Belsize Park free school rated ‘oustanding’ in first Ofsted report

Headteacher Vicky Briody. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Headteacher Vicky Briody. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A popular free school which opened in response to a chronic shortage of primary school places has been labelled “outstanding” following its first Ofsted inspection.

Abacus Belsize has been housed in temporary premises at the old Hampstead Town Hall in Belsize Park since it opened nearly two years ago, and will move again to a temporary site in King’s Cross next academic year.

Despite these challenges, the primary school was rated “outstanding” in all categories in a report published this week.

Lead inspector Jeremy Loakes wrote: “The school community is united in support of the school. This is due to the clear sense of purpose and ambition shared by the headteacher, governing body and trust.

“The committed and highly effective leadership of the headteacher has galvanised the staff into a cohesive and determined team.”

The report added that parents are hugely supportive of the school, despite its impending move to the Jubilee Waterside Centre in King’s Cross in September.

The school, which has 57 pupils, is due to move permanently into the former Hampstead Police Station in Rosslyn Hill when it is ready for use in two years’ time.

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Inspectors particularly lauded the high quality of teaching and noted that pupils make “outstanding progress”. They also praised the links with Hampstead Heath Education Centre, highlighting that outdoor learning is a “particular strength”.

It passed Ofsted’s “Trojan Horse” rules, brought in following the Birmingham schools extremism scandal, in which schools have to prove they prepare children for “life in modern Britain”.

Inspectors highlighted that one young pupil greeted the Ofsted team in Mandarin, a subject which the school places at the heart of its curriculum.

Headteacher Vicki Briody said: “I am extremely proud of the achievements recognised in the Ofsted report.

“It highlights the strong sense of community that has developed very quickly in our school, celebrates the hard work of the Abacus team, and showcases the children’s learning at its best.

“Despite the fact we are still a very new school, this report has captured an accurate snapshot of what we have achieved in a short space of time, and we look forward to maintaining this positive momentum as we continue to develop and grow.”

The school opened in September 2013 following a five-year campaign for a free school to meet a demand for more places. It is Camden’s second free school following the opening of St Luke’s Church of England School in Hampstead in September 2011.