St Augustine’s recovers after sad loss of head

St Augustine's Academy, Oakwood Avenue, Dunstable
St Augustine's Academy, Oakwood Avenue, Dunstable

The interim principle of a Dunstable school has been praised after securing a ‘good’ Ofsted rating – just eight months after the sudden death of the school’s former head.

Staff, parents and pupils of St Augustine’s Academy (formerly Downside Lower School) were rocked by the news of Marilyn Ravenor’s passing in January, with Lynne James placed in charge of the school on an interim basis.

Mrs Ravenor was appointed headteacher at the Oakwood Avenue school in February 2011, following headships at lower schools Studham and Willowfield (Caddington) and an associate headship at The Children’s Academy, Bahrain.

In October, Ofsted inspectors visited the school for the first time since Mrs Ravenor’s death and rated it at a consistently ‘good’ level, with the early years provision deemed to be ‘outstanding’.

In a report on the inspection, published last week, Lynne James was praised for her “exceptional leadership” which has “maintained high standards of teaching and learning throughout a difficult time”.

It added: “She has supported staff in dealing with the loss of their principal, while ensuring that the learning and well-being of the pupils did not suffer.”

Inspectors noted a “considerable” rise in standards in reading and mathematics throughout 2014, while subjects being taught were said to be “interesting and exciting”.

Teachers were also singled out for their efforts.

The report stated: “Teachers make sure that lessons are interesting so that pupils want to try hard.

“They encourage pupils tofeel confident enough to tell them if they are finding something difficult, and to ‘have a go’ without fear of failure.”

Cllr Roger Pepworth, chair of governors at the school, revealed his delight.

He said: “We have had a difficult time over the last year or two.

“One of our longest-serving colleagues died and then in January our principal for the last three years died suddenly.

“This report confirms what we knew about just how good the school is, but we are delighted to see it in black and white.

“The report is a positive tribute to our interim principal who took over at a very difficult time and has not only held the school together but also moved us on.”

Lynne James said: “We are delighted that Ofsted has confirmed that we are ‘a good school’.

“Our children get an excellent start in reception and go on to achieve well through our good teaching”.

To read our breaking story from January, click here.