A PENHILL primary school has been praised for its efforts to improve after receiving the lowest possible rating from Ofsted.

Seven Fields Primary School received a scathing report from the education watchdog and was put in special measures last July.

Following an interim inspection by officials last month, the school has been praised for turning the situation round.

The report of the first monitoring inspection said: “Leaders have made a very positive start to improving the school. They have set a very clear steer.

“The process of improving the quality of education is well underway.”

Last July's report followed a turbulent year for the school. In March 2018, long-serving headteacher Zita McCormick and the whole board of trustees resigned.

Concerns were raised by inspectors at the time over the quality of teaching and level of bad behaviour.

But this time the school, which has 367 pupils, was praised for “taking effective action towards the removal of special measures” and that its “action plan is fit for purpose".

Headteacher Damien Booth joined Seven Fields just 15 days before the previous inspection last May.

Inspectors said: “The headteacher is leading the school with conviction. He has introduced many new policies and ways of working. His decisive approach has led improvements over the last term. Staff are fully supportive and rising to the challenge. This has been a period of rapid change.”

Mr Booth said: “We’re very pleased with how things are going.

“We knew what needed to change and staff have really stepped up to the plate, and that’s been born out in the report.”

Since the last inspection which criticised the school’s middle leadership team, inspectors said: “A fresh approach has been set in motion. Everyone knows what is expected and where the priorities lie.”

The report also praised the school’s new emphasis on collaborative working and ensuing team ethos.

“When I first came I think the school lacked direction and I have tired to give it that, to trust staff professionalism and to empower people to make the necessary changes,” Mr Booth said.

In December the school joined a multi-academy trust River Learning to help support the school’s improvements, which Ofsted say is “contributing well to setting a tone of improvement.”

Among the praise inspectors did note pupils’ achievement and productivity remains low, with students still falling below national levels for Key Stage 2 in 2019 for reading, writing and maths.

Mr Booth said: “These are results from 2019, when pupils took their SATs during the week Ofsted came. That was the previous cohort, so don’t judge the changes on that.

"This year’s pupils are certainly on track to improve results.”

Acknowledging the need to continue improving, he added: “We’re not there yet but we have taken a large step from where we were, to where we need to get to.

“We’re making the foundations for future generations at this school.

“This is not about one person coming in and making changes, I want to build a leadership team that will improve the quality of teaching continually.

“We want to get the fundamentals right and give our children the best possible education. I want this school to be the best in Swindon.”