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School Requires Improvement

(39 Posts)
AtomHeart Wed 04-Jan-17 14:04:03

My daughters' school has just been given "requires improvement" from Ofsted on almost every aspect. One of the main problems identified is instability with teachers. There is a massive staff turnover and I cannot see how the school will overcome this. The staffing problem has been evident for several years and has significantly affected the quality of teaching.

Does anyone else have experience of a school which RI? I just hope it will improve fast.

admission Wed 04-Jan-17 16:42:56

Normally the RI designation on the school is the wake up call for the school to improve.
However you have highlighted a very specific problem in the school and it is not really a surprise if the school has a very high turn over of staff that the school has got the designation that it has.
The question is what is the reason behind this challenge for the school. Are they making the mistake of employing large numbers of Newly Qualified Teachers either because they cant get anybody else or because they have financial issues? If they have teachers joining and leaving in droves do they actually have an issue in the senior management and it is a case of 12 months is more then enough time to spend at this school?
Is there nothing else in the Ofsted report that suggests where the issue is, there quite often is a hint in the wording of the report, where the fault may lie?
Maybe the next step, assuming that the report has just come out, is to write to the Head teacher and the Chair of Governors asking what the school is going to do about the RI judgement and the very specific issue of teachers leaving the school.

bojorojo Wed 04-Jan-17 17:04:12

The OP says it has RI in almost every aspect. Therefore it is highly likely that senior management needs to improve to stabilise the school. From what I have observed, schools that cannot keep staff are poorly managed and teachers feel unsupported. It is a particular problem in areas where there are not enough good staff to go round and Ofsted has highlighted that this is most often a probem in the North and Midlands. It is also clear that schools which do not have well qualified, highly performing and stable staff do less well for the children.

It may be that newly qualified staff are, in fact, good but lack direction from middle managers. It could be that lots of staff were older and have retired over the last few years leaving the school rudderless. At my DN's school, at the last Ofsted inspection, 50% of lessons were taught by supply teachers. As you can imagine Ofsted were not impressed.

It is extremely difficult to see where a quick fix lies with this. If management suddenly becomes dynamic, supportive, and turns the school into the destination school for good teachers, then there might be hope. If they drag along as present, it may take quite a while to effect improvement. It is imperitive to make the school an attractive place to teach so that the best people actually want to teach there.

You can ask to see a copy of the Improvement Plan (or a summary of it) when they have produced it to see how they intend to improve and what the timescale is. Ofsted or HMI will be back to check on progress as well in about 6-9 months.

AtomHeart Wed 04-Jan-17 17:27:04

Thank you both for your advice. I didn't know about the Improvement Plan so that will be interesting. One thing that I have noticed over the years is that the staff are very young and therefore they seem to be mobile to go to other jobs and there is a lot of maternity leave. I do wonder why there is not a bigger mix of ages in the staff. I am assuming it is because younger staff are cheaper to hire.
The Ofsted Report said that pupils had gaps in their knowledge which is not any surprise given that the pupils never seem to keep a subject teacher for long and are taught by temporary staff. It also said that the school has not kept up with the new grading system and the Pupil Premium is not spent on the pupils it is aimed at.
Unfortunately, the GCSE results took a nosedive recently. sad

admission Wed 04-Jan-17 21:31:20

Based on the last couple of sentences, I think the school has actually been quite well treated by Ofsted. The school has not kept up with the new grading system and the Pupil Premium is not spent on the pupils it is aimed at, would in many inspections be getting a worse grade than RI, especially if you add in gaps in knowledge of pupils and nosediving GCSE results.

The key time will be when an HMI visits the school in about 6 months time, they will expect to see not only a viable plan but actions that have already happened. If they do not see that then the school will be on a slippery slope towards another inspection very quickly.

