A failing school or an unsupportive community?

Posted: November 27, 2012 in life
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A FLAGSHIP new Merseyside school  Christ The King centre for learning  was branded a failure by Ofsted watchdogs.

In January 2009 Christ The King was the first of seven new secondaries  launched by Knowsley Council under a £157m revamp.

Education chiefs hailed the £24m joint Church of England and Catholic school  in Huyton as “the beginning of our journey to make Knowsley the best place to be  educated”.

As part of the borough’s education revolution teachers were rebranded “progress leaders”, schools called “centres for learning” and classrooms in the  ultra-modern schools boasting retractable walls, became flexible learning  spaces.

<span class=”mceItemHidden”><a href=”http://trinitymirror.grapeshot.co.uk/northwest/redirect.cgi?target=http://ad.uk.doubleclick.net/jump/liverpoolecho.5293/article_mpu;slot=article%5Fmpu;sect=null;templ=page;cat=homepage;reg=NW;st=other;oid=32188599;sz=300×250;gs_cat=GS_CHANNELS;tile=3;ord=515410730?&#8221; target=”_blank”> <<span class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=””>img</span> src=”http://trinitymirror.grapeshot.co.uk/northwest/redirect.cgi?target=http://ad.uk.doubleclick.net/ad/liverpoolecho.5293/article_mpu;slot=article%5Fmpu;sect=null;templ=page;cat=homepage;reg=NW;st=other;oid=32188599;sz=300×250;gs_cat=GS_CHANNELS;tile=3;ord=515410730?&#8221; width=”300″ height=”250″ border=”0″ alt=”article_mpuAdvertisement” /> </a></span>However, Christ the King, already on its third principal, has been handed the  dreaded “special measures” failing tag by concerned Ofsted officials.

Handing it a worst possible Grade 4 which can lead to closure, Ofsted  concluded after a September visit that the achievement of students was “inadequate”.

The newly-released findings include that pupils “have repeatedly failed to  fulfil their potential particularly in English and mathematics” and weaknesses  in literacy and numeracy remain “a barrier to progress”.

Its multi-million pound base has not stopped poor teaching which “over time  has been inadequate”.

Ofsted found a “a culture of low expectations has become established and  lessons are insufficiently challenging”.

Although most students are polite, Ofsted said the school needs to stem the “high rate of exclusion” and “low level disruption in lessons has a detrimental  impact on students’ progress” .

Only a fifth of GCSE students got five Cs or above this year.

But Ofsted praised headteacher Peter Bradley, in post since January, for  having a “a very clear understanding of what needs to be done”.

<span class=”mceItemHidden”><a href=”http://trinitymirror.grapeshot.co.uk/northwest/redirect.cgi?target=http://ad.uk.doubleclick.net/jump/liverpoolecho.5293/article_mpu;slot=article%5Fmpu;sect=local%2Dnews;templ=page;cat=News;reg=NW;st=other;oid=32188599;sz=300×250;gs_cat=GS_CHANNELS;tile=3;ord=117944986?&#8221; target=”_blank”> <<span class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=””>img</span> src=”http://trinitymirror.grapeshot.co.uk/northwest/redirect.cgi?target=http://ad.uk.doubleclick.net/ad/liverpoolecho.5293/article_mpu;slot=article%5Fmpu;sect=local%2Dnews;templ=page;cat=News;reg=NW;st=other;oid=32188599;sz=300×250;gs_cat=GS_CHANNELS;tile=3;ord=117944986?&#8221; width=”300″ height=”250″ border=”0″ alt=”article_mpuAdvertisement” /></a></span>Ofsted said he “galvanised” the school community and with help from a new  interim governing body has acted swiftly to address weakness.

Today a Knowsley council spokesman said: “Whilst the inspectors recognised  that some improvements had been made since the previous inspection they also  identified key areas for improvement.

“Actions are already under way to ensure these priorities are addressed  swiftly and improved outcomes for students are secure.”

The council said the school is pressing ahead with plans to become a  centrally funded sponsored academy – such schools get support from other  education organisations.

Its new guise “will mean the centre can continue to offer state-of-the-art  facilities but with improved access to a wider range of expertise and  support.”

 

My reply….

I think that maybe the focus should be of that of the council. Yes, it is easy to lay blame in one direction and another but the picture as a whole needs looking at.

