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'Inadequate' west Cumbrian schools are improving, says Ofsted

Two Workington schools branded “inadequate” and put into special measures are improving, Ofsted says.

Lorrayne Hughes photo
Lorrayne Hughes

Stainburn School and Science College, and Southfield Technology College, were earmarked for closure – to be replaced by a new academy – in the wake of a damning inspection report issued in January.

But inspectors have since returned and say both schools are heading in the right direction.

Stainburn headteacher Chris McGrath and his opposite number at Southfield, Lynda Dalkin, resigned after the initial inspections.

David Dawes has taken over at Stainburn and Sandy Todd at Southfield while Lorrayne Hughes – headteacher of William Howard School at Brampton near Carlisle – was made executive headteacher overseeing both schools.

She is responsible for bringing them back up to standard.

The schools are operating under a joint interim executive board of governors, brought in by Cumbria County Council.

On Southfield, the inspectors now say: “Staff and governors were initially shocked at the judgement that the college requires special measures.

“There was some disbelief, which delayed work on improvement planning.

“The newly appointed leaders have energised the college and report that staff are motivated to secure improvements quickly.”

They highlighted a lower level of truancy and better use of data to help pupils hit targets as major improvements.

They added: “Some new approaches have been introduced in English to motivate and interest boys.

“The initiatives are at early stages but show that staff are willing to make changes and keen to move their practice forward.”

However, the report calls for more work to be done to implement a full plan for improvements.

The inspectors also believe that Stainburn is changing for the better.

Their report says: “Most staff recognise students need to make more rapid progress and are motivated to improve the college as quickly as possible.”

They single out better teaching in maths and English, and teachers making better lesson plans.

The inspectors say of both schools: “These initiatives are at early stages but show that staff are willing to make changes and are keen to raise achievement.”

Mrs Hughes was pleased with the findings. She said: “These are very early days but indications are encouraging. We are continuing to move forward with confidence and sound initiatives that will bring about the long-term improvements required.”

Anne Burns, the county council cabinet member for children’s services, said: “These new reports from Ofsted give me even greater confidence that the decisive action taken by the council to strengthen leadership and management was correct.”

The two schools are due to close in December to be replaced by an academy in January.

Have your say

There is absolutely no way can ofsted make an informed judgment about whether the two schools are improving in such as short time. This clearly underlines the political nature of what is going on here.

Posted by Bob T on 24 March 2014 at 16:28

My son only has good things to say about school now. The school is getting stricter and behaviour is getting better. He's more likely to get good GCSEs now than he would have done under the last headteacher. The school is definitely getting better. I remember when Stainburn had a good reputation. Only about 10 or 15 years ago. The grammar school had long gone but Stainburn had a reputation of a place to learn and get good exam results. That changed a few years ago and have been very bad in the past 3 or 4 years. I'm sure things are on the up again and that is down to the new headteacher.

Posted by Parent on 23 March 2014 at 19:26

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