Closure was the right decision

10th July 1998 at 01:00
In his article, "The good, the bad and the expendable" (TES, June 26) John Izbicki has got many things wrong about the closure of St Richard of Chichester Roman Catholic School.

The conclusion reached by the Office for Standards in Education inspectors in 1994, and verified by both HM inspectorate and Camden's own inspectors, was the right one. It was not only, as John Izbicki claims, poor examination results and unsatisfactory teaching which led to the judgment that "special measures" were required.

The school was doing far less well than schools with similar intakes. This was already clear to Roman Catholic parents and the local community who had been withdrawing their support for the school over the years. Only one-third of students attending the school were Roman Catholic.

In July 1996, Camden council took the decision to close the school because of the lack of progress towards improvement and because it was no longer viable.

In September 1997 key stage 3 pupils transferred to other schools and places were found, not only as a result of the efforts of the school's staff but also because Camden funded additional places in other schools. Its officers, and those of the Westminster Diocese, devoted all the time needed to negotiate with schools and other local authorities.

In its final year Camden has generously funded and staffed the school to ensure that the remaining 70 Year 11 pupils were not disadvantaged by the closure. With a teacher:pupil ratio of 1:5 the school has made significant progress this year. However, such funding and low numbers are not sustainable.

The school, diocese and the authority have worked hard to find alternative posts for staff and Camden has offered to extend the contracts of those staff who have not yet found alternative jobs.

John Izbicki claims that, under the new model of OFSTED inspections St Richard of Chichester School may not have failed. Value-added measures show that the school compared very unfavourably with similar schools and OFSTED's new model has identified a higher proportion of failing schools than the old one.

Camden wishes to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of St Richard's pupils, staff, governors and parents over the years. However, I remain convinced that the authority made the right decision in closing the school. It acted in the interests of pupils - those who attended the school and those who might have attended in the future.

R J Litchfield Director of education London Borough of Camden 218-220 Eversholt Street London NW1

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