Scandal-hit Eastbury School makes plans for “fresh start”

Matt Miller (right) and David Backhouse from Eastbury School's Interim Executive Board

Matt Miller (right) and David Backhouse from Eastbury School's Interim Executive Board - Credit: Archant

The chairman of the board that has taken over a scandal-hit school has spoken of his hopes for a “fresh start” in September.

Eastbury Primary School in Barking was mired in controversy earlier this year due to allegations that pupils were doing practice SAT papers that were exactly the same as the examination papers they went on to sit.

An investigation by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA), which oversees exams, cleared the school of any cheating.

But with further allegations of mismanagement the Department for Education stepped in and education secretary Michael Gove appointed an interim executive board to take over from the school’s governing board.

As of June 10, the school is now overseen by two headteachers of ‘outstanding’ schools, two ‘national leaders of governance’ - experienced chairs of governors that are specially appointed - and one school business manager.

Matt Miller, chair of the interim executive board, said: “We have the opportunity for a fresh start in September. We wanted to restore trust and confidence of parents and carers. What children need is stability and continuity and high quality teaching.”

After an Ofsted visit in May criticised the school for having no permanent senior leaders and high levels of staff absence, the board has hired 10 new teachers and a new interim deputy head, and intends to hire another deputy during the year.

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Mr Miller commented: “One thing that inspires staff is to work in a community and that helps with staff morale. We want everyone connected with the school to be proud of it.”

Existing headteacher Carole Thomas will also leave this term and is being replaced by Leigh Hovey, currently at a Gravesend school.

As for the governing body, which was dismissed due to what Ofsted called a ‘dysfunctional nature’, the board will run the show for the next academic year and will later appoint a new governing body.

“It will take all of us working together to ensure the school becomes the outstanding school it surely will be. When we hand over the baton we will have a very skilled governing body that can continue the journey of Eastbury,” said Mr Miller.

Assistant headteacher Fran Navarro has worked at the school for seven years and is full of optimism about where the school is headed.

“We are determined to make changes. We are here for the benefit of the kids. It is good but it is going to be even better in the future,” he said.