How we did it

Kathryn O'Doherty explains how her primary school recovered from a mauling by Ofsted

Being deemed to have serious weaknesses has a devastating effect on all concerned. It meant a dramatic fall in our intake. In September 1999 it fell to 32 - it had been 60. This was a shock, Bury being one of the worst- funded authorities in Britain.

Maybe we had lost touch with our community. The job I took on board when I began as acting head was to reconstruct our school community in the broad sense, increasing communication between children, staff, parents and governors. We needed to become transparent and honest, and to value people's opinions.

We wanted to try to lose the stigma, but we could only do this by raising our performance. The achievements of the school before 1998 were good, but we knew there were other things we could change. So we set out to enrich the curriculum, and increase the number of theatre groups coming to the school and the number of visits and after-school clubs.

We have also increased the number of concerts we do, and that has helped raise the school's profile, because we're able to market it, to show people what we're doing.

Valuing staff and restoring their self-belief were crucial. Morale was at rock bottom. With the help of a supporting head, we focused on the strengths, and on restoring self-belief, and we realised our children's potential.

We always held regular staff meetings, but they have changed. There's more debate. I moved towards open management because the staff needed to express themselves. We became excited about the education of our children, and expectations are much higher than they were. We wanted to put the fun back into it - as well as improving the academic side. We changed the environment - it's much more lively - and we're using staff strengths more. The ethos has changed and we've injected energy and enthusiasm. We've also taken on board inclusion, with extra help for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, and improved access for disabled children.

It is a harmonious community now, with everybody working together - I think we were slightly guarded and isolated in the past. Relationships between staff, children and parents are at an all-time high. Over the past two years, our intake has gone back up. And we have improved performance - we have been in the top 25 per cent nationally for English, maths and science, and we won a school achievement award last year.

It's an exciting time for us because we are open to change. I'm very optimistic about the future. I want this to be a flagship school in the Bury authority. We've got an exciting, dedicated and enthusiastic staff here, and I think we can reach great heights.

Kathryn O'Doherty is headteacher of Butterstile primary school in Bury, Lancashire

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