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Special measures - unsure about what (if anything) to do

(24 Posts)
georgedawes Fri 14-Nov-14 14:06:54

I'm not sure what to do and would appreciate any advice, particularly from teachers or those who have experienced similar.

My DD is in reception in a school that was put into special measures last year. The ofsted report was pretty awful and based, as far as I can make out, on attainment falling quite dramatically over a number of years. It is a large school and although the ht tried to fight it she eventually resigned and a new head started this year. I really respect the new ht who seems to be trying her utmost to turn the school around in a very short time scale (her appointment was a year after the initial ofsted report).

Some of my concerns are (I appreciate some are more/less serious but I'm just trying to give a picture)

The reception class layout has changed due to poor inspections, and it now appears to be one space for 60 children, which feels chaotic at drop off (although I cannot see what it is like in the day).

There is no reading scheme yet for all children, some children seem to have books but not others, I haven't been able to find out what is happening except to be told it will start soon.

I have spoken to the class teacher a couple of times about quite minor things (DD needing to be reminded to go to the toilet) and it just not being acted on. I know they're very busy but if she isn't reminded to go she will not go at all at school, she'll happily go if reminded. I didn't think this was too much to ask - but we've requested it several times and it's still not happening.

There are more things but I don't want to make this post too long. I am considering other options but not sure if moving school is for the best or not. It would be a shame to uproot my DD (who is happy)
but the early years dept seems to be the part of the school in the most turmoil, whereas the rest of the school seems to be improving more quickly (if the feedback from the LA and HMI is correct).

LittleMissGreen Fri 14-Nov-14 15:10:35

My boys go to a very small school so can't really make a judgement on the issues of 60 children being taught together - that is bigger than our entire nursery through to year 2!
Regarding reading, has your DD started learning phonics? Our school would teach a phoneme a day, with consolidation on a Friday, so 4 a week. Once they knew enough phonemes they would then start sending home phonic readers so children could blend what they had learnt. Initially though they just had lists of words to practice (as knew so few letters) or before that just lists of sounds to practice. I guess it's possible if they were pulled up for not teaching phonics well in their OFSTED report that they are finally getting around to putting a phonics scheme in place which has led to disruption.

tobysmum77 Fri 14-Nov-14 15:54:57

my dd also goes to a school that was placed in sm and then academised during her reception year.

I think it in the end is about how happy you are that dd is ok there. In my case I've never had any major concerns.

If you really aren't happy dd is ok then there's your answer I think.

georgedawes Fri 14-Nov-14 16:10:40

Thanks both. You're right I'm not happy but moving her is a big step with a lot to consider - it would have to be another town as no others nearby etc and would be a tiny school with few classmates. I'm not dead against it but want to be sure I'm doing the right thing.

I believe they do phonics in groups every day but some children as far as I can make out have some books, although this hasn't been explained properly, for instance I know some in her group seem to have a book but she doesn't? We're not told what they are learning and at parents evening the feedback was simply she was doing well and would start the scheme after half term but hasn't yet.

I've just picked her up and she apparently hasn't been to the toilet either.

TalkinPeace Fri 14-Nov-14 17:55:44

Is it an LEA school or an Academy?
If an LEA school then ask to see the action plan.
If an academy, consider moving.

georgedawes Fri 14-Nov-14 18:50:45

Not an academy, no. I've seen the action plan (dd was in the nursery) which I thought was pretty unambitious but this was before the new HT started. She seems very focused on improving ASAP but reception classes seem confused to me.

It's hard for me to judge (as only have one child) but it seems the school is improving much more but the early years department is struggling.

Effic Fri 14-Nov-14 19:04:32

If the school has been in SM for over a year, and HMI monitoring reports are still saying its poor, then it's not a great sign I'm afraid. LA SM schools get a lot of support and money straight away to improve things rapidly. If it doesn't, it is highly likely the school will be turned over to an academy chain to sponsor - in fact I'm surprised it hasn't already? Is the new headteacher a so called 'super head' with experience of turning round SM schools? If so, it may just mean you need to hang on in there a bit longer while she/he gets to grips with all the problems (and believe me - having done this four times now - some SM schools are completely and utterly 'broken' and the list of stuff to sort is enormous to start with!). From the little info you've given, this sounds like a 'real' SM school - long term decline in results, 12 months + of support and yet still poor, basic requests from parents (toilet reminder) not happening etc.
Hopefully the new HT will turn it round but if it's still in SM after 24 months then ofsted will threaten to close it so academy sponsorship (and a further period of upheaval) becomes inevitable. You may want to see if there is an alternative and explore the options - surrounding schools tend to get full very quickly when a SM school is going down.

bearwithspecs Fri 14-Nov-14 19:05:37

I would stay put but arrange a meeting with the teacher to discuss your concerns

bearwithspecs Fri 14-Nov-14 19:06:33

Round us a lot of the schools have 60-90 reception children in open plan classrooms

georgedawes Fri 14-Nov-14 19:12:58

Thanks for the helpful comments. Yes HT has good experience of turning round schools and I do have confidence in her. The hmi reports do say the school is making reasonable progress but highlighted concerns about reception that were never referred to in original ofsted report.