Firstly, Knowsley is described in Government documentation as one of the top 5 most deprived areas in the UK where children enter the education system with little, if any, skills that central government expect them to have at the age of 3. A prime example is the number of children entering who need to be toilet trained or are unable to speak correctly. Parents seeing this as a schools responsibility to ‘educate’ their child. The effect this has upon that child, from day one, puts them behind other children, this meaning benchmark levels measuring a child’s attainment, at the age of 3, are already being missed. The snow ball effect comes into place and over years that gap between their actual achievements and those that are expected widens.

Secondly I whole heartedly agree that a new building doesn’t make a school. I can, with some knowledge also ensure that during the design of these new ‘centre of learning’ buildings Knowsley have (government funded) they played a massive part in their design, look and location as, if they had run with the proposed designs by central government, we would have buildings fit for nothing! By this, the provision in the then existing schools were there but in the new builds they had been eliminated. A prime example is the new building that replaced The Elms and Springfield Special Schools in knowsley. In their old buildings the children had access to swimming pools, hydro therapy pools, gyms etc, but alas in their new ‘state of the art’ centre of learning these facilities are nowhere to be seen! For that we need to thank central government as in their blue plans they thought these facilities were not deemed essential.

Thirdly, the appointment of three headteacher at Christ the King. The first appointment was of a man who came in a blaze of glory. A guy who had turned schools around in the south, from those in special measures and made them into Good and Outstanding schools. Knowsley head hunted this man and before long was in situ in his ‘state of the art’ centre for learning, but it didn’t stop here! This man ordered that the school, or centre for learning, was to have swivel chairs in every base. There were to be no standard school chairs to be in the building. This, apparently ‘aided’ the children’s (or as they are now call, young adults) learning. He ordered hand held computers and tablets so that the young adults didn’t have to write they could use the latest technology in the state of the art building they were moving into. He made his mark, but for the better? It wasn’t long before the staff complained regards the swivel chairs as pupils would spin on them and race up and down the rooms, or bases, or stairs, or hall…. it’s just like one massive open space with retractable walls. They went! and in came the ‘old fashioned’ style school chairs that had previously been banned, but at an additional cost to the budget. The tablets and hand-held computers were used for a while but they went too. And it wasn’t long before he was out of the door, placed on gardening leaving by the LA,, as which point they brought in what this report classes as the second of three headteachers.
The second headteacher, or interim head while they found a replacement was brought out of retirement after leaving HER school when it joined with another neighbouring school. This was seen as a short-term solution during which time the council would seek a replacement. A headteacher, now in charge of one of the new centre of learning buildings who for the past 30+ years had worked in the council and what a tough job she had. She needed to work hard with a deflated team who had been railroaded and left by their previous head who had run away with his ideas. She needed to build a presence in a building with over 1000 pupils and do that quickly. (it takes time, it doesn’t just come straight away, then add in the fact you’re in one of the top 5 deprived areas of the country). As I said before this was a short-term solution, but she ended up staying longer as she was beginning to make improvements, staff morale was on the up and children, sorry young adults, were gaining respect for her. After 18 months though, enough was enough and she decided, rightly too after 30+yrs service, she was hanging up her coat and passing the job to someone else.
At this point the council appointed Mr Bradley, head of All Saints in Kirkby as head teacher of BOTH schools, or centres for learning, and why not. His school was branded a GOOD school with outstanding features in its last Ofsted, so who better to bring the same standards to what is now a failing school. But again, it takes time. Not a week, a month or in some cases a year, but longer. It’s very much, just watch this space on this front. It is also easy to blame staff saying that training isn’t correct and that many have taken it as an ‘easy’ route to work in education. There are not many people left after a year in the education system who think it’s an easy route or career, especially in a school that is classed as special measures. the staff, or the majority of them, work long, hard hours to help provide the best for the children, or young adults that are in their care. They strive to help close that gap, to reduce what has always been a challenging target from when that child first entered the education system aged 3 and were not meeting their targets. And on top of that they have to deal with people entering their place of work for one or two days and seeing a snap shot of what they do and making a decision in a split second, but how is that right too?

It seems that the management team have an idea of what needs to be improved upon, no doubt behaviour management features highly within that list and the consistency of it throughout the school, a school is formed not only by the head leading from the top, but the staff and the pupils that enter that building day in day out. The families that send their children there, put trust and faith in those people to protect and educate, but also parents/carers need to do the same too. It’s a two-way path.

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