'Manton can go with its collective head held high'

15th August 2008 at 01:00
Statement from ex-head Bill Ball

I tried to retain a dignified silence until the Sats results came out, but now I feel that I have to stand up and be counted for the injustice that was done, not just on a school but a whole community.

I am delighted that the children did so well in the latest Sats. It says a lot about the standard of the teaching and learning that - despite the upheaval of my resignation, a very negative Ofsted report, the subsequent decision to close the school and amalgamate it with a neighbouring school, the need to reapply for their jobs, the ongoing local negative press, and so on - the staff managed to get the best results since I took over the headteacher's post in 2001.

Some results are marginally below what we hoped to achieve, but some are better than expected. That tells me all I need to know about the quality of the team I led. It also shows that the acting head, my deputy, did an amazing job.

I know that Ofsted is meant to be an impartial check on schools, but the attitude of the lead inspector, from the minute the team entered the building, led me to feel that they were already inclined to believe that previous low scores meant that the teaching and, of course, the leadership, were not of an adequate standard.

Despite a paper trail to show our expectations of the Year 6 results and the increasing number of pupils, year on year, making at least national levels of progress (albeit not at age-related standards), it seemed that in the inspectors' view we were not pushing the children enough.

Our local authority advisers and consultants also spoke of their belief in the forthcoming Sats, but were ignored.

The clear implication was that the quality of teaching was not good enough.

I was told, in the presence of my deputy, that some of the lessons the inspection team saw might have been given a higher grade in another school, but because we had to get the children to achieve more highly to catch up, they were marked down.

However, the school is moving forward, with the possibility of a new building and a new start when it becomes part of a successful neighbouring school. The Manton community have been incredibly supportive of the school and, for the children's sake, whatever decisions are taken, it must succeed.

Once a school is part of the national political agenda, can things really stay impartial? If politicians think a school is failing purely on Sats results and league tables, then what of the reduction in exclusions from 180 days a year to five? What of the huge range of extended services and individual support that led to improved pupil behaviour through careful mentoring? That each cohort going on to the local secondary was better behaved and could use the behaviour management strategies we instilled in them? That, long term, have we reduced the percentage of pupils who will offend in adult life? This is not considered important because there is no league table for that.

New Manton Primary achieved many successes by working with the community. I am glad that the final one was this year's Sats results, if only to show that what a school does beyond the classroom does impact on attainment. The school ceases to exist in December and I am delighted it can go with its collective head held high.

Personally, I have had to move on and I have started working with other schools and communities nationally to take forward the important role that schools play in supporting their local community.

At the end of the day, it's what we can all do to improve the life chances of each and every child that's important, not where we are in a now discredited exam system.

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