One in the iPod for inspectors

21st October 2005 at 01:00
Pupils and teachers are keen to show Ofsted their school is not failing, reports Adi Bloom

"I'd change the decorations in the halls. Maybe a brighter colour scheme, because some corridors are a bit dull. And Astroturf on the games pitches."

These are not the changes inspectors anticipated when they placed Jeff Joseph Sale Moor technology college in special measures earlier this year.

But, questioned about the improvements they would like to see at their Cheshire comprehensive, pupils rarely stray beyond the cosmetic. In fact, most are quicker to find fault with the inspectors than with their school.

Stephanie Riding, 14, said: "Some of what the inspectors said was right.

But some was exaggerated. They said students were in danger. We're not, we aren't as bad as they made out."

Inspectors visited Sale Moor in May, and it was placed in special measures shortly afterwards. Their report drew attention to poor teaching, boring, inappropriate lessons and uncontrolled behaviour.

They said: "In the worst cases, the teacher has no control over the class at all, and highly dangerous situations arise."

They acknowledged that there had been signs of improvement under Kathy Leaver, the head, who has been in the post for a year. But they concluded that it was too soon to see any tangible benefits.

"I'm not suggesting we have everything right," said Mrs Leaver. "But I've got some excellent teachers. And we have some fantastic, hard-working students. This doesn't have a feeling of a school in special measures."

One month after the inspection report was published, 57 per cent of pupils achieved five A*-C grades at GCSE, an increase of 20.6 per cent on last year.

A new scheme introduced by Mrs Leaver rewards well-behaved pupils, allowing them to exchange merit points for cinema vouchers, fluffy pens and - for the particularly virtuous - iPods.

This term Mrs Leaver will also launch a series of "sandwich and chips"

afternoons, in which she will canvass pupils' opinions over lunchtime snacks. "Don't criticise me for unhealthy eating."

Meanwhile, to counteract suggestions that lessons are uninspiring, Year 8 pupils have been asked to write raps based on Macbeth.

Anne Keast, the head of drama, leads by example, delivering her own rap in front of the class ("those three witches ... what bitches").

"Because of the rhythm, the beat, the pulse, the kids remember what they're rapping about," she said. "And probably also because they don't expect a middle-aged teacher to be rapping."

Cameron Matley, 13, agrees. "If Shakespeare was in this century, he'd be one of the best rappers," he said. "He'd be up there with Snoop Doggy Dogg."

Cameron and his fellow pupils realise that they have to make an effort, if inspectors are to be convinced. "We have to have our shirts tucked in, or we get detention," said Stephanie. "It's annoying when you're not used to it. But we have to show the inspectors they were wrong."


Leadership 29

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