Sorry not being very positive here but there is no short term fix for this. The fact that the inspection ended up as RI, says that the inspection team thought by implication that the senior leadership team of the school were capable of sorting this out, which may be the most positive information to come from this.

bojorojo Wed 04-Jan-17 21:33:04

You may not be sent the detailed Improvement Plan but you can see a summary of it. The full one will be very detailed but parents should be in the loop regarding progress.

As I said earlier, Ofsted see lots of temp staff or supply teachers as a red mist! Generally it means standards will fall because continuity is not maintained and so much in education these days depends on ongoing assessment and planning teaching on the outcomes. It is almost impossible to do with constant changes.

Sometimes young staff will cut their teeth in a school and then realise it is not for them. Older staff are more expensive and a balance is necessary.

Ofsted will scrutinise the Improvement plan so it is worth getting a summary.

bojorojo Thu 05-Jan-17 13:52:45

I think I have worked out which school you are talking about, OP. There do seem to be green shoots and the school management have recognised the problems, although very late in the day. If I am correct, the Report says the current School Development Plan is weak. This will need to be rewritten and strengthened post inspection (Improvement Plan as I mentioned above) so that it is fit for purpose. The Governors are also required to know that improvement has occurred, not just be told it has, so expect to see measurable outcomes included. At least when a school recognises where its weaknesses and under-achievement are, they can start to do something about it. It is always dangerous to have a "head in the sand" attitude and this be a feature of religious schools where attention can be focussed on ethos rather than results and ongoing progress of all children. Usually parents are supportive because they want this type of education and then fail to see the shortcomings, as have the leadership and governing body. (I may have the wrong school of course!).

I still think recruiting into the Maths dept will be troublesome as it is elsewhere. However, one good curriculum leader can do wonders, so hope for the best.

AtomHeart Thu 05-Jan-17 15:26:10

Thank you both, again, for your comments - very insightful and interesting.

Bojorojo 10/10! I'm sure you have it! The Inspection dates were November–1 December 2016. Yes, they have just recruited in the Maths department so hopefully, things will get better. Maths is by far the worst problem. I'm not so sure about the Science Dept and one science teacher has just left.

The parents have complained at many Parent Forums about the turnover of teachers and we do wonder if the school is a difficult place to work for whatever reason. The existing Head pulled the school up from being pretty bad a few years ago so it is infuriating that things have dropped back down. The report is right though, personal development, behaviour and welfare is good and the kids are generally lovely. This is the school's saving grace and the reason my DD would not leave - she loves being there.

It will be interesting to see what evolves!

bojorojo Thu 05-Jan-17 17:54:04

I rather suspect your location gives a wide choice of other schools for teachers to move to. I thought the whole inspection sounded some positive notes and that the Governors must challenge the Head more rigourously and not just accept poor progress and results. It appears they have reconstituted and now have the required skills so they should be expecting improvement and monitoring progress and outcomes very closely. How they are going to address the problems will be interesting and I think the school should pay more attention to parents!!!

I hope you did not mind me trawling Ofsted but reading the whole report does help when responding - otherwise it is just general comments which may be way off !

AtomHeart Fri 06-Jan-17 18:33:53

I'm very impressed with your detective work bojorojo!

GnomeDePlume Sun 08-Jan-17 19:03:20

AtomHeart you dont say what year your DD is in. My experience of a repeat offender school (back in Special Measures for the umpteenth time since I have been associated with the school) is that you have to get very selfish. Your DD will be there for only a few years with a very definite end game (GCSEs).

IME you have to be on your game, following up issues quickly. One of the mistakes we made was not recognising early enough that the high staff turnover meant that some important coursework got lost.

This may make useful reading.

Remember that your DD being at a failing school is not a disaster. If your DD is able to motivate herself then she can still achieve good results. These may be despite the school not because of the school but that doesnt matter.

Later on at A level there can be some hidden benefits for the self-starter. A number of universities make contextual offers (taking account of the school itself and the local area). As an example Bristol Uni's normal offer for Physics is AAA, their contextualised offer is AAB.

