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Manton failed by OFSTED team

Manton junior school, which was closed amid a controversy over the exclusion of a disruptive pupil last year, has been failed by Office for Standards in Education inspectors.

The inspection report, published on Tuesday, criticises every aspect of the Nottinghamshire school's performance, suggesting that there were more fundamental problems lurking behind the very public dispute between head and governors over the exclusion.

The crisis at Manton arose in the summer and autumn terms last year when the governors' refusal to exclude an allegedly disruptive 10-year-old pupil outraged the teaching staff, who went on strike. Many parents withdrew their children and the school was closed for eight days.

The situation was only resolved when the pupil was transferred to another school. The affair was inflamed by the parallel crisis at The Ridings school in Halifax.

The inspectors found that pupils' standards of achievement in all areas was below - "sometimes well below" - national expectations, with pupils scoring about half the national average in last year's national tests. There was too much reliance on teaching through topics, which resulted in "contrived activities", with pupils colouring in worksheets rather than writing about what they understood in their own words.

Teaching was judged to be "unsatisfactory" or "poor" in two-thirds of lessons; inspectors found that the aims of the lessons were often unclear and tasks undemanding, particularly in topic work. For a topic on Ancient Greece, pupils were asked to drape curtains round themselves to imitate Greek clothing and to colour clothes pegs to make Greek instruments. The children had little idea of why they were being asked to do this.

Management and leadership of the school is condemned by the inspectors as "inadequate", with the resignations that followed the crisis last year making the governing body "unstable". The school had no published aims, priorities were unclear and the budget was too stretched to pay for much- needed books and repairs. Pupils' behaviour was satisfactory in class, but fractious at breaktimes.

The inspectors acknowledge that there have improvements since the LEA inspected the school in January (arriving at similar conclusions to OFSTED's). Planning of the curriculum is being revised and an action committee to address the school's problems has been formed. The school's special needs teaching was praised.

The new chair of governors, Sylvia May, criticised the timing of the report, coming hot on the heels of the crisis and the LEA inspection. "The school was hardly likely to show itself in the best light" she said.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, said there was "a whiff of victimisation" about the report, and suggested that the pupils might be as much to blame as the staff: "One explanation for the poor teaching lies in the high number of difficult youngsters at the school.

"The case that achieved so much publicity was just the last straw that broke the camel's back."

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