A SMALL rural County Durham primary school has been judged top class by Ofsted inspectors.

Hamsterley Primary was rated outstanding – the highest mark possible - after a two-day inspection in November.

The school, which has 27 pupils, is one of a handful in the North-East to receive the designation under Ofsted's new stricter inspection regime.

Head Lynn Cowans said: “They rang us up on the Tuesday and said they would be in the next day, but I would rather people took us as they find us as they are going to get an honest picture.”

The lead inspector, Frank Cain, described Hamsterley Primary as a friendly school where pupils are happy.

“Children are given memorable experiences in exciting and demanding lessons. Teachers expect the best from all children, who make exceptional progress because of the outstanding and well-planned teaching.

“The school is successful in developing personal as well as academic qualities in its children. Hamsterley Primary School is outstanding in all areas, and is well placed to improve even further.”

Mrs Cowans said one reason for the school's success was its links with the local community.

“We are one great big family. Everybody cares for one another and is committed to learning and supporting one another.”

She added: “Although we now have an Ofsted outstanding rating, we will be working harder than ever to ensure that we always set standards of excellence.”

Mrs Cowans said the school plans to build on its success by opening a nursery class in the summer term 2013 for children aged three and above. It will offer six-eight places and operate within existing facilities at Hamsterley Primary.

“This will address the missing link for youngsters in the village and surrounding areas,” she said.

An open evening is planned next term and anyone interested should contact the school on 01388 488279.