TheCakes Sun 08-Jan-17 19:13:33

My son's school burnt down and had severe staff issues. It ended in the head going on gardening leave suddenly, and teachers leaving left right and centre. It was woefully inadequate, not just by ofsted standards.
I took my son out. He was there for two years, and even now, after a year and a half in an outstanding school, he's struggling to get back on track.
I'll counter that by saying he has some SEN which were ignored by his previous school, which caused him to disengage. He was also bullied and the school failed him on many levels.
If you think your child will thrive whatever the environment, then keep her there, but if you have any concerns that her individual educational and social needs aren't being met, or that she needs additional support, then my experience would be that the sooner you move her the better.

AtomHeart Mon 09-Jan-17 16:13:37

She is in Year 9 and it is true for older kids that their coursework has been lost or missed as a result of staff turnover.

However, she is adamant that she will stay. I'll see how things go for now and get tutors for her if necessary. The thing is, that if teachers continually leave, the children become unmotivated. They all seem to think it is funny that their leadership got a "could do better" type of mark!

bojorojo Mon 09-Jan-17 17:49:32

It isn't funny when their grades are not so good because of instability and inadequacy in teaching and the inability of the SLT to put things right though! If your school is on the Bristol list (and some poor schools only go up to Y11 so miss the list, but GCSE results are dire) you may be OK, but often dire teaching does not drop one grade in one subject - it is much worse than that! Children not being motivated is only one of the consequences of teachers leaving or huge numbers of suply teachers in school. It is much worse than that.

AtomHeart Mon 09-Jan-17 22:14:47

What is the Bristol List? This school only goes to Yr 11.

GnomeDePlume Mon 09-Jan-17 22:16:33

Two of my DCs were and are very self motivated and despite being in a school which repeatedly returns to Special Measures like a homing pigeon got good GCSE results. Unfortunately one of my DCs needed much more support which was not available and is still trying to make up lost ground.

TeaCakeLiterature Mon 09-Jan-17 22:25:43

Sadly this is the case in the vast majority of schools at the mo: teaching is a profession in crisis.

Teachers are leaving every year and training places for core subjects aren't getting filled and many drop out. Half the cohort who were signed up have dropped out already for a core subject.

So be aware the grass could look greener but in many schools key departments are struggling to recruit!

GnomeDePlume Mon 09-Jan-17 22:36:11

Bristol Uni is very up front about wanting to attract students who have been disadvantaged by their school. To this end they have created a list of schools which attract contextual offers:

list

A number of other unis do something very similar. Some focus purely on the school some also take the postcode into consideration (areas of low HE participation rates).

bojorojo Tue 10-Jan-17 00:04:48

I don't think the must includes schools that go up to Y11 only for obvious reasons. Is the likely 6th form school on the list? The problem is that if poor teaching has severely dented GCSE results then getting good A levels is really hard. The govt is now giving massive cash incentives (£25,000) for maths graduates to train as maths teachers but it will take a while before they are good teachers. Ofsted says the main problem is in the North and Midlands. My BIL (late 40s) is a MFL teacher who is now teaching maths and geography! He will wing it because he is a great teacher but he does not have a degree in either of those subjects. He has never taught them before either!

GnomeDePlume Tue 10-Jan-17 09:08:16

It is a tricky decision for A levels: follow the normal stream into the local 6th form college or break free and aim for a higher achieving sixth. At sixth form you have more choices as catchment is different.

There are advantages and disadvantages with each choice.

Normal destination 6th form/college
They will be the natural follow on from the school. Transition should be fine as they will transition with their cohort. The school/college curriculum will tend to follow on from the Y11 school.

Downside is that the teaching standard may not be consistent. Teachers teaching out of subject which matters far more at A level.

Non-standard high achieving destination
Advantages are good subject teaching, focus on achievement.

Downsides:
Transition can be harder as not transitioning with cohort so longer to settle in which matters as there are only 2 years to play with. Curriculum may not follow on from GCSE as exam boards may be different.