I'm not sure a meeting with the teacher is sufficient.. We've not long had parents evening where all this was discussed. Dd still has no reading record/book and still isn't reminded to go to the loo.

Many Local schools are full too leaving us few options. I'm kicking myself for sending dd here, really worrying we're letting her down.

In terms of becoming an academy this is not happening at this stage as the school is progressing.

georgedawes Fri 14-Nov-14 19:16:31

I probably didn't explain the open plan aspect well, apologies.

Basically it was done half way through term due to failing an inspection. It now is very chaotic at drop off and the room seems like it's not been planned for the space and number of children in it (presumably as it happened overnight). I have no issues with a large space if well planned and managed, but to my untrained eye it doesn't seem like that.

georgedawes Fri 14-Nov-14 19:19:32

Can I ask are you a HT effic? Is this par for the course? Perhaps an impossible question to answer!

I can see the class teacher is clearly stressed and under enormous pressure but I'm worried for dd.

WhispersOfWickedness Fri 14-Nov-14 19:19:49

I don't have any advice about most of this, just wanted to say that it is not at all unusual to have some of reception taking home reading books and some not. Our school (good according to ofsted, fwiw) sends books home when the children are ready. This means that some have had them since the first week, and some still haven't got them. It's not an indication of a poor school.

georgedawes Fri 14-Nov-14 19:27:29

I do understand that and I realise my post isn't the full picture. In itself it's not that important if you feel the school are on top of everything... But I have concerns as do many of the other parents. We were told she'd start the scheme last week but still hasn't yet.

georgedawes Fri 14-Nov-14 19:28:29

No children got books at the start of term, it was meant to start after half term.

Mumoftwoyoungkids Fri 14-Nov-14 19:50:05

Open plan learning can work really well. Dd is in a classroom with 90. It's a big room but not 3 * classroom big. I think. Although it's very hard to judge as I'm remembering primary classrooms from a very long time ago. And I was smallthen! Whenever I've been in I've always been shocked just how calm it is! Is there a "quiet room" for when they split in classes for phonics? Because that seems important to making it work. Dd's school feels almost like a buffet in a big hotel with so many different activities each day.

The main thing I have found is that I'm amazed just how much dd has learnt in this first half term. Genuinely amazed. I think if you are not feeling that then the school probably isn't great.

On the other hand if your dd is happy then moving her is a very risky step.

Re: reading scheme - dd's school doesn't have a scheme as such - they seem to do several of the different schemes. The books are put into 7 (according to dd!) boxes and te kids pick their own from the box they are on. Dd seems to really like getting to choose. We do have the occasional blooper where a book has been put in te wrong box - poor girl was trying (and failing) to read "collecting" last night!

Dd has had books since mid September - basically 2 or 3 weeks of assessments then straight in. Not sure if everyone did but some definitely.

georgedawes Fri 14-Nov-14 20:06:46

I believe the rational to change it to open plan learning was sound - the children were apparently sat down too much and being "talked at" rather than directing their own learning. However, it doesn't seem like a welcoming, learning, fun space when you arrive yet - it's hard to describe succinctly, but it basically looks like it was done overnight, which it was. I do think it will work in the longer term - but have I got that long for DD?

DD is happy, she loves going there with her friends and I am so concerned about what to do for the best. There are few options locally, and no 'easy' ones, if that makes sense.

In terms of the reading scheme, as I understand it the school does phonics with all kids until half term and then said they would give children a book based on their ability level. This has not yet happened, although some children do have one (but I've heard those say it's only because they asked for it and then it's still not changed). I don't understand how it works as you can tell.

Individually these problems probably aren't that much..but overall I think the picture is concerning.

