ONE of Blackburn's most prestigious schools has been told it 'requires improvement'.

Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School (QEGS) was given the shock rating by Ofsted inspectors making their first visit to the 500-year-old school.

Inspectors highlighted concerns about the poor progress made by some year groups at the free school, which stopped charging fees three years ago when it gave up its 'independent' status.

The inspectors described the progress of some students as 'significantly' below the national average, especially for primary school pupils and girls in the sixth form.


The quality of teaching was described as 'inconsistent', while the report said parents had expressed fears over the lack of social cohesion in the school.

QEGS, which was founded in 1509 and given its royal charter nearly 60 years later by Queen Elizabeth 1, became a free school in 2014 after pupil numbers fell from a high of 1,200 in 1997 to less than 500.

The West Park Road school, which now has 1,041 students on its role, is funded directly by the government and pupils no longer have to sit an entrance exam. Fees of more than £10,000 a year were scrapped.

The school was last inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate in 2011 and was said to 'provide good standards in all that it does'.

Ofsted inspectors said the school required improvement for effectiveness of leadership, quality of teaching, outcomes for pupils and 16 to 19 study programmes.

It was rated 'good' for personal development and behaviour and for its early years provision.

Helen O'Neill, lead inspector, said the school had been subject to a number of significant changes over the past three years.

She said: "The management of these changes, in addition to adjusting to the changing intake of pupils both in context and number, have taken up considerable time for leaders at all levels."

She said outcomes for pupils in 2016 in the primary phase were 'significantly below the national average and did not meet the government’s floor standards', while there were 'marked variations in pupils' outcomes, both historically and currently across the school'.

Concerns were also expressed by staff in a questionnaire that pupils were 'at risk because of the school's policies and procedures' but inspectors stressed the new headteacher Claire Gammon has 'acted decisively to secure safeguarding arrangements and brought in several improvements'.

Mrs O'Neill praised the effective leadership of Mrs Gammon, who has been headteacher since January, and described her as 'committed and passionate about improving outcomes for pupils', while leaders had a clear vision for the school.

Mrs Gammon said it was not the overall judgement the school had hoped for.

But she added the school was 'delighted that the report highlighted so many positive areas and strengths, while acknowledging the journey the school has been on since moving to free school status'.

She said: "The report has been helpful in reinforcing the school’s development plan, and governors and school leaders have responded quickly by putting in place plans to address the findings."

David Peat, chairman of the school governors, said: "While QEGS is a school of long standing, we only moved to the state sector two years ago and the inspectors acknowledged that we are on a journey of improvement following these significant changes."

Cllr David Harling, Blackburn with Darwen Council's executive member for schools, said: "Looking at its history it has been a good school that has had good achievement but it is in transition.

"It has a different catchment to what it used to have with different requirements as a free school and clearly it will need a bit of time to get used to it."

Simon Jones, Lancashire representative for the National Union of Teachers, said: "For the sake of the children and the parents who took their children out of other schools in the area to send them to QEGS when it became a free school, I hope this report reflects the fact the school is going through a period of transition and improvements will be seen in the near future."

John Girdley, Lancashire representative for the teaching union NASUWT, said: "It is a whole new ball game being a state school and having to be inspected by Ofsted and on this occasion they have not made it."