We have experience of both as DCs took 3 different paths for post GCSE.

AtomHeart Tue 10-Jan-17 21:18:28

Thank you Gnome. The 6th form college that most of the pupils move on to is not on the list. It does have a very good reputation.

GnomeDePlume Wed 11-Jan-17 08:29:15

AtomHeart well that is good. Then the key thing is to keep a watching brief.

Very fast improvement isnt always a good thing. I dont know if you followed the link I put in above about different styles of Head.

The particular concern is if you end up with a 'Surgeon' Head. These Heads make improvements by essentially manipulating numbers (students in lower sets being permanently excluded). I know it sounds like fiction but we did see it last year in DCs' school. Students below the school average finding themselves permanently excluded for reasons which upper sets are not excluded for. So behaviour is important in a very specific way as consequences for minor rule infractions can be draconian.

'Surgeon' Heads will focus the best staff on top sets and the later years. This means that lower sets and lower years get more of the supply and out of subject teachers.

As you can see, we have had a lot of experience of 'Surgeon' Heads!

bojorojo Wed 11-Jan-17 22:51:13

The exam cohorts get the better teachers in nearly every school.

The Head descriptors were from the USA originally I believe and most Heads are a bit of a mix. The fact that HMI will be coming back fairly quickly means the school really must start working on the Improvement Plan and have evidence that progress has accelerated and stability in staffing is going the right way. As the school is keeping the Head, as far as can be ascertained, and she/he had a track record of improving the school previously, it would seem that improvement can take place. I would be surprised if the Head changed their personality or management style drastically, but has clearly been told to give accurate info to the governors and they must drive improvement by challenging the Head far more. They became complacent and have had to change. The huge challenge is recruitment and the plans to deal with this will be interesting!

GnomeDePlume Thu 12-Jan-17 09:57:05

bojorojo while the original descriptors may have come from the USA the findings were based on research done on 411 UK schools (a reasonable sample size).

The Head may stay or may not. My experience is of a continually failing school which got itself into a downward spiral resulting in a revolving door for Heads (I think we are now on our 4th since 2014) so the Head at the OP's school may do better but equally may decide to move on.

While there is a normal tendency to focus the best teachers on the exam years, under a Surgeon Head that can be taken to an extreme resulting in very poor teaching in lower years. The Surgeon Head moves on having made 'great improvements' but as the lower years move up they have huge gaps in their knowledge so the improvement is short-lived.

I agree that a Head is not going to change their personality but under pressure from the Governing Body to make quick improvement the Head may be pushed into Surgeon like activities.

My apologies if my years of bitter experience are showing!

bojorojo Thu 12-Jan-17 12:20:46

Yes, Gnome, you are correct.

There is only very poor teaching in lower years if the school cannot fill the teaching posts with good teachers. It may get good teachers if it really does try to improve and teachers can see that is the case and want to work at the school.

In the case of this school, the Head and governors are aware of the weaknesses (says Ofsted). Therefore they are on the starting blocks of improvement. They know what they have to do. They will not be able to make huge improvements in 6 months and any further review by HMI will not look for huge improvements in 6 months. What they will look for is a workable Improvement Plan which is SMART, an upward trajectory on as many areas as possible contained in the plan, and evidence that the improvements have had an effect on learning - all pupils' learning. HMI do at just look at exam groups. They look at all year groups. That is why a Surgeon Head is not the best solution and keeping the one they have may be better for the school.

The current Head has improved the school before. Exactly this happened to my local school. After improvement the first time, Heads and governors can be complacent and take their collective eyes off the ball. Standards slip. My local school kept the Head and they were greatly improved, until it slipped into RI again. They still kept her and they are back on track. It is a sought after school. My gut reaction is that the Head will not be forced out of the door with RI because the school was improved under his/her leadership before, but they may be older and want to retire. You also have to be certain you can get someone better. Very hard these days. Here, the Governors are to blame to. They did not hold the head to account. This will be an important factor for HMI to consider when returning.

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