Sunday, 29 November 2015

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Good improvements at Cumbrian school in special measures

A school which was placed in special measures has won praise for making a rapid transformation.

Ian Smith photo
Ian Smith, headteacher at St Benedict’s School

St Benedict’s Catholic High School at Whitehaven has made a number of drastic changes to the way it is run since the report in February.

And those changes have paid off, after being praised by Ofsted in the latest monitoring inspection. Achievement is rising, results in the sixth form are getting better and the school is placing a strong focus on improving students’ literacy skills.

It also states that teaching has improved across all subjects and that the leaders of the school have high expectations.

St Benedicts, which has 1,200 pupils, remains in special measures but hopes to come out of them after a third monitoring review at the end of February.

Executive headteacher Ian Smith, who was brought in last May, said: “Whichever way you look at it, this report is good for St Benedict’s and the community it serves.

“In my view the report is highly accurate and demonstrates very rapid improvements.”

The report says there are “strong improvements in teaching, learning and behaviour” and “staff and students are enjoying success and their high morale is evident throughout the school”.

Mr Smith said he was especially pleased that inspectors picked up on the high morale.

“Special measures puts extraordinary stress on a school and those working and learning there,” he said. “It’s inevitable that a lot of change takes place and sometimes difficult decisions have to be made. I agree that morale is high and that the school is moving forward very rapidly and very strongly.”

Inspectors observed lessons, looked at examination results, internal data, local authority reports and the school’s self-evaluation.

They also met with staff and the governing body as well as speaking with parents and attending a student leadership council meeting.

Mr Smith praised the staff, saying: “It’s a team effort with everyone playing a part, teachers and associate staff alike. It is, however, tremendous to see the work of the teaching staff being described as highly creative leading to rapid learning progress.”

He added he was pleased that the report pointed to the work of the school’s senior team and the “consistently high expectation they exhibit daily has rubbed off on everyone”.

Chair of governors Willie Slavin said: “It was almost inconceivable six months ago ... that the school would have made such remarkable, albeit hard-won, progress.”


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