Hellenbach Fri 14-Nov-14 20:17:55

You need to speak with the Foundation Stage Co-Ordinator, ask for an appointment. I am guessing there are two Reception classes with a dedicated teacher for each? An open plan unit isn't unusual so that children can access a range of activities indoors and out.
They should be following a phonics programme, maybe Letters and Sounds or similar. Reading books should be differentiated according to ability.
When a school is in SM's there is only one way to go and that's up! Give them a fighting chance.

georgedawes Fri 14-Nov-14 21:09:20

I have given them a fighting chance, we sent her to the school nursery and reception. We haven't gone elsewhere yet.. Many others have!

And actually I don't agree that there is only one way to go after special measures, I used to think that but it's not true. Initially early years was praised in the original ofsted inspection, a year later and it is now singled out by hmi as the main concern. I'm not being hysterical here.

And actually I don't agree that there is only one way after special measures. I thought that myself initially

Effic Sat 15-Nov-14 00:45:32

Hi - been out for the evening!
Yes I am a HT.
Reception (eyfs) is a bleeding minefield as everyone has an opinion that's very different! The rationale of opening the space to create a large free flow area is very flawed IMO (and it's only MO!). I think very large spaces and activity tables everywhere is stressful for very young children who need a structure and order to things but again that's my opinion. What I am certain about is that, however a school choses to organise it's use of space, it should feel calm, controlled and safe not chaotic. It is also not good that they can't seem to basic stuff like prompt reception children to go to the loo, particularly if you've flagged it up as necessary. The sending books home thing also varies considerably from school to school - in my schools reception children take books home from day 1 - for parents to read children to make up stories from the pictures & v soon to start picking out the initial sound phonics that they learn but that's just me!
I really hope your child's school turns around - if the HT has done SM before, then do give her a chance. I know and TOTALLY APPRECIATE your child only has one chance at school so for you that is your top priority but sometimes the pile of SM broken takes a while to get on top of and, to be perfect honest, (and I'm not at all saying this is right just being honest here) your HT focus will be on year 6 SATS results in the first instance because until they move, the pressure is extreme.

tobysmum77 Sat 15-Nov-14 07:39:42

the other thing is maybe ask the ht for an appointment and talk through your concerns with her?

PastSellByDate Sat 15-Nov-14 07:43:18


If you are confident that from KS1 things will improve - then my advice is do what you can at home:

read to your child

find out what phonics system the school does or will be using and look into buying/ borrowing workbooks. I know jolly phonics has a lovely set of colouring books which both teach letter sounds and how to form the letters (print writing).

practice counting - to 20/ to 100. evens and odds.

e.g. OXFORD OWL is a great starting point: -

My view (having been very unhappy with our former primary - DD1 now Y7) is that if a child is otherwise very settled you can weather a bad year (or in our case a number of bad years) simply by doing a bit more at home.

In the meantime - try and be a critical but friendly voice to the school - go the meetings/ consider joining the governors - but express your concern as a parent that the new 'open plan' YR seems very chaotic.

Perhaps the solution is to be that voice that says - yes change to improve things (insist the school are clear how this will improve their rating by OFSTED - because I'm pretty clear that an 'open plan' Year R is not mandatory)/ but against a backdrop of stability & structure (which young children need) with clearer signalling of any changes to parents of such young pupils.

Goldmandra Sat 15-Nov-14 08:07:40

I agree with the PP who said that the learning environment needs to be calm and well organised. It is also important that children are cared for by staff that know them and their individual needs, preferences and learning styles well. I would question whether this is the case if nobody can remember to prompt a child to go to the toilet, although you do need to check with them whether they are reminding and she is choosing not to go.

On the other hand, being happy and secure in your learning environment is crucial and children in the EYFS do the majority of their learning through play which could be happening very effectively in the classroom you describe. This play does need to be supported and resourced by skilled and observant adults.

I think I would ask to meet whoever is leading the EYFS and also for an opportunity to observe the classroom for a short time with this person so they can show you how the learning is supported.

You're quite right to be concerned but , if she is happy and secure in her learning environment, she has the basics in place to be a really successfully learner in the future and I would think very carefully before I risked disrupting that.

Whether she has a reading book or not really isn't important at this stage.

catslife Sat 15-Nov-14 17:11:32

Just to reassure you my child's school went into Special Measures when she was in Y1. School improved enormously within one year of appointing a new Head. There should be an Action Plan drawn up for improving the school, you may be able to request a copy.
dds year group went on to achieve the best SATs results the school had ever had at the end of Y6 (with mostly the same group of children as few left the school) and is now Good with Outstanding features.
So it is worth hanging on and thinking of the long term view.
BTW even if you move school there is no guarantee that a new school won't go through the same process in a few years as OFSTED requirements are becoming tougher!
Am not sure if I would like the open plan reception but this is IMO a different issue to those in the OFSTED report.

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