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Pupils come to aid of school

New heads have 30 days to come up with a plan to rescue troubled Stretford high. Stephen Lucas reports

Pupils at the Trafford school criticised by the Office for Standards in Education are knocking on their new headteacher's door to offer advice on how to rehabilitate their school.

Derek Davies became associate head at Stretford high last Monday, following a damning inspection report which prompted the resignation of the former head, Karen Todd.

Mr Davies, 39, said: "Pupils have been knocking on my door and telling me things like the toilets are awful and there need to be fewer supply teachers."

He has met all the staff and two members from each form to talk about how to turn the language college around, as well as a selectgroup of disaffected pupils.

He said: "There are some students who do not see the school as part of their community and so they do not have respect for it. We have to bridge that gap."

Form tutors and non-teaching year heads will play a pivotal role in changing pupil attitudes, Mr Davies said. "Punctuality and attendance are clearly issues that we have to work on."

The former associate head of Jeff Joseph school, Trafford, added: "It is a challenge but it is not unattainable. This is the second week and I do not think it is going to be rocket science."

Running the show at Stretford with Mr Davies is executive head Lee Harris, 44, of Lostock school. When Mr Davies was deputy head at Lostock it took the pair two years to reverse the school's fortunes and pull it out of serious weaknesses in 2002.

They now have 30 days to come up with an action plan to tackle the string of problems that Ofsted highlighted at Stretford, including "unsatisfactory" leadership and management at the 11 to 16 school and a poor quality of education.

Six staff left the school in the past three years because they were unhappy, the report said.

On Monday 150 parents attended a meeting at the school where they were told why the head had resigned and about the report. Around 70 parents signed up to the new parents' focus group.

Trafford council stripped the governors of their staffing and finance powers following the publication of the report.

A 25-year-old maths teacher resigned after a 15-year-old girl, who punched her in the stomach, was allowed to return to school.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News the teacher, who did not wish to be named, said: "This girl had stood up to hit another girl. They were fighting. I went to separate them and she punched me in the face."

Mr Davies said: "One of the girls was still hitting out and she caught the teacher. The girl had not been in any fights before or since the incident.

There was a meeting between the teacher, the head, the girl and the parent, both of whom were very apologetic."

Andrea Jones, chair of governors, said: "We want to restore strong leadership and management and improve the learning environment for pupils.

We will not be satisfied until this has been achieved and the special measures designation has been removed."

Chris Pratt, chief executive of Trafford's children and young people's service, said: "By intervening in this way and having a robust action plan in place, we can continue to work with the governors and staff in an effective way."

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