Ofsted praise cannot save former 'hell school'

A school once labelled the worst in the country is set to close even though previously praised by Ofsted for transforming its performance.

David Marley

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A school once labelled the worst in the country after teachers threatened to go on strike over "unteachable" pupils has been highly praised by Ofsted for transforming its performance.

The Ridings, in Halifax, West Yorkshire, became the focus of national attention over its deep-seated problems, leading to it being variously described as `hell school' and `Grange Hell'. It was even the focus of a 1996 Panorama documentary into its pupils' behaviour.

Ofsted has now praised it for making huge improvements, describing it as good overall and its special units for pupils who struggle with mainstream school as "spectacularly effective".

Inspectors had previously been heavily critical of all aspects at the school, including behaviour, attendance and teaching standards, and placed it in special measures.

But the good news has come too late to save The Ridings, which serves a highly deprived part of Halifax, from closure. It will shut next summer before an academy opens in 2010.

Headteacher Stuart Todd said this week: "That is the world of politics. I have no control over it. Our responsibility is to the young people in our care."

The school became a symbol of New Labour education success when it was previously improved by two `superheads' before plunging back into difficulties.

Ofsted praised the school even though just 13 per cent of pupils got five good GCSEs including English and maths this year, well below the Government target of 30 per cent.

Riding high, page 8.

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David Marley

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