The Essex school previously in special measures now has a 'happy and inclusive' environment for children to learn

An Essex school that was previously in Special Measures has produced an incredible turnaround to now operate with a "happy and inclusive" environment in which children love to learn. The Waltham Holy Cross Primary School, on Quendon Drive, was in Special Measures as recently as 2018.

The primary school was told to become an academy by the Department for Education in 2018. It sparked strikes by staff and protests and marches by parents in opposition to the school joining NET Academies Trust, the school said.

In the school's first inspection by Ofsted since joining NET, inspectors judged the school to be Good overall with Outstanding pupil behaviour and attitudes and Outstanding leadership and management.

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Inspectors praised the school's environment as being somewhere that pupils "proudly and happily attend". They also said there is "exceptional" behaviour, a high positive attitude towards learning and children are told of the benefits of school attendance, such as getting a good job and supporting their overall well-being.

They continued: "The school promotes diversity and encourages pupils to show compassion and kindness to others. Pupils understand that everyone is unique and that this should be celebrated.

"Additionally, pupils learn about disabilities and how to support others. This knowledge helps to create a happy and inclusive environment for everyone in the school."

Jo Coton, the Chief Executive Officer of NET Academies Trust, said the scale of the opposition in 2018 and 2019 made it "a very difficult time" for them. They added: "We had been asked to take the school on by the Government and we knew we could improve it. We had a duty to carry on and we were guided by one priority – a determination that the children at the school got the great education they deserved."

Ms Coton added: "When the school eventually joined NET, we spent a huge amount of time talking to parents, showing them we wanted the same as them and putting in place the good practice that we knew would have a positive impact. Gradually parents saw that we were in it for all the right reasons and when that happened, we all started working together.

"That is what has led to where the school is today and everyone involved with the school – pupils, parents, staff at the school and at NET, governors, and the whole community – deserve huge credit for what has been achieved.”

Sarah Clarke, Head of School at Waltham Holy Cross Primary Academy, added: "We are all delighted with the Ofsted report. This has been several years of hard work and I want to pay tribute to the incredibly talented staff team here at the school and the support we have had from NET Academies Trust.

"This is a very special school – a happy and safe environment in which our children can learn, grow and develop into confident and successful young people. I feel very privileged to be part of it."

Jayshree Tailor, now a parent governor at the school, was among those who opposed the academy conversion and the transfer to NET, including leading the anti-academy campaign. They said: "NET Academies have fulfilled every promise they made when they sponsored Waltham Holy Cross. The school is now a happy, thriving learning environment."

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