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Inadequate primary school not getting better. Feeling powerless as a parent.

(19 Posts)
ithinkthereforeiam Thu 31-Dec-15 11:21:13

Sorry - this is long. My DD is now in Y5 and the school has had increasingly poorer OFSTED reports since she started in reception. We’ve stuck with the school because it does some things well, and because my older DD (now at secondary school), who joined in Y2 after a house move, seemed to flourish there, socially, gaining loads of confidence. I also reasoned why the results weren’t so good, e.g. lots of small faith schools in the town, very mixed ability cohort, changes in head teacher, one-off badly behaving year group.

The school has promised to address its issues for the past 4 or 5 years and it also became an academy 2 years ago, so I had reason to be hopeful. Having just looked at the SATS results for 2015, I can see little evidence of change. The school ranks in the bottom 20% of the county. It’s where you might expect it to be given all the reasons I came up with above. However, I’ve now looked at the results (level 4 and 5 SATS) of similar schools in the same town and see that they are performing miles better and most of them have more disadvantaged pupils and more children with English as a second language. The ones that have the same amount of disadvantaged pupils and children with EAL do astonishingly better.

With regards DD1, looking back from the advantage of a good secondary school, that has stretched her beyond anything we knew she was capable of, I can see that she and her primary school peers weren’t pushed as high as they could have been.

So, I have lost faith in DD’s school helping her to fulfill her personal potential and I’m resigned to making sure I fill in the gaps at home but, on the other hand, what about all the other children and why should I have to spend our family time doing more school work? The Academy Chain works like a silent partner. We’ve never received any communications directly from them. When proposing to take over the school they mentioned an action plan but I have never seen it and couldn’t find it on the school website. Do you think I should contact them directly or do I have to contact the school governors (who all changed. And there are now only 2 parent governors)? I could at least ask to see the action plan couldn’t I? I’m feeling pretty powerless though. The head teacher is not receptive to negative feedback however nicely put. What are parents supposed to do when a school fails to improve?

Oh and this is not a teacher bashing thread. My DD’s have had fabulous teachers at the school but they can only do what the SMT expect of them.

ithinkthereforeiam Thu 31-Dec-15 11:42:19

DDs not DD's

ReallyTired Thu 31-Dec-15 12:10:22

My daughter is in a similar position. I think that failing an OFSTED us very demoralising to teachers. My daughters' school has had a huge turnover of staff and lots of people have removed their children. The curriculum has narrowed with the Christmas play being scrapped and no class assemblies and very limited music lessons. I wish my daughter's school could be part of an academy as academisation can work with the right sponsor. Dd's cousin's school has been academised and it has made it a far better school.

mrz Thu 31-Dec-15 12:30:24

Topsy34 Thu 31-Dec-15 14:00:03

The primary ds1 is in is the bottom of the tables for our county and i was ready to voice my concerns, although ds is doing fab. We have a new head starting next week, so i will see what happens in the coming weeks.

I think you should request the chair of governors contact info and have a meeting to air your concerns. Do your research, have questions ready, be prepared. The chair is under pressure for the school to perform so they should be keen.

admission Thu 31-Dec-15 14:39:43

At the end of the day, it is all about the senior leadership team and that is the head teacher, the deputy head teacher and the governing body of the school. As an academy there is another level and this is the trust board of the academy chain.
From you description it would not seem that the school has improved. As an academy school they have 2 years before they are re-inspected (has just moved to 3 years), so it is probable that the school will be inspected in the next 12 months.
I would contact the Chair of Governors and ask for a meeting to discuss the way that the school does not appear to be moving forward and see what happens. If you do not get a sensible or satisfactory answer then I would put your comments on parentview - access via the ofsted website for the school. This is becoming more and more used by Ofsted as a tool to assess the school before they visit and where there are a good number of negative comments as a "red flag" to precipitate a visit.

Ta1kinPeece Thu 31-Dec-15 16:33:04

Despite what the DfE think, Academy conversion can do nothing to change the SLT or the catchment.

Depressing as it is you have to look after your child first.
Ignore the overall statistics and do the absolute best with your kid to get their max possible results and count down the days.

In LEA schools the LEA was able to parachute people in.
With academies that is no longer the case - and there is no political will to make it so.

You also have to recognise that statistically there will always be the low performing schools my local secondary has been in the bottom 200 in England for the last 18 years despite millions of pounds and total changes of governance
if you are stuck with one of them, try to look beyond it and make sure your kid gets the best results possible

nlondondad Fri 01-Jan-16 11:31:06

I agree Talk. In fact not only is Acadamisation not a solution (see here)

..It is also part of the problem. In an LA school a parent has a number of foraml channels they can use to bring pressure to bear. In an Academy those channels are not there.

