik, who has a son at the school, said: 'Colman Infant School is so special. The staff are amazing and the headteacher is awesome. I hope he will still be there when my other two start there.'

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