“CHILDREN only get one chance at an education, and it has got to be the best.”

That was the rallying cry from Heathfield Junior School headteacher Billy Davies following an Ofsted report which rated the school as inadequate.

The Valentine Avenue school has now been given 18 months to show drastic improvement, during which time they will be closely monitored by inspectors.

The school in Sholing had previously been given a notice to improve but had recently been assessed as ‘showing improvement’.

However, following their latest visit inspectors delivered a critical report claiming teaching was not up to scratch and pupils were not making enough progress during their time there.

The report comes as plans to merge Heathfield with Valentine Infant School were unveiled.

Under the arrangement Heathfield would effectively close and Valentine, rated as a ‘Good’ school by Ofsted, would expand to include the juniors.

Parents of Valentine pupils have raised their concerns about incorporating a failing school. But Mr Davies said any future merger would still ensure the support to raise their standards was in place.

Mr Davies admitted that the latest inspection report had come as a body blow but said he and his staff were committed to turning it into not just a better school but an outstanding one.

He said: “We are obviously not happy with the report, but we accept it.

“We have to learn from it. In many ways it has helped us focus our attention on the key areas we need to get right.”

Mr Davies said despite the teaching being rated as inadequate, all the lessons observed by inspectors were rated as satisfactory or higher.

He added that the results at the end of Key Stage 2, when pupils leave the school, had also gone up 30 per cent in three years.

Mr Davies said: “I think the emphasis on inspections these days is on making sure the pupils are meeting the targets set for improvement.

“When that isn’t happening the most obvious thing to look at is the teaching.

“That is the only explanation I can give for them rating our teaching as inadequate when not one lesson they saw was given that assessment.”

Serious weaknesses identified by the inspectors included:

• Pupils had not gained sufficient skills in reading, writing and mathematics n Pupils have ground to make up and their achievement is inadequate

•  Subject leaders need to do more to check on teaching and pupils’ progress.

However, inspectors also found that:

• Pupils enjoyed coming to school and wanted to learn

• The school looked after its pupils well

• The leadership team understood what needed to be done to improve.

Mr Davies said an action plan had now been drawn up with Southampton City Council, the education authority, which included extra training and coaching.

He said: “There is no question of our commitment to improve.

This school has to be a good school then it needs to be an outstanding school, otherwise what is the point of being here?

“Children only get one chance at an education and it has got to be the best.”