As you are part of an Academy Chain all the legal power rests with the Trust Board. You could try lobbying them, in case they do want to listen. (They dont have to, unlike an LA school you have no legal right to get them to listen to you, but some academy chains choose to listen) Start off by going to the Chair of Governors of your school, who will have been an appointed by the Trust Board, and see how far you get with them. You will be relying on goodwill to get an appointment, but thats no reason not to try.

ReallyTired Fri 01-Jan-16 12:15:31

What is interesting is to know why some schools with an awful catchment do well. Poverty is not an excuse for low achievement. There are schools near me with really difficult catchments that do well.

We need educational decisions to be research based and more research needs to be where no one knows the answer. As far as academisation goes, sometimes works and sometimes does not. Successful sponsored academies are rarely in the news. Maybe successful academies are too busy focussing on education to court publicity.

If the LEA was so great then schools would not be failing for years.

gleegeek Fri 01-Jan-16 13:02:27

I agree with you reallytired my dd's primary school has a pretty good catchment but doesn't do as well as it should. I think lack of expectation is a huge problem and suspect the LA isn't advising them properly. It's hugely frustrating and I feel guilty that i haven't made sure dd experiences the best education she deserves. The secondary seems similar in outlook...

gleegeek Fri 01-Jan-16 13:03:06

BTW the secondary is an academy so I don't think that's necessarily the answer.

ReallyTired Fri 01-Jan-16 15:13:22

There are simply not enough gifted head teachers to go round. I feel that we need to look at how to best train our head teachers to be the best that they can be.

I think that its the staff that make a school good rather than whether its an academy or not. I would like outstanding LEA schools to be allowed to sponsor weak LEA schools. An outstanding school finds it easier to attract good staff than a failing school. If would be good if a failing school can share staff with an outstanding school.

Children in deprived areas are more likely to attend a school which is not good. Such schools find it hard to attract decent staff so are in a vicous circle. There needs to better incentives to allow gifted teachers to take on a post in a failing school without risk career suicide. At the moment failing schools can only attract the dregs of the teaching profession.

teacherwith2kids Fri 01-Jan-16 18:55:36

"There needs to better incentives to allow gifted teachers to take on a post in a failing school without risk career suicide"

Not just career suicide. Know of a very, very gifted headteacher who struggled against the odds to turn round a failing school - falling roll, falling budgets, dilapidated buildings, disengaged parents, very deprived area with generations of worklessness, OFSTED demanding a turnaround on a timescale of weeks not years. They made it out alive, just - though it was touch and go for a long time and the physical and mental illness caused means that they will never work again in anything other than a part-time capacity with little responsibility.

mrz Fri 01-Jan-16 19:10:48

It can often be detrimental to the head's own school.
I'd also say that being a head of an outstanding school doesn't necessarily mean that the head is an outstanding head.

ReallyTired Fri 01-Jan-16 19:28:46

"It can often be detrimental to the head's own school"

Why should one school get to hog all the outstanding teachers? Maybe two schools sharing good staff does harm the outstanding school. My nephews' outstanding secondary has shared staff with a weaker secondary. It had made the already good teachers stronger as they really have to up their gain to teach children in a deprived area.

mrz Fri 01-Jan-16 19:40:19

I didn't say teachers I said head ...

ithinkthereforeiam Sat 02-Jan-16 14:20:26

Thanks for those who have replied to my thread. I'm not ignoring answers, I just haven't had much time to read and absorb the replies during the Christmas holidays.

bojorojo Sat 02-Jan-16 19:04:36

The notion that Local Authorities advise schools is an outdated one. More and more, it is the quality of the Head that dictates the ethos and ensures children are making progress. In my School, we have the services of a School Improvement Adviser and a Learning Trust. They drill down into the school's performance and lots of strategies are then put in place by the school to improve. Any failing school should be doing this rigorously and really know what their weaknesses are, how to improve and actually know what I prove to will look like. It is not all about results, it is also about progress.

As an academy, I still believe you have legal access to the minutes and papers of the governing body meetings. If so, (I don't think this legislation has changed) ask to see them. The number of parent governors is immaterial as they are not delegates of the parents and cannot tell you much. Ask to see the Development Plan (as this is not confidential you should be able to see it). What are they trying to do? Of course, low expectation is the enemy. in my experience teachers leave when the SLT get much more demanding regarding progress checks and changes in the way a school works. Getting all the staff on board can bring great dividends. I wish you luck but it does seem the other schools are more effective and better run.

bojorojo Sat 02-Jan-16 19:06:38

Sorry. Should read ..... What improvement will look like....

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