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Huge struggle to raise scores

"We have let the children down," admits Bill Ball, head of Manton primary in Worksop.

The Nottinghamshire school is bottom of the table ranking progress between the ages of 7 and 11. "The table says to me that we still have a long way to go," says Mr Ball. "But it does not reflect the way the community is working to solve our problems or the problems we have faced."

The school, a combination of the previous Manton infant and junior schools, has a troubled past. In 1996, the junior school's governors refused to exclude an allegedly disruptive 10-year-old, leading to outraged teachers going on strike and the closure of the school for eight days.

Mr Ball took up his post in 2000. The following year, just 13 per cent of pupils hit the expected level in KS2 English and only 16 and 35 per cent did in maths and science, respectively. This year, the figures were 31 per cent for English and 47 per cent in science. But scores in maths have not moved. Mr Ball says this reflects poor numeracy and communication skills of entrants to the school.

Manton is having to tackle poor behaviour and a culture of parents allowing children to truant.

But he is optimistic. In 2002 inspectors said that Manton was an "effective" school under Mr Ball's "excellent leadership". Progress since amalgamation in May 2000 had been "remarkable".

Mr Ball says: "Half our Year 6 group are predicted to pass KS2 next year, more than three times our current rate.

"We know there's a long way to go but we are determined to get there."

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