Send in the student swat team

27th February 2009 at 00:00
University provides trainees to raise standards at primary slammed by Ofsted

In most troubled schools, teacher trainees are usually the first to jump ship - but they are now central to the fortunes of one primary in special measures, thanks to an unusual new partnership.

Fosse Primary in Leicester was put into special measures in April so is banned from employing students and newly qualified teachers.

But when Chris Joynson, the school's Year 5 teacher, wrote to his old university with a plea for help, the response was swift - and positive. His alma mater is Edge Hill University outside Liverpool. And the work of students from there is already proving invaluable at Fosse.

What they are doing has not been classified as teaching practice, so is not subject to the regulation that bans schools in special measures from using trainees.

With staff from other local schools, the students have planned extra activities in maths, a subject heavily criticised by Ofsted for its teaching in the school. The students' work has been so successful that the university wants to use a similar approach in other schools.

Mr Joynson is now working with trainees and lecturers on a programme to improve maths teaching at Fosse, which will culminate in a series of days devoted to maths activities. "In the classroom I've already been trying out new ideas suggested to me by trainees, and hopefully this scheme will have a big impact," he said.

"It's really given a boost to our morale as well, and hopefully we will be able to offer teaching practice here again when the school is out of special measures."

Robert Smedley, dean of education at Edge Hill, said he had felt a duty to help the school rather than turn his back on its staff.

"If we as a university can play a part in enriching that experience and raising the aspirations of both staff and pupils, I think we should do it," he said.

"We intend to work in close partnership with Fosse and its staff in evaluating the project, and then move to phase two next year when we offer this support to more schools across the country."

After a recent visit, Ofsted said that the improvements at Fosse since the last monitoring inspection were satisfactory.

However, standards in maths, English and science are well below average and a "significant proportion" of children are underachieving in reading, writing and maths.

A new interim executive school board to replace the old governing body has been approved, and a new headteacher has been appointed and will start work at Fosse this summer.

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