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Rocketing out of special measures

THREE years ago, inspectors said St Barnabas Church of England primary in Manchester was failing. Now it is England's most improved school.

The 220-pupil school in Openshaw has seen its scores rocket. In 1999 fewer than a quarter of 11-year-olds left with level 4, the expected level for their age, in English, maths and science.

This year, 80 per cent gained level 4 in English, 88 per cent in maths and 96 per cent in science, all well above the national average.

Headteacher Sue Eastwood, 38, says the secrets of the school's success lie in a "can-do" ethos, good staff who are trusted with management responsibilities and a curriculum enriched with an average of 10 visits out of school or visitors to each class every year.

From 1999 to 2001, the school was in special measures, a period that Ms Eastwood describes as a "hard struggle". She said: "When I started at the school eight years ago, there were staffing problems, a falling roll, financial problems, not particularly high standards of curriculum content and behaviour was not very good."

One of her first priorities was to improve behaviour, but test scores remained low.

She said: "Special measures gave us the skills and ability to improve. We had financial help and literacy and numeracy consultants from Manchester giving us intensive and absolutely brilliant support."

The school was taken out of special measures at the beginning of 2001 and results have continued to improve since then.

Ms Eastwood said: "It has been a long process and it is nice that our efforts have been recognised."

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