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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Cumbrian learning centre now deemed inadequate by Ofsted

Education in west Cumbria is reeling from a fresh body blow with another school failing an Ofsted inspection.

Learning centre photo
West Cumbria Learning Centre

The West Cumbria Learning Centre is the latest in the county where the standards of education have been found to be unacceptable and government inspectors say special measures are needed.

The pupil referral unit, near Lillyhall, Workington, is judged to be inadequate following a two-day inspection in December.

Inspectors say that the centre’s ability to improve is “too limited” because managers have not acted swiftly enough to establish a strong and permanent leadership team.

The report also states that recent improvements in all areas of the centre have also been too reliant on outside support and a temporary leadership team, which was in charge until Christmas.

The management committee at the centre has not held leaders to account properly and had an “overly positive picture” before an accurate reflection was delivered by the former, temporary leadership team, which was reported by Ofsted to be a “much needed wake-up call”.

An external review of the unit’s governance has been ordered to identify improvements. Ofsted will also make recommendations to Cumbria County Council about what actions should be taken.

The education watchdog also says that student levels of achievement and success are not good enough and recent teaching improvements are not yet secure.

Some teaching is described as “uninspiring”. Attendance also remains poor for a small minority of pupils, particularly 14 to 16-year-olds.

Inspectors have ruled that the centre’s leadership and management are inadequate and pupils’ achievement, teaching and the safety and behaviour of pupils require improvement.

Strengths of the centre which have been praised include staff’s understanding of students’ individual needs and the good relationships they build with them, which help a lot of students return to mainstream school.

The inspectors said junior aged children and those taught at home or hospital also made good progress and that morale of the centre’s dedicated staff was high.

West Cumbria Learning Centre offers alternatives to mainstream school. It provides education for pupils aged seven to 16 who have been or are at risk of exclusion or who are not attending school for other reasons, such as illness or pregnancy. It can cater for 50 pupils with 43 currently on roll. Many often attend for short periods. Some are also tutored at home or in hospital.

In a statement, the centre said it was disappointed with Ofsted’s judgement but, due to extenuating circumstances, its leadership had not been as robust at the time of the inspection as it is now.

It said the management committee was working hard to secure permanent leadership and a strong interim leadership had been put in place by the county council.

Helen Johnson, new interim headteacher, said: “I am really excited about the future for everyone at West Cumbria Learning Centre. There is so much good practice here and the students are a fantastic asset to the centre and west Cumbria.

“We now need to draw on the expertise both from the centre and the wider community to ensure all our learners leave the centre equipped with the appropriate knowledge, skills, qualifications and resilience to enter the next phase of their educational life.”

A Cumbria County Council spokesman said: “Children across Cumbria deserve a good education and we are determined to help make that happen.

“It is important to note that as well as highlighting areas where big improvements are needed, Ofsted recognised the school’s strengths.

“These strengths can be built on to deliver the necessary improvement and the county council will be supporting the school to help bring about this change.”

Yesterday’s report about the West Cumbria Learning Centre is the latest critical Ofsted report after inspectors carried out a blitz across 16 secondary schools.

In Workington, Stainburn and Southfield schools are to close and be replaced by a single academy after failing their inspections and also being put into special measures. Consultation meetings took place in both schools this week.

The town’s third school - St Joseph’s, a Catholic school - has been judged to require improvement as part of the same regional review taking place.

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