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High school placed in "special measures"

Created on 14/03/2018 @ 09:45
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Newtown High School has today been formally placed into special measures by inspectors.

As pre-empted by MyNewtown on Monday, a report published by Estyn today has stated the school has made insufficient progress since a “core inspection” in 2015.

“As a result, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales is increasing the level of follow-up activity,” states the report.

“In accordance with the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is of the opinion that special measures are required in relation to this school. The school will draw up an action plan to show how it is going to address the recommendations. 

“Estyn inspectors will re-visit the school in about three months’ time to inspect progress against the recommendations.”

However, the governors say the headteacher and others are tackling the issues raised having joined the school and are making progress.

The school will now work closely with Powys County Council and other specialists to address the recommendations highlighted by inspectors.

Referring to a range of recommendations since the last inspection, its first point refers to improving performance at key stage 4 in indicators that include English and mathematics.

“Since the core inspection, the school has not made sufficient and sustained improvement at key stage 4 in the indicators that include English and mathematics.

“In 2017, key stage 4 performance does not compare well with that in similar schools and is lower than at the time of the core inspection in nearly all indicators. In addition, pupils make significantly less progress than expected in many indicators.”

It adds: “The performance of boys, girls and pupils eligible for free school meals improved immediately following the core inspection but declined in 2017 and is below that of the same groups of pupils in similar schools. 

“In lessons, many pupils are attentive and engage appropriately in their learning. They demonstrate sound recall of prior learning and apply this to new contexts suitably. However, many pupils of all abilities do not make enough progress, frequently due to insufficient challenge in lessons. 

“A minority of pupils contribute to discussions suitably and respond appropriately to questions using subject specific language. A few express their views fluently.

“For example, in religious education, pupils discuss thoughtfully the spiritual significance of the city of Varanasi and the purpose of holy pilgrimages. However, a minority of pupils lack confidence in their verbal skills and either read out written answers or provide brief, underdeveloped responses.”

The report does say the school has made improvements on attendance.
“Since the core inspection, the school has introduced a range of appropriate strategies to improve pupils’ attendance and behaviour. These include a suitable rewards system to encourage good attendance and an effective behaviour management system to address instances of poor behaviour. 

“Overall, since the time of the core inspection attendance has improved. Strategies to improve attendance were particularly successful between 2014 and 2016.

“However, attendance fell in 2017 and although it remains better than at the time of the core inspection, it is below expectations and does not compare favourably with that in similar schools. The attendance of pupils eligible for free school meals improved between 2014 and 2016 but fell in 2017 and does not compare favourably to that in similar schools. 

“The school has recently strengthened procedures for managing pupil behaviour. A suitable stepped approach to behaviour management has been introduced, following consultation with pupils. It is beginning to have a positive impact on behaviour in lessons and around the school.

“However, the implementation of the policy is too variable. The number of fixed term exclusions has reduced slightly since the core inspection.”
It also says the school has improved its approach to tackling bullying.

"Since the core inspection, the school has implemented effective strategies to prevent bullying and deal with any cases that arise. As a result, the number of bullying instances has decreased significantly.
“Many pupils are now confident that the school deals effectively with any case of bullying.”

“Nearly all pupils are aware of the ways in which they can report any concerns regarding their wellbeing, for example using the school’s dashboard digital tool or by visiting the wellbeing centre.

“Heads of year follow clear and consistent procedures that ensure that the school is able to deal effectively with any reported incidents of bullying. There are also well-understood sanctions applied for any pupils who reoffend.

“A member of the senior leadership team monitors closely all allegations of bullying.”

Other key recommendations are also made and referred to in the report.
However, the school will now have to draw up a strategy as to how it will address these issues in order to come out of special measures.

Inspectors will return to the school in three months to evaluate these actions.

A team of senior education officers and special advisors will work with the school.

Officers from Powys County Council will be joined by challenge advisors from ERW, the regional education consortium, will to support Newtown High School 

Cabinet Member for Education, Councillor Myfanwy Alexander said: "This is disappointing but not unexpected news.  A new management team at Newtown High School know the steps they need to take to ensure rapid improvement and the authority will be providing all necessary support for the school on their improvement journey." 

The report and recommendations, which have been accepted by the head teacher, staff and governing body, will form the basis of a detailed action plan to address key areas requiring improvement.  

Officers will work with the school and its governing body to identify reasons for the inspection outcome and work together to deliver significant and rapid improvements.

Chair of the school's governing body, Mr Peter Hough said; "The report clearly shows that insufficient progress has been made since the original inspection in 2015.

"The new headteacher, who started in September, recognises the need for significant change and as Estyn say in the report 'has begun to introduce a series of suitable strategies to address important areas for improvement'.  There is lots to be done and everyone involved with the school is determined to make the changes required to get the school out of special measures as soon as possible." 

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