Norfolk County Council and Ofsted to intervene after Stalham High School is put into special measures
08:00 04 February 2014
One of Norfolk’s smallest high schools has fallen into special measures just eight months after it was rated as good.
Stalham High School, which has 468 pupils, was rated as inadequate by Ofsted in all four key areas following an unexpected inspection on November 26-27.
The damning report said Melinda Derry, headteacher at the time, was absent during the visit.
It was revealed that Ms Derry went off sick on November 26, according to Norfolk County Council, and on January 26 it was reported that she had resigned after being off ill for several weeks.
Her place has been taken, until this July, by executive headteacher Gerard Batty, current head of Hellesdon High School, Norwich.
The school had been bumped up to good from satisfactory, following an Ofsted inspection in March last year.
A key criticism in the report said: “Governors and senior leaders have been too distracted by a number of internal issues. As a result, they have not made adequate plans for the long-term strategic improvement of the school and its existence has been put at risk; they have failed to win the complete confidence of parents, staff and all governors.”
The four main areas which were inspected were achievement of pupils; quality of teaching; behaviour and safety of pupils; and leadership and management.
Mr Batty said the report was a disappointing judgement but staff were determined to work together.
He could see staff were ambitious for the school and wanted the best for students.
Ofsted acknowledged that changes to the management team were beginning to have an impact and there was some outstanding teaching on which they could build.
Behaviour in the school was generally good but there were some issues raised in the report that were of concern, “in particular the racist attitudes of a small number of students, and we are acting immediately to address these”. Gordon Boyd, assistant director of children’s services at the council, said: “We have been working to support the school for some time, however the school has not been making fast enough progress.
“There will now be greater scrutiny from ourselves, as well as from Ofsted, and we will be working to ensure that there is strong leadership and governance in place.”
Inspectors’ said the school governing body had been through “considerable turbulence”.
The report added: “There have been many changes of governors. Relations between the governing body and local authority have not been conducive to the school’s long-term improvement.
“The governing body and the headteacher have been involved in managing some protracted disputes. During this period less energy than necessary has been committed to securing the long-term future of the school.”
Norfolk County Council member Nigel Dixon looked into “mismanagement issues” within the governing body and the senior leadership team in March 2012 after parents raised concerns and described both groups as “dysfunctional”.
Mr Dixon, who represents Hoveton and Stalham, said he looked forward to supporting the school in driving the turn around process over the next year but believed the council should have intervened earlier.
A council spokesman said the authority had applied to the Department for Education for permission to replace the governing body with an interim executive board.
The report said the number of pupils achieving five or more GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and maths, fell from 58pc in 2012 to 46pc last year.
It added that the school had not been able to sustain improvement and the rate of progress was lower than national figures, especially in maths and science.
Good points of the report were the school had outstanding teaching in a few subject areas; persistent absence was being reduced; recent additions to the management team had increased capacity for improving teaching; and the majority of students were well behaved around the school and with each other.
An Ofsted spokesman said: “The reports clearly set out the findings of the inspections and reasons behind the judgements.
“In relation to schools’ performance, this can improve and decline over a short period of time. As such and in line with Ofsted’s risk assessment, inspections can be brought forward, outside of the usual timescale, where there are concerns with a school’s performance.”
To view the full report and previous reports on the high school click on the link at the top right of this page.
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