First BSF school 'a failure'

Shocked headteacher describes widespread disbelief at the ruling made only eight months after teaching began at new school

Richard Vaughan

One of the first schools to be built through the Building Schools for the Future programme has been labelled a failure by Ofsted.

The Pounds 17 million Sandon High in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, opened its doors in February last year after being handed fast-tracked cash in 2005. But just eight months later, in October, the school was deemed to be "failing its pupils" by inspectors.

This is the first time a BSF school has been deemed as failing.

Barbara Hall, Sandon's head, told The TES she was "shocked" by the decision and pupils were "angry" at being placed in special measures.

"The decision was met with utter disbelief by the school, the parents and the wider community. We challenged the judgment and we still cannot accept it," she said.

"There has been a real improvement and sense of pride since we moved into our new school, and this has come as a disappointment."

The fledgling school, described as a "quick-win" by Whitehall when it was handed the BSF money, is part of the National Challenge scheme. It joins Birches Head High, another "quick-win" National Challenge school in Stoke-on-Trent.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it would take time for the newly built schools to realise their potential.

A department spokesman said: "It is far too early to make judgments. This new school building is less than a year old. The investments we are making through BSF are for the long term and will last for generations.

"It takes time to raise standards and raise aspirations."

Partnerships for Schools (PfS), the agency responsible for the Pounds 45 billion renewal programme, distanced itself from Sandon High, claiming it was only funded with BSF money rather than going through the programme.

Five out of six new-build schools recently inspected by Ofsted received only a "satisfactory" or worse rating.

In a statement, PfS said: "BSF funding is not a quick-fix solution for schools operating in challenging circumstances, but there is growing evidence nationwide to suggest it is helping to raise the aspirations and attainment of young people, of teachers, and of communities.

"This summer saw the first GCSE results in BSF schools, with an average increase of 10 percentage points in the top grades."

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Richard Vaughan

Richard has been writing about politics, policy and technology in education for nearly five years after joining TES in 2008. He joined TES from the building press having been a reporter and then later news editor at the Architects’ Journal. Before then he studied at Cardiff University’s school of journalism. Richard can be found tweeting at @richardvaughan1

Find me on Twitter @RichardVaughan1

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