THE primary school with the worst attendance record in the country has just been awarded a glowing report by Government schools inspectors.

Ofsted has ranked Crays Hill Primary School as "outstanding" in one of the seven categories on which it was assessed and "above average" in five.

The school, which is now attended mostly by travellers living on the unauthorised Dale Farm site, in Oak Lane, Crays Hill, has official attendance rates of around 74 per cent.

But sources have told the Echo between five and 12 pupils were in school last term at the time when the inspection was carried out.

Despite this, Ofsted inspector Sandra Tweddell rated pupil attendance as "satisfactory".

Ofsted marked down the nearby Noak Bridge Primary School, which has much better attendance levels as "inadequate" in 2006.

The only area in which the report says the school fell short was the standards attained by pupils, a sub-category of the personal development section. This was deemed inadequate.

Ms Tweddell's report concludes: "Crays Hill is a good school, in which pupils achieve well. It gives good value for money.

"The headteacher is an inspiring leader who, with staff and governors, has worked tirelessly to build a school with an exciting learning environment and a strong focus on basic skills."

The school was officially removed from a County Hall "at risk" list last year - but since that time attendance rates have fallen still further.

Until a few years ago, Ofsted inspections resulted in comprehensive, detailed 50-page reports.

Now the inspectors' visits are much briefer and schools get two days' warning they are coming.

The Crays Hill school's last inspection was in 2002, when it had many more pupils on its books and a different head.

That report was much more critical, raising concerns over pupils' behaviour and the standard of teaching. The latest report specifically rules out putting the school into special measures, or making it the subject of improvement notices. The only improvements needed, the inspector suggests, are greater use of computers and a broader range of subjects in addition to basic maths and English.

Jo Lang, chairman of governors, welcomed the report, saying: "We are very proud of our school and everyone in it. We are delighted at the outcome of this rigorous, thorough and professional inspection."

Ofsted officials have defended the report. However, Kim Tran, Ofsted spokesman, was unable to explain why such apparently poor attendance figures were nevertheless, deemed "satisfactory".

Ms Tran added: "Inspectors are advised to take into account the trend in attendance and absence, and comparison with national figures.

"In addition, they consider the context of the school and evaluate the effectiveness of actions taken to improve attendance."

She said the value for money judgement would take into account the fact a school such as Crays Hill had a large number of children with "special needs", so the per capita cost was bound to be greater than that for other schools.

* Overall effectiveness of the school:GOOD
* Achievement and standards:GOOD
* Personal development and wellbeing: OUTSTANDING
* Quality of provision:GOOD
* Curriculum and other activities: SATISFACTORY
* Care, guidance and support